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SC Rewind: London's Wall Of Fame

Published: May 6, 2017 11:20 am ET

Last Comment: May 6, 2017 8:26 pm ET | 2 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's edition of Rewind Robert Smith recalls the names and faces of the many people who have been honoured in a special way by London's Western Fair Raceway. The reminiscence about the track's signature spot called The Wall Of Fame, is intended to coincide with this year's ceremony which will be held on Friday, May 12 to install the latest inductee, Mac Lilley.

Forty years ago in 1977, a gentleman named Terry Provost (pictured at right) proposed the idea of celebrating extraordinary contributions to racing at WFR by select individuals. The idea was soon endorsed by Evan McGugan, then GM of the Association and the man who was pivotal in launching the start of extended meet racing under the lights at WFR in May of 1961. It was fittingly called The Wall Of Fame. In the course of time both gentlemen themselves became Wall members; Mr. McGugan in 1995 and Mr. Provost in 2012.

What began way back then with the installation of just one person, has now grown to include many. One principle around the inductions was that it wasn't necessarily an every year happening, but only when a worthy candidate was nominated for a position on the Wall. Today the numbers have become sizable. To anyone familiar with harness racing in Southern Ontario, this cast of notables is sure to revive many memories. I am personally proud to say that I have written about a lot of them and and have known many of them personally. I would also say without reservation that they have all been wisely chosen.

Those honoured and pictured on the "Wall" come from many backgrounds; all with special ties to the London oval. Throughout its long history London has had a certain flair about it that makes it different from the larger less personal tracks. It has always had a "family" atmosphere about it. I fortunately have a lot of photographs to show and they will tell much of today's story. Unfortunately the list is too lengthy to comment on each individual but they are all very important in their own right.

The first person to be inducted in 1977 was about as legendary as they come. William H. Herbert, a man synonymous with London itself was that individual. His career which was almost his entire lifetime was packed with interesting highlights. It was indeed fitting that when London started its night racing program in 1961 that the very first race under the lights went to Adieu Herbert with Bill Herbert in the sulky. He was 62 at the time and still going strong. At the age of 78 he became the Wall's first member and was thankfully able to enjoy the evening.

The long list of Wall members includes an extremely diverse group of individuals. Among those who have been inducted are a couple of father and son combinations, a pair of brothers, a man who served as the original starter, a rather famous journalist, a husband and wife team, and the list goes on...A lot of very special people.

Listed below are the more than 30 inductees who make up the prestigious Wall Of Fame.


 


 


 

In 2014 Killean Acres joined the Wall. Pictured with the prolific horse Run The Table are owners Jack and Don McNiven of nearby Ingersoll. The brothers always considered London their 'home' track and were part of its history dating back as far as anyone can remember. The naming of their farm to the list added even more diversity to those honoured.


 

In 2015 the great Camluck was that year's inductee. His entire stud career was spent just a few miles North of London at Seelster Farms and countless of his offspring starred at the Western Fair track. ​In 2016, long time track photographer Harry Holme became a Wall member.

May 6, 2017 - 8:26 pmThanks Robert, I was lucky

Thanks Robert, I was lucky enough to work(?) for John & Pearl Lester when he went on the Wall. They were wonderful people and I regarded them as my second mother and father. He drove, trained, and he and Melford (his brother) bred a lot of good horses including Omahas Duke, the first horse to break the two-minute barrier at WFR.

May 6, 2017 - 12:12 pmThere are a ton of memories

There are a ton of memories represented on that wall. Harry Eisen was an inspiration to me as I began a career in broadcast journalism in the mid 1970's. I couldn't wait for the London Free Press to arrive on days the Mostly About Horses column was published. I remember the first time I saw Super Wave and Jack Kopas race. Super Wave was a super star at the time. Terry Provost probably wouldn't remember, but he helped me fulfill a boyhood dream when I got to announce half a dozen races as Western Fair as an audition to be the backup at the track in 1978. Dave Wall, Terry Kerr, Ray and Hugh McLean were mainstays at tracks like Hanover, Clinton, Goderich and Elmira which were weekly stops in my teenage years. I remember Art Whitesell clearly commanding that the drivers get those horses into proper formation for the post parade. The Wall of Fame pictures were taken down for a month or so, I assume for a little clean up and renovation. I was happy to see them all back the last time I stopped by the Top of the Fair. As always Robert, thanks for the great stories.


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