Three generations of a bookmaking family with deep roots in greyhound racing are celebrated at Sheffield tonight.
The Harry Holmes Memorial celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. The Bob Holmes Memorial is in memory of a more recent and popular figure at Sheffield, his son Bob who finally lost a battle with lung cancer in August of this year.
Ryan Holmes, who sponsors the puppy event is from the third generation to take the stand at Owlerton, while brother Ben has been a Belle Vue layer for almost 25 years.
Ben said: “My grandfather Harry apparently became a bookie not long after the Second World War. The story goes that he wanted to back a horse but was told he couldn’t get on so decided to set up himself.”
The Holmes family’s origins go back to an outbuilding at the back of a house at Clowne in Derbyshire. Ben’s grandmother, who died aged 103 was born in the house and lived there all her life.
Ben said: “The original betting shop is still partly there. It was all illegal in the early days of course, but I had a look around not so long ago and found various items in draws. There was a printed sheet of football fixtures from 1959 with all the scores written-in in pencil.
“There was also a leather muzzle in another draw. There was a dog room too. My grandad used to run a few dogs on the flaps years ago as well as being an NGRC owner.”
In fact, Harry Holmes’ most successful dog was the Ted Brennan trainer 1971 Bass Cup winner Dramatic Ace who was injured the following year and later enjoyed a successful stud career in Sweden.
Both Harry and Bob Holmes were well known bookies in the North Midlands/South Yorkshire areas having started out on the flaps such as Chesterfield and Worksop, but also the Sheffield Darnell and Hyde Park tracks and Derby, before moving on to Owlerton.
Both Harry and Bob also ran small chains of betting shops before being bought out by the big chains. Ryan still runs betting shops in Doncaster, Sheffield and Rotherham. Ben has shops in Sheffield and Manchester.
Sheffield’s Venue Director Dave Perry was keen to pay tribute to Bob Holmes. He said: “I can honestly say that Bob was one of the nicest people you could wish to meet. A true gentleman who made an opinion and stood by it which I have no doubt made him as successful as he was.
“It was an honour to work with Bob for the 25 years that I have been at the track and he definitely helped fetch a professional approach to the betting ring here at Sheffield.”