“And in first place we have A. Worthing with M. Brislane close behind, followed by R. Tonkin”.1 Imagine the atmosphere of hundreds of people trying to find a spot to watch the Taree Gaslight Races. Now you may be wondering what are gaslight races, keep reading to find out.
The first Taree gaslight races were held on Saturday night 30 May 1903. Before electricity was available, gaslights were used to light the night. There were 25 gaslights lit for this event.2 The race was ‘handicapped’ meaning the racers started at different places based on their form. The slower ones at the front and the faster ones behind them, with the idea that everyone would finish at the same time. The winners were those who could outrun their previous best.3
The race track was made of cinders and went between Fotheringham’s Hotel and Mr Brimstone’s butcher’s shop, at the river end of Pulteney Street.4 ‘Fotheringham’s Track’ as it became known was near where the Council Chambers in Taree are now. The race was promoted by the hotel owner George Fotheringham and P.F. McPhellamy. Spectators arrived by boats, bicycles, horses and buses. Altogether there were approximately 800 people for the first event.5
The events were held monthly and eventually interest from spectators began to wear off. It seems the last gaslight handicap in Taree was raced in 1905, though the races continued in other areas such as Wingham, Forster and Croki.6 The Taree Gaslight Races were exciting to watch and fair to all competitors. If only they were still around so we could appreciate how amazing they were.
Authors: Matt Bergan and Gabe Martin, Year 6, Taree West Public School.
1 These were the winners of the first Taree gaslight race. Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 3 June 1903.
2 Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 3 June 1903.
3 Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stawell_Gift
4 Taree Historic Rate Books 1903; Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 3 June 1903.
6 Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 18 March 1905, 6.