Big Jim Gray, pictured left, was a dear friend and colleague of mine for many years. Jim was a friend to most of the people he met – he didn’t care much for flash-Harrys or shirkers but he was dedicated to those who worked for and with him and fought many a corner when the ‘politically savvy’ would have tipped their hats and retired quietly.
Jim started in the betting shop business, as a nineteen-year-old working for City Tote in his home town, Glasgow. City Tote became Mecca which eventually became Hills by which time Jim had taken his considerable skills to the service of the Tote where he steadily climbed through the ranks to become Ops Director on the board of Tote Bookmakers.
Jim took early retirement at 55 to play more golf and spend time with his wife Janet, and their growing family. Jim was never a complainer. I’d often see him reach round to massage his lower back after a golf shot. “Just a wee ache, must be swinging too hard” He’d say and shoulder his bag to head down the fairway – usually two hundred yards plus – to hit his next shot.
Those back pains turned out to be cancer. Jim was diagnosed in October 2009. He died on May 12th 2010 – a year ago today.
Jim met his wife Janet when they were teenagers and they seldom spent a day apart after that. Their children James and Theresa are very successful in their own fields. James and his wife Catherine Anne have two children of their own, two-year-old Luke and one-year-old James.
Tomorrow evening at Hamilton will see the first running of the Jim Gray Memorial handicap, organised by Janet and the family. The race will mark the pleasure Jim took from his lifelong love of the sport. Janet says, “In Queenscourt Hospice, reading the racing section was about the only thing that could take Jim’s mind off things for a while.”
Jim spent many weeks in Queenscourt Hospice, Southport, and Janet has been a staunch supporter of the voluntary organisation ever since. Hamilton Park have kindly allowed Janet and a few helpers to shake some fund-raising buckets for the Hospice tomorrow night. If you are there, seek them out and throw in a pound or two.
William Hill CEO, Ralph Topping, a former colleague of Jim’s, has very generously donated a £500 charity bet to be placed on a race at Hamilton tomorrow. My friends at Timeform have bravely accepted the challenge of putting their best team on to trying to pick a winner to deliver a huge boost to Queenscourt Hospice. If you can’t make it to Hamilton, you can donate here. Queenscourt Hospice depends entirely on charitable donations to continue its superb work which is so welcomed by patients and their families.
The Timeform team chose Take it to the Max in the 8.00 at Hamilton and the bet is £250 EW.
Whatever happens tomorrow, Big Jim Gray would have been proud to see his name on a race in the sport he loved and worked in all his life.