Weblog: Betting Shop Manager of the Year
Gillies' ability and charm makes his loss so hard
SCOTLAND’S racing scene has had to deal with a tragic few days this week, and it is news which has hit our punters hard. This is not a tale of some unlucky punter who has come agonisingly close to landing that once in a life-time accumulator. Campbell Gillies untimely passing puts all of that stuff into perspective.
At only a day shy of his twenty-second birthday Campbell Gillies had the world at his feet. Already a winner of 131 races under rules, he was Scotland's next big thing, having already ridden a winner at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, on the ill-fated Brindisi Breeze.
Jockeys work so hard, putting in more hours than most. From very early in the day when riding out, until the last race of the day, Thursday night’s being Hamilton's 9.50pm. And if that were not enough, all the miles and travelling time put in make it a long haul.
No-one could grudge them a break and Campbell had gone on out to Kavos in Greece for just that where a swimming pool accident would rob him of his life.
Scottish punters are notoriously loyal, as I'd imagine is the case throughout the UK. In Selkirk the shop is always much busier when we have a Scottish meeting on and there is always plenty of support for the local runners and riders.
Campbell came from Haddington, which is just an hour up the road from here and close to Scotbet's Head Office in Edinburgh. When I heard the news on Tuesday morning I just could not believe it. I appeared on Channel 4's The Morning Line on Scottish Grand National day and the main guest that Saturday was Campbell Gillies.
I still had the program on my planner and sat through it again, finding it hard to take in that the man who spoke so warmly and eloquently was gone. It goes without saying that he will be sorely missed, as the wonderful tributes through both Twitter and in Wednesday's Racing Post show.
The tributes have been equally glowing here in the shop and many punters, knowing that I write this blog, have asked me to pass on their condolences to Campbell's family and friends at this sad time. R.I.P Campbell, you touched many people through your ability and charm, and you will not be forgotten.
Another man with ties to the Scottish Borders, Derek Thompson, also broke some bad news. Derek spent some time here and his son still plays rugby in the area, representing both Edinburgh and Scotland at different levels. I first met Derek when he came to William Hill’s shop opening in Galashiels seven years ago, and myself and a colleague John Hindmarsh were taking part in one of the first MO-vember events, where guys would grow a moustache for the month of November to raise awareness of men's health issues and money for the charity Everyman.
Derek was incredibly generous at the time and also encouraged the crowd to do the same. When I met him again at Doncaster in the regional final of the Racing Post/SIS Betting Shop Manager of the Year competition, Derek had taken it upon himself to get involved and he was sporting a fuzzy upper lip. He is such a nice guy, making you feel so comfortable and relaxed when he is in your company, be it in front of a camera or not. I met him again at Kelso and he took the time to come over and meet Tracy and Kris and spent some time chatting.
Again, I don't think he would object to me calling him a workaholic and that reflects his obvious love for the game. He underwent an operation Wednesday to remove a tumour near his bowel and again the punters have asked me to pass on their best wishes. Get well soon Tommo, we all look forward to hearing the 'Big Fella' and all his 'Tommo-isms' when he is fully recovered.
On a lighter note you may remember from a previous blog the story of how some of the people of Selkirk missed out on seeing the Olympic Torch being passed over to Moscow Olympic 100m Gold Medal hero Allan Wells on a specially erected podium in Market Square. The reason for this being that LOCOG objected to the sight of our Scotbet facia sign being in the background.
Lisa Robertson, who has also represented Scotland at rugby, carried the torch on the leg which was to provide the passing of the flame and read the story in the local paper. She has come to the rescue for many of the children who missed out. Before the schools broke up for their summer holidays she arranged to bring the torch around the schools of Selkirk and let the kids all get to see and hold it. That in part making up for the disappointment of the relay day, when it bypassed the podium and was handed over in a hastily arranged spot out of sight of a large portion of the massive crowd that had gathered to witness this once in a lifetime event.
I was also fortunate enough to be on hand Thursday morning when the torch was at the nursery that Kris had went to and managed to get my hands on it for a moment - so a massive thank you to Lisa whose quick thinking helped salvage some good from a disappointing and easily preventable situation.
I go on holiday for a fortnight this weekend and am looking forward to taking Tracy and Kris away to spend some quality family time together. We hope to get a last minute deal somewhere warm and escape this horrendous summer where it seems as though the rain will never stop.
Tipperary, Leicester, Newcastle and the greyhounds at Brough Park have all fallen foul to the weather on Thursday alone, and with Newcastle falling again tomorrow it's hard to believe that we are only approaching the end of June.
In this sad week I will go away pondering that you just never know what is round the corner and to make the most of life while you have it. I hope all that read this do too.