Tributes For Former Groundsman: Tributes have been paid to the former head groundsman of Bangor on Dee racecourse after he passed away on Wednesday, July 10 aged 82.
John Malam, who will always be associated with the North Wales course, where he was affectionately known as Mr Bangor on Dee, was from the neighbouring village of Overton on Dee and began working at the track back in 1971.
The Leader’s horse racing reporter Arthur Shone said Mr Bangor on Dee never really went away after that first day, with the family name still going strong with both his sons now taking care of the track.
He said: “Horseracing was his life and Bangor on Dee racecourse was the centre of his world. In 1980 he was promoted to head groundsman following the retirement of Tom Osborne and continued in this full-time position until he retired in 1997.
In his final year as head groundsman the racecourse was awarded the Neil Wyatt Award for ground staff, an award I know that made him a very proud man and especially of his team, which he always referred to as ‘his lads’.”
Mr Malam was restless in retirement and continued to support his beloved Bangor on Dee racecourse and carried on for many years afterwards as stable manager and running the yard on race days, often in this role he would arrive first thing in the morning to have a coffee with his team.
Arthur Shone added: “I have known John Malam for over four decades as a friend and I always used to enjoy his company, he also used to build the fences at Aintree racecourse and on certain courses between the flags.
“In fact, he shared my passion for point to point racing and was very knowledgeable about the sport he loved, he used to describe the sport as real racing.
“I have so many happy memories of the man, one was at the now defunct Flagg Moor racecourse out in the wilds in the Peak District that used to have one meeting a year on Easter Tuesday, a racecourse that used to hold a members race over stone walls, with a spare change of clothes mandatory due to the adverse weather changes at the track.
“I arrived early at the meeting and met up with John who was about to walk the course in glorious sunshine, so I dug out my wellingtons and joined him half way around it rained of biblical proportions, when we got to the last hundred yards there was hail stones followed by a snow blizzard.
“John turned around to me said, “This is what point to point racing is all about” – I remember having to get my car towed off the racecourse at the end of the meeting, happy times.
“He will be sadly missed by his many friends in racing, which I was happy to be counted as one of them.”
The Malam family tradition continued when his eldest son Andrew became head groundsman at Bangor on Dee when his father retired in 1997, a position he still holds today and in 1991, Andrew’s brother Brian started as assistant groundsman to his brother and remains part of the team to this day.
Lifelong friend and racecourse manager Jeannie Chantler said: “His hard work and dedication are his legacy. Thank you, John, from all at Bangor on Dee racecourse.”
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