Farewell to a true character of the track

THIS year’s Warrnambool May Racing Carnival will be without one of its favourite characters after the death of veteran race book seller Gordon Ballis.

Mr Ballis had sold race books at the course for more than 70 years.

Standing with his weathered Glastone bag calling out “race books, race books”, his friendly greeting and smile was known to thousands of carnival patrons and industry identities. 

He always proudly wore a Collingwood Football Club badge given to him by club legend Peter Daicos.

Mr Ballis died this week at the age of 84. He will be buried on Tuesday after a memorial service where his lifelong interest in the racing industry will be remembered by many.

“He was a lovely bloke who loved his job,” Warrnambool Racing Club chairman Des Roberts told The Standard yesterday.

“Gordon was one of the characters at the carnivals and I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a section of the race book selling room named in his honour.

“There certainly will be a lot of people in May asking where Gordon is.”

The Ballis family has been selling race books for more than a century, with Mr Ballis’ grandfather Jack and father Gordon senior paving the way.

As a boy Gordon was introduced to the practice and found it a handy income stream during Depression years.

His wife Shirley and children Ronald, Shirley and Mandy also helped sell books at the track, hotels, clubs and cafés.

Two years ago the racing club acknowledged Gordon’s service by presenting him with a caricature depicting him with the Gladstone bag, racing tie and Collingwood badge. In one corner was a race book from the first year he started and in the other a book from the current year.

“He struck up wonderful friendships over the years and will be sadly missed,” Mr Roberts said.

In an interview with The Standard columnist Tim Auld two years ago Mr Ballis said pneumonia forced him to miss a couple of meetings in his long career. 

“I missed out on all the gossip that is always around the track,” he said. 

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