THE CANYON TOSSING SCHOOL.
The Canyon Tossing School was without question the most prosperous tossing school in Scotland albeit that tossing was only operational as a way of gambling in and around central Lanarkshire, Hamilton Palace was the most attended being that it run every day of the week and only closed on Christmas and New Years Day.
How and why the Canyon attracted so many well heeled punters at it’s Sunday session escapes me, however that was certainly the case. In the days before Tossing Schools became legal they were operated by men who ” could look after themselves” The Canyon which was located between the villages of Craigneuk and Netherton, the name was derived simply because it looked like a miniature canyon the surrounding small hillocks discreetly keeping it from public viewing. “The babber” that was the title bestowed on the guy who controlled and operated the school and kept it socially comfortable for those who indulged in this favourite and often expensive pastime.
Jake Kilrain assisted by Dinkey Hughes were the controllers at the Canyon, Jake had a prolific CV for this demanding position an ex pugilist with 76 professional fights to his credit and twice a British champion in the Welterweight division. His sidekick Dinkey did not have such a strong pedigree, only that he was the brother of a Scottish champion who was considered among the top 3 British Lightweight fighters. The Hamilton Tossing was in part run by John Daly Snr, and his son Dan Daly, both also possessing the required skills of a babber, old John having shared many rounds with British and Scottish champions Jimmy Higgins and Frank Markey, Dan having won British Army titles, but in the late 50s he, Dan that is, was more into football playing for a number of well known Junior Sides and attracting attention from the professional teams, he represented Lanarkshire and Scotland against Ireland playing as a strong, fast, and clever winger.
This man was also bestowed with a physique that replicated that of an Olympic gymnast all of these attributes more than compensated for his lack of height as he stood no more than 5 foot and 4 and a half inches. On a late summer Sunday morning, John Daly Snr, John Jnr, Dan Daly, Sammy Walsh, and a Glasgow hardman (more ruthless than hard) named James Kemp, were to make their way towards the Canyon with a view to taken control of it’s operations. It had been decided beforehand that Dan Daly would be the one to approach Kilrain and give him the news about his redundancy as the Canyon babber were over.
As this group of men were passing a sheet metal and nail works that lay beyond Craigneuk’s famed Cuckoo Bridge, James Kemp picked up a triangular piece of sheet metal and gave it a few practice swings. Dan instantly turned to him and said ” Put that down, or you go down” Kemp for all the reputation that he carried, acted as ordered and threw away the off-cut, Dan in turn said something along the lines of not doing things that way, and a few minutes later we were approaching the school. Dan walked straight up to Jake Kilrain and said “That’s it Jake we are taking over” Jakes reply as expected was along the lines of ” You will have to step over me first “, and that is exactly what Dan Daly did, but not before delivering a stunning right hand to Kilrain’s chin and down he went, felled like a log, as some would say.
This sudden and unexpected disruption to proceedings caused many of the gamblers to scatter and among them was Jakes sidekick Dinkey. For those who stayed behind an attempt at reorganising the school was made, but it soon fizzled out and an early finish to the tossing came to be. The Tuesday or Wednesday after that event the Daily Record (it may have been some other paper) made a report about Gangland warfare in Craigneuk Tossing School. However word had got about regarding Dan’s dismissal of Kilrain and that a return match at the same venue was to be held on the following Sunday.
Jakes support and entourage claiming that Dan had hit him without warning, therefore Jake had been taken unawares. Not only was there to be a return match but the princely sum of a 400 pound sidebet was to be picked up by the victor. And so it was on the following Sunday the Daly camp were certainly prepared for the day’s outing. That same Sunday morning the Sunday Mail newspaper ran a story on the Canyons Gangland warfare and warned they’re readers to stay away as the police were mounting a vigilance on the school and that anyone found resisting or engaging in it’s illegal activities was to be arrested.
The 3 Daly’s plus an associate from Hamilton named Pat McCourt however ignored this warning and made their way towards the Canyon, approximately 200 yards or so from the Cuckoo Bridge they were confronted by a number of police who told them to turn around as there would be no tossing this Sunday or for that matter there wouldn’t be any tossing on any other Sunday thereafter, John Daly Snr asked if this same message was delivered to the Kilrain Clan no reply was given.
Needless to say we took our time removing ourselves from the area in the hope that we would get sight of Kilrain but that was not to be. And so it was the Canyon was officially closed. there was for some weeks talk about it getting back to working order but it never did happen, likewise the showdown between Dan and Jake, rumours abounded that Jake would seek revenge by taking over Hamilton tossing which I suppose he could have attempted, but he never did. I believe that Jake knew he had little or no hope of beating Dan Daly after all Dan Daly had done to Jake Kilrain what only 3 out of 76 professional fighters had done and that was to knock him out, whether that be a King Hit or not it was done, just like the canyon done and dusted.
The above story was taken from John Daly’s book “Our Daly Bread” and was sent to us by Rab McMillan.
Dan Daly was in his day, one of Hamilton’s most notorious figures; he was liked and loved by many people and also feared by many. If you had a problem, you went and saw Dan and it would be sorted. Dan was a local legend and known throughout Hamilton.
Dan left school and and got his first job working at the Slaughter House on Bothwell Road, he worked there for a while before deciding that he wanted something different. He was a keen boxer and later his boxing talents gained him respect in the streets of Hamilton.
Back in the day there were no licenced betting shops and pitch & toss was rife among the local hard working man, back street gambling was like a release for someone who had just finished a hard week at work. It took someone really ‘hard’ to stop fall outs and make sure that money was paid out. Before Dan Daly, people like Michael McNamee who was a bare knuckle fighter was known as the ‘head tosser’ in Hamilton.
Dan stepped up to the plate and gained respect from the local men in the town and he later ran the Tossing Schools in Hamilton. Dan Daly was only 5’7 in height, however through his boxing training, he was heavily built and had a very wide chest and big shoulders and arms that were just as big.
He met a local Burnbank girl called Elsie Dunn and they soon got married in 1951, they had 6 kids, Diane, Brenda,Daniel,Irene, Peter & Paul.One story that was reported in the Hamilton Advertiser was titled ‘Notorious hard man head split by wife’ and it was from the time that Dan’s wife Elsie was charged for ‘bursting Dan’s head open’ and knocking him out with a frozen chicken. Dan had been winding her up for the dinner not being ready on time and she hit him over the head with the frozen bird. That old saying comes to mind….Behind every strong man is an even stronger woman……
Dan later became the manager at the Hamilton Hibbs Club, ran the doors, was in charge of the bar and he had his own team of guys that would back him up in any situation. Dan also ran busses to the Celtic games, he was a Celtic man through and through. He later ran the doors at the Double J and was mates with Jimmy Johnstone.
One of the infamous stories that circulated was the time that Dan and his mates skidded up in a van, beside a group of guys at the Burnbank flats (where the BP garage is now situated) and they ‘done them in’ with baseball bats, it turned out that they had got the wrong guys and these unfortunate group of lads took someone else’s beating.
As much as Dan was feared, he was a gentleman and he looked out for his family, neighbours & friends and it was not uncommon for Dan to help people out during hardship and times like Christmas.
Hugh Haney was kind enough to share one of his memory’s of Dan, Hugh wrote:
“Dan Daly, whit a man, lots of people only heard stories about this guy, i remember as young lad runnin aboot the toon, my first run in with him was in the two up in Baileys Causeway, underage n’ bein a clever shite” he gave me enough rope, then a quick kick up arse,
sent me home while i still had some winnings left, soon after i thanked him, he would always call me Tiny Tim” you can ask the people of the Auld Toon, Dan had an idea that they should get a double decker bus for anyone goin tae the Auld firm match mixed tae save money, SMT bus , it never left the auld toon because the conductor shouted “Catholics inside, blue noses upstairs ” that bus had tae be towed away! Thir wis hell on, Dan went balistic,
Later i married and my wife was expecting our first child, i was in the Hibs one Wednesday dan asked about how things were ,,,,
I told him the wife wis in Belshill maternity, He dragged me up the street, knocked on the florests windae got a bunch o” flowers put me in a taxi paid the driver, n” sent me tae the hospital,,,to be with my wife Mary, jist some examples of whit a good man he was, But by no means a saint, jist a typical HAMILTONIAN””
Sadly Dan Daly died from a stroke & aneurysm at the age of 60. When he died, the streets of Hamilton were packed and there were many famous faces at the funeral,including Jimmy Johnstone. He was buried at the Bent Cemetery.
We would like to thank Dan’s Granddaughters Ann Marie & Diane for telling us the story of Dan Daly. What was your memories of Dan Daly?