Recalling days of yore with Shillong Recreation Ground Trust

Episode XIII

Shillong is painted with rich history, most of which is lost or buried. Some of the remnants that still exist are strewn in the form of old structures along with the memories attached to them.
The busy and occupied Polo area where the office of the Shillong Recreation Ground Trust (SRGT) stands at present with about 50 acres of land is as busy as it was in the 1900s but the cardinal difference is that, in the past, the area witnessed loud cheers and claps from the crowd as they watched the horses race every week, putting all their efforts in catching a glimpse of the race or earnestly involving themselves on betting on the horse race.
In this episode of Shillong’s Iconic Structures, we bring to our readers the Shillong Recreation Ground Trust, or the SRGT established on 12th November 1901.
As one reaches the bustling intersection of Polo point, after crossing the bridge, on the right, one can witness the S.S.A. Stadium complex, the spacious parking lot, the football field where players can be seen practicing, an upcoming park, and a sports cafe – all these spots come under the purview of the SRGT. These areas are truly iconic landmarks in Shillong, utilised by the residents of Shillong for various purposes like football practices, shows, and events on many occasions. 
Let us take a look at SRGT over the years –
The European community in Shillong had a fully established club called the Shillong Club. The club was founded in 1878 to cater to the community’s recreational activities but there was an absence of playing fields for their desired outdoor games like football, hockey, cricket, and the esteemed horse polo.
On November 12, 1901, a group of six British men, all of whom were notable residents of Shillong, namely P.R.T. Gordon, William McMurdo Sweet, George Russel Row, Robert Herriot Henderson, Charles Howard Holder, and George Loftus Garth held a meeting with high-ranking administrators and prominent citizens to bring forward proposals regarding the playing fields. A resolution was taken at the meeting to form a Trust called ‘The Shillong Recreation Ground Trust’ which was given the responsibility of acquiring land in the ‘Umkhrah Valley’ for the playing fields.
The SRGT appointed an agency in 1907 known as the General Sports Committee to conduct regular races, football, hockey, and other games on behalf of the Trust.  Of all the recreational activities, the most popular was horse racing which began probably around 1910.
People swarmed popular spots like the ticket selling points, the corral from where one picked a horse, and the Turf Club. The area at present is the CRPF Headquarter, 67 Battalion which is an oasis in the congested Polo area but some of the remnants from the past are still well preserved, like the watch tower from which, back in the days, a steward would watch the horses keenly and determine the winner, an office room which is now the battalion’s hospital, a long stretch of the ticket-counter area, and the Shillong Gymkhana Race Club which is now the Station Officers’ Mess, Shillong – North Eastern Sector CRPF. It may be mentioned here that the land was acquired by the CRPF as requisitioned by the government in 1969 1969 and the CRPF were later accommodated there on payment of rent to the SRGT.
However, horse racing was sadly discontinued as a result of the ‘Siat Teem’ also known as ‘Teer’ or ‘Archery’ in 1968 because the dividends were far lesser in horse racing as compared to ‘Siat Teem’. A despairing turn of events as horse racing was an alluring part of the history of Shillong.
To know more about the history of this heritage structure, watch the full episode on our Youtube Channel @TheShillongTimes as we take you on a trip down memory lane.

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