THE unveiling of an artwork was the final flourish to celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the Blaydon Races song.
A sculpture commissioned by Gateshead Council marked the horse racing heritage on a soon-to-open footpath and cycle route along the bank of the River Tyne, close to the races site.
The work by sculptor Andrew McKeown represents the horses and jockeys as they approach the finishing line.
Three almost life-size figures, a three-metre tall winning post and two five-metre high flagpoles made with galvanized steel plate, pipe, sheet and section form the major elements of the artwork.
It is intended that the flagpoles will make the artwork stand out in its riverside location beside the new footpath and cycleway from Blaydon Burn to Stella recently upgraded with funding from the Local Transport Plan. It will also be visible from passing trains on the Newcastle to Carlisle railway.
Mr McKeown said: “I hope this is a fitting and appropriate artwork to commemorate the site of the first Blaydon Races.
“I also hope that it acts as a visually appealing reminder to passers by, travellers and the people of the Tyneside that this was the site of the original Blaydon Races.”
The first recorded horse racing in Blaydon was in 1811 but these ended in 1835 when the land was used for a railway station.
They were re-started in 1859 and became an officially recognised race in 1861. The following year the event was immortalised by song writer and performer Geordie Ridley.
Gateshead Council cabinet member for culture Linda Green said: “The heritage of the original Blaydon Races has become intertwined with the famous song. By all accounts it was quite a spectacle, and it obviously fired a spark in the imagination of Geordie Ridley and thanks to him the races have become part of modern Tyneside folklore.
“This new sculpture is an excellent way of remembering the races and ensuring that everyone who passes by on this new route will know that they are passing through a piece of Tyneside history that is known throughout the world.”
The new cycle route will form the final section of the Keelmans Way riverside path, National Cycle Network route 141.