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Meet Beryl Dawson - harness racing's matriarch

By Duane Ranger

The quality of harness racing talent in Queensland would be somewhat diminished had it not been for one Brassall woman.

Mrs Beryl Dawson is the matriarch of the Dawson and McMullen families. The 85-year-old Ipswich pensioner has been involved in harness racing since 1963.

Fast forward 56 years and Mrs Dawson can now boast a family oozing harness racing talent.

“Only one of my 10 grandchildren doesn’t train or drive, and he (Ryan) has done well. He’s a boiler-maker. I also have five great grandchildren, who all love the mini trotters.

Beryl-Dawson-family.jpeg

“Every one of them were given a pony when they were two. Ella, my oldest great-grandchild still drives the same horse Mitchell (Dawson) drove when he was a little fella. She’s a very good little driver.

“I have been blessed. Not only are my children and grandchildren respectable people but they are all so respectful. I’m so proud of them all and all of their partners, who are involved in the industry as well,” Mrs Dawson said.

Mrs Dawson’s nine horsemen and women (grandchildren) are: Melissa Gillies, Trent Dawson, Kelli Dawson, Mitchell Dawson, Nathan Dawson, Peter McMullen, Narissa McMullen, Dannielle McMullen, and Taleah McMullen.

“I have severe arthritis these days and can’t get to the track, but I’m so proud when I see them performing on TV or video. I never miss a race, and if I do, I immediately look up the results when I get home.

“Racing Queensland has shown a lot of initiative with its media coverage this year. I just love watching them all on video on a Saturday night.

“I especially love watching Taleah’s videos. She is a delight. She gets so enthused and excited. She just loves the sport. They all make me so proud,” Mrs Dawson stressed.

She said she would never forget one race in particular, which occurred at Albion Park on September 24, 2016.

“That’s the night Narissa, Dannielle, Kelli, Peter, and Nathan all finished first, second, third, fourth, and fifth respectively.

“They all work so hard from early in the morning until at night. I admire their success, but I admire their work ethic more,” Mrs Dawson said.

“John would have been so proud of them all,” she added.

John is Mrs Dawson’s late husband, who passed away on Christmas Eve, 2002.

“John was a wonderful man who worked on the Railways for 42 years. We had four boys, (the late Gary and Greg), Glen, Geoff, and one daughter, Jennette, who married John McMullen (Jr).

“They were all brought up around horses and developed their skills from there. John and I were married in Maryborough in 1954. He was a very good horseman, who learnt to ride at a very young age,” Mrs Dawson said.

She explained the family’s harness racing connection came about via their neighbour, Des Weeks.

“Des moved next door to us at Raceview in 1963, and John started to help him with his trotters soon after.

“John developed his horseman skills from there. He has had some nice horses over the years including Shoot Harbour, Welcome Command, and Robin Commander to name a few,” Mrs Dawson said.

Soon after her husband passed away 17 years ago Mrs Dawson joined the Australian Country Womens’ Association. She is a past president and current vice president.

Granddaughter, Dannielle, termed her ‘Grandma’ as simply awesome and a wonderful, beautiful person.

“She has an IPad and Facebook account. That’s not only amazing, but I think it’s pretty quirky for an 85-year-old. We love her so much and we are all so proud of her and what she has done for our family,” Dannielle said.

Footnote: Mrs Dawson is one resilient lady. She spoke to Racing Quuensland while recovering from influenza and throat illness.