The Albion Park Harness Racing Club and Racing Queensland are paying tribute to the elder statesmen of Queensland’s preeminent harness family with a race in honour of John and Beryl Dawson.
On Friday 20 January 2023, the feature event will be the John and Beryl Legacy, honouring the 20-year anniversary of John’s passing and his wife Beryl who is now is her late 80s.
Albion Park Harness Racing Club Chairman Brad Steele said John and Beryl were the patriarch and matriarch of a harness dynasty in Queensland which now includes the Dawson and McMullen families.
“Sadly, it’s been just over 20 years since John died after a battle with pancreatic cancer, but Beryl still proudly resides over an extended family firmly entrenched in harness racing,” Mr Steele said.
“To acknowledge John and Beryl’s deeds in our great sport, and what this talented family continues to achieve, we have scheduled a special race.
“The John and Beryl Dawson Legacy will feature only drivers from the Dawson and McMullen families and their partners, which again is a sign of just how involved these guys are in the industry.”
Those eligible to drive in the event include.
Unfortunately, Melissa Gillies (nee Dawson) and Mitchell Dawson don’t currently hold a drivers’ license and were ineligible.
Racing Queensland has endorsed the event, supplying a rug and trophy for the race.
“John and Beryl are the figureheads of a magnificent dynasty which has left, and continues to leave, an indelible mark on harness racing in this state,” Racing Queensland CEO Brendan Parnell said.
“When Trent Dawson initially approached us with the idea, we loved it and contacted the Albion Park Harness Racing Club, who jumped onboard as well.
“With seven or more of John and Beryl’s grandkids currently driving and many other relatives in the industry, this was a no-brainer,” Mr Parnell said.
The family patriarch, John Dawson, passed away on Christmas Eve 2002. He worked on the railways for 42 years before getting hooked on harness when Des Weeks moved in next door to their Raceview property in 1963. John developed his horseman skills from there training the likes of Shoot Harbour, Welcome Command, and Robin Commander. John trained his first winner in 1971 and it was driven by his son Geoff. John and Geoff won the trainers/drivers premiership at the Ipswich track in 1976.
John and Beryl had three children who remained in the industry. Geoff married Gail (Morris family) and their children Melissa, Trent and Kelli also followed the harness path. Glenn married Wynetta (Knack family), with Mitchell and Nathan taking up the reins. Jennette married John McMullen Jnr and their kids Pete, Narissa, Dannielle and Taleah continued the trend.
It’s believed this extended family dynasty has produced 23 owners and 18 trainers who have racked up in excess of 40,000 starters. It’s also estimated that 18 current and former drivers have notched up an incredible 80,000 drives between.
All this started from a horse called Membership which won a race at Rocklea in 1971. From then onwards, the family was hooked. John and Beryl Dawson were always humble and caring and closely followed the careers of all the family members with pride.