Queensland’s pre-eminent harness family set to be honoured

Beryl Dawson.

Not a regular racegoer any more, Beryl Dawson will make a rare appearance to Albion Park on Friday evening for a special evening to celebrate her family’s contribution to the code of harness racing.

Now into her late 80s, Beryl will watch on proudly as the first running of the John and Beryl Legacy Pace is held, with the race featuring only drivers from the Dawson and McMullen families and their partners.

The feature event will honour the 20-year anniversary of John’s passing and to recognise the influence John and Beryl have on today’s harness racing industry.

The family patriarch, John Dawson, passed away on Christmas Eve 2002.

Trent Dawson, Nathan Dawson, Kelli Dawson, Pete McMullen and his wife Chantal, Narissa McMullen, Taleah McMullen and Danielle Veivers (nee McMullen) will compete in the inaugural running of the race.

Trent Dawson instigated the new race to celebrate his grandparents enormous contribution to harness racing in the Sunshine State.

While Beryl is no longer a frequent visitor of tracks around South East Queensland to watch her grandchildren in person, Trent says she does not miss watching many races from Albion Park, Redcliffe or Marburg on television.

“She follows everything and is sharp as a tack with it all,” Trent said of his grandmother’s keen interest in the code.

“Grandma Beryl knows when everyone is racing, when they are driving winners or where they finish in their races or if they are serving a suspension.

“For her age, she is sharp and is still heavily involved with the CWA (Country Women’s Association).

“It is important to remember my grandfather’s legacy after his passing, but it is also equally as important to remember my grandmother’s legacy as well, while she is still alive.”

Dawson and McMullen participants are regular premiership winners on top of being competitive in Group races throughout Queensland as well as travelling their pacers and trotters interstate for higher honours.

Beryl Dawson’s daughter – Jennette McMullen – says there is not a prouder person than her mother watching on as her grandchildren continue to rack up milestones in the sport.

“Beryl gets a great thrill out of their achievements,” Jennette said in a Racing Queensland story in 2019.

“Her life revolves around the Sky Channel following the Dawson-McMullen clan.”

The 36-year-old Trent is keen to see his grandmother at Albion Park on Friday night to enjoy the experience in person.

“She is really excited about being there on Friday and she is really looking forward to it,” Trent said.

“She is quite active for a person in her late 80s.

“She does not come to the track to watch the races very often but whenever you go to her place, she has the racing station always on TV, I think it is her favourite station.”

Driver Trent Dawson


Race 4 7:18pm | Albion Park Harness Racing Club


Driver Nathan Dawson

Trent and cousin Pete McMullen – who was the leading reinsman in the Sunshine State again last season – got the ball rolling with the concept to honour their grandparents.

“We were half joking at the time but we got talking and wanted to have a race with all the family in it,” Trent recalls.

“We both thought it would be a cool idea and after discussions with Racing Queensland and the Albion Park club, it was great it was able to get off the ground.

“It was a novel concept to start with really but it is a good time to do something like this, being 20 years since our grandad passed away.

“The legacy that they have left for harness racing in Queensland is quite deep.”

Nathan Dawson – who finished second to Pete in the state driving premiership last campaign – thinks the race will be an occasion the entire clan can savour.

“It is good to be a part of it as obviously they have a strong influence in racing today,” Nathan said.

“There is quite a few of us that have come from the family.

“It is great that their legacy is being remembered like this.”

The 27-year-old Nathan is hopeful the race can build momentum following Friday’s inaugural running and come back again in 2024.

“Driving in this memorial race for our grandparents, it will be special,” Nathan said.

“Hopefully it can get bigger and better every year if they continue to run the race in years to come.”

While Trent says there has not been much banter between the cousins yet, he is sure it will be competitive racing on Friday to grab bragging rights going forward.

Nathan will drive Master Charles for trainer Peter Greig and believes the gelding will be a winning chance after not racing for almost a month. 

“He should go alright, he is fresh up and a regular drive of mine,” Nathan said.

“I know the horse pretty well.”

Trent is already looking to the future with the race, flagging the possibility of John and Beryl’s great-grandchildren eventually competing in the race in the coming years.

“We are still going to be represented for a while to come,” Trent said.

Racing Queensland CEO Brendan Parnell described John and Beryl as the “figureheads of a magnificent dynasty”.

“They have left, and continue to leave, an indelible mark on harness racing in this state,” Parnell said.

“When Trent Dawson initially approached us with the idea, we loved it and contacted the Albion Park Harness Racing Club, who jumped on-board as well.

“With seven or more of John and Beryl’s grand kids currently driving and many other relatives in the industry, this was a no-brainer.”

By Jordan Gerrans