THE official opening of the new and superb Brownlow Suite at Downpatrick Race Course took place, in advance of the course’s premier fixture, the Toals Bookmakers Ulster Grand National.
Guests, Downpatrick Directors and VIP’s were treated to a champagne reception to mark the opening of the superior premier suite at the County Down course which can be hired for events by contacting the racecourse writes Joe Kavanagh.
The opening ceremony was conducted by Mrs Eveleigh Brownlow, Patron of Downpatrick and wife of the late Major Brownlow, former Chairman of Downpatrick Racecourse. Major William Brownlow (19 21– 1998) was Chairman of the track for almost thirty years and proved the saviour of the local course when Government decided only one racecourse was required in Northern Ireland and Down Royal was nominated as the sole venue.
The Major said ‘no’ to the proposal and promised to ‘sort out government’ while advising that Downpatrick Racecourse would not die. With the limited Government funding withdrawn, Major Brownlow formed the Downpatrick Supporters Club, many of whom are still associated with the course today.
The committee undertook fund raising, took on operating the bar and catering facilities, and even cooking food in advance of race meetings, while Directors dipped into their own pockets at times to supply prize money for races. The group’s hard work and efforts ensured the survival of Downpatrick while the Northern Ireland Horse Racing Fund was introduced and has sustained and brought about significant improvements at both Ulster courses.
Major Brownlow served with the Rifles Brigade (Prince Consort’s Own) sustaining injury during the WW II and mentioned in dispatches three times. He overcame the war injuries
being a keen amateur rider in point to points and contested the Grand Military Gold Cup at Sandown for serving and former Military personnel.
The late Frankie Fitzsimmons, father of Brian, Paddy and Frankie, all still associated with the course rode many of the Major’s top class point to point horses. Brownlow had a special saddle commissioned to facilitate his injuries for hunting and race riding and was also the first person in Northern Ireland to own an amphibious car in the 1960’s that crossed Strangford Lough, only stopping when he persuaded local councillors to introduce the current ferry service.
He was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly for North Down as a pro-Sunningdale UUP candidate in 1973 following the Sunningdale Agreement but Parliament never assembled.
The Brownlow Estate in Lurgan carries the family name while following his death, a Brownlow Trophy was instituted for the person who had made the “greatest contribution to country sports and conservation in Ireland” each year.
Lord Lurgan, a relation of the Major, owned the legendary greyhound Master Mc Grath and William Brownlow presented a bronze sculpture of the greyhound which won three Waterloo Cups in 1868/69 and 1871 to Lurgan Council. The renowned greyhound became such a celebrity that his owner Lord Lurgan was asked to take him to be seen by Queen Victoria and the Royal Family.
Mrs Eveleigh Brownlow having opened the latest facility at the course said her husband would be delighted with the continuing success of the course and she was confident the track was in safe hands with the innovative team of Directors and Manager, now in charge of it’s future.