Tweed River Jockey Club chairman is not just horsing around

GRASSROOTS GUY: Tweed River Jockey Club chairman Bernie Quinn gets the goss straight from the horse’s mouth.
GRASSROOTS GUY: Tweed River Jockey Club chairman Bernie Quinn gets the goss straight from the horse’s mouth. JOHN GASS Twerace

WHEN work has to be done at the Murwillumbah Racecourse, there is always one man who rolls up his sleeves and pitches in… and he is also the chairman.

Bernie Quinn has been chairman of the Tweed River Jockey Club for 38 years.

"I would be lying if I said there were never times that it got to me, but I wasn't going to let it. I'm like Cassius Clay," Mr Quinn said.

"If I'm lucky enough to get to 40 years then I think that's great. If I don't then that's just life."

But Mr Quinn always finds a way to stay involved.

He was a butcher in his youth and until recently customers at Burringbar Quality Meats found him working behind the counter.

Owner Brett O'Keefe said Mr Quinn was working every now and then at the butchery until about two years ago and Mr O'Keefe still bought cattle from Mr Quinn's Mooball farm.

"I think the concrete was a bit hard on his legs," Mr O'Keefe said.

"He was a good talker with the customers."

Mr Quinn's talent to entertain customers is also used at the racetrack.

Racing journalist Stephen Senise has known Mr Quinn since 2003 and said the chairman was always behind the microphone on race day.

"Bernie is always there to hand over the cup and is on the microphone talking to the crowd," Mr Senise said.

"One thing that stays with me is the minute that the microphone is in his hand, he is at ease and he quickly puts the crowd at ease.

"He does have that gift of being an entertainer. In a past life he may have been a good stand-up (comic)."

An entertainer he might have been, but the racing community in Murwillumbah has benefited from Mr Quinn's decision to join Murwillumbah Jockey Club.

"Growing up on a farm, I have always had horses," Mr Quinn said.

"When I took over (in 1974) we had three races a year.

"I could see the races getting bigger and bigger."

Mr Quinn said at one stage the track had 33 race days a year but the track could not handle that number and it has been reduced back to 11.

"There are probably a million stories about the club I can remember, but probably the best thing I have seen is how the club's grown," he said.

"In the older days we basically had a toilet with four sheets of tin around it."

Mr Senise said Mr Quinn played a big part in making the club appealing for racegoers.

"He puts in at a very practical level, especially at Murwillumbah Cup carnival time," Mr Senise said.

"He does stuff you wouldn't expect a chairman of a racing club to do.

"If a marquee needs to be put up then he will be there to put it up."

Mr Quinn was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) this year for his service to the racing industry and his volunteer work.

He said he was very proud to have received the award and would be heading to Canberra in April to receive it.

In typical fashion he finished with a quip: "It's good to be young enough to enjoy it."

Topics:  racing, tweed river jockey club



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