The final chapter in one of greyhound racing’s most endearing stories was completed on Sunday, 19 September, with the news that Paddy Fitch, aged 95, passed away at Ipswich Hospital, in south-east Queenslsnd.
Paddy, who spent her lifetime breeding and judging dogs, will be best remembered for her success as the breeder and owner of Dashing Corsair – the son of Malfoy and Rose Flamenco, who raced 124 times for 57 wins and 30 places, twice winner of Greyhound of the Year in Queensland, nominee for Australian Greyhound of the Year in 2011 and an inductee to the Racing Queensland Hall of Fame in 2015.
David Brasch, former Editor of the Queensland Greyhound Journal, once remarked about Paddy: “I’m not quite sure if Paddy can bake a decent cake, but she certainly has the right recipe when it comes to a Group quality greyhound.”
This was certainly true of Paddy, a scientist by training with a substantive appreciation of genetics, unconventional and unapologetic in her approach, methodical in her review of pedigrees, always striving for the right combination that was based on the attributes of the dog and its performance.
Born in 1926 in Luton, England, Paddy went to school in Reading and Halifax, before reading science at the University of Liverpool which she commenced in the latter part of the second world war. Unusual for a woman to pursue university at the time, Paddy graduated with her Bachelor of Science in 1946, went on to complete her Honours degree in Biochemistry in 1947, and finally her Master of Science in 1949.
It was early in 1950 that Paddy left England, moving to the Gold Coast, West Africa (now Ghana), as a member of the UK Colonial Service. While in Accra she met her husband John, whom she married in 1951. The first of her three children were born in Accra, and her youngest was born in Kenya following a move with the family in 1962.
It was her time in Kenya that solidified her interest in dogs, breeding bull terriers and training to be a dog judge. Paddy was the secretary of the East African Bull Terrier Club for nearly five years and she had immense enjoyment with the dogs at this time of her life.
Paddy emigrated to Australia in 1970, returning to the workforce as a Scientific Officer at the Prince Henry Hospital in Little Bay in Sydney, working at both the Prince Henry and Prince of Wales Hospitals right through to her retirement in 1991. Her time in Sydney saw her active with Scottish Terriers and Border Terriers, where she also qualified to judge both terrier and non-sporting dog groups.
Retirement brought the opportunity for Paddy to both move to Queensland and to spend more time with her dogs. Based initially at Placid Hills, near Grantham, Paddy was introduced to greyhounds through local friends. The love developed quickly, and it wasn’t long before Paddy was all in (Paddy was never one to do things by half). Her early days saw her with Fiery Asset, the 1999 Qld Derby winner and Beenleigh track record breaker and breeding meticulously through Rose Noble’s line.
A move to Churchable saw Paddy forge new friendships and partnerships, including with Desley Williams, who co-trained Dashing Corsair (or Harry as he was known) to outstanding success through 2008-11. Harry was an amazing dog and brought Paddy huge joy.
Paddy would always keep one of the greyhounds with her as a companion, the most notable was Samantha (Rose Flamenco) who was by Paddy’s side for many years. Samantha had only four starts and then injured, so from a young age was her loyal friend. She was also hugely significant in terms of the breeding line, having been put to Malfoy and then producing the litter with Dashing Corsair.
One of the urban myths (that happens to be true), is the story that Paddy once chartered a helicopter to get flood-bound Harry on the journey to Wentworth Park for the Association Cup. It was January 2011, and there was no alternative route by road following the devastating floods that hit Queensland at the end of 2010, early 2011. Harry made it to Wentworth Park, running 43.07 in the final which was just .07 seconds behind Seek And Destroy. It wasn’t to be Harry’s day, but the second place winnings at least covered the cost of the helicopter.
On inducting Harry to the Hall of Fame in October 2015, the then-Brisbane Greyhound Racing Club Vice President, Les Bein, commented:
“Dashing Corsair is the only dog to ever be in three National finals. He made 18 Group finals winning five. And he was an Australian Greyhound of the Year finalist. Harry was the people’s champion. Cancer tragically took him far too young after the start of a promising stud career. No dog ever deserves to be a member of the Queensland Hall of Fame more than Dashing Corsair.”
Paddy was also thrilled to hear that The Dashing Corsair was to become an annual feature on the racing calendar at Albion Park in June, a fine recognition for an outstanding dog.
By the time that Harry was inducted to the Hall of Fame, Paddy was already in the early stages of dementia and a resident at Carinity Karinya at Laidley. Paddy received superb care at Karinya over the six years that she was resident. It was always a challenge for Paddy with her family spread far and wide, but it was a real comfort to them knowing that she was in such good hands.
Paddy loved to hear news of the family and grandchildren, she was a lover of music and opera, she enjoyed a glass of wine and had a wonderful sense of humour with a cracking laugh. That said, it was her dogs that gave her such purpose and pleasure, particularly later in life. There is much to be celebrated, her life was long and well-lived with plenty of joy through her love of the dogs and the many friendships she built.
Her family wanted to pass on a huge thank you to the greyhound community in Queensland, to Desley, Rodney (who has since passed away), her many friends, trainers and fellow breeders, alongside the wonderful team at Karinya and Ipswich Hospital who looked after her so well.
Paddy is survived by her family, Alan, Michelle, Ashley, Kieran, Matthew, Isobel, Peter, Kate, Olivia, Ernie, Liz, Albert, Diana, Roger, Rebecca, David, Michael, Leonie, Alix, Tony, Edward and Rachel.