Rich Ipswich history cherished through joyful tribute to mum
IT was a wonderful Ipswich family tribute to a caring mum and proud sporting dynasty.
Winning the latest Ipswich Auction Sprint Series final with the aptly-named Little Byrnes meant so much for greyhound owner Matthew Cranitch and his children.
Little Byrnes was the nickname of Matthew's mother Margaret, who passed away in September 2018.
Incredible emotion flowed as two-year racer Little Byrnes dashed across the Ipswich track finish line on Saturday night.
"It was great. The dog has brought a lot of joy,'' Matthew said.
From a well known Ipswich sporting family, Margaret was a nurse and midwife at the Ipswich Base Hospital in the 1940s.
Matthew gave up his job as a teacher to be Margaret's full-time carer when she suffered dementia late in her life.
"With dementia, she often was reverting back to her childhood and the constant talk about growing up in Ipswich and just some of the landmarks in Ipswich,'' Matthew said.
"Mum died at home, surrounded by me, holding her hand.''
After watching the greyhound's 11th win from 19 starts, Matthew said it was particularly satisfying seeing Little Byrnes perform so consistently at the Showgrounds.
"The dog loves Ipswich more than any other track and just 'grows a leg' as soon as he reaches Ipswich,'' the history teacher said.
"It's as if mum's spirit lives in the dog and feels at home.''
Matthew said hearing his mum's stories highlighted the importance of family and being part of Ipswich society.
Margaret's passing in 2018 left a lasting legacy.
So when the opportunity arose through his best friend to buy a greyhound at the Ipswich auction in early 2019, Matthew jumped at the chance.
After considering other racing names, the pup was called Little Byrnes in honour of Margaret, who earnt her nickname being short.
The Byrnes family still has strong ties to Ipswich, having many siblings growing up in the city during the 19th and 20th centuries, including through World War II.
Among them was Matthew's fearless grandad Tom, who won many ultra marathons and was a race walker in the early 1900s.
"He was the marvel,'' Matthew said.
"He died in the 70s when I was very young. His nickname was Long Tom - he was a tall, thin man.
"He instilled that passion in his children, particularly his sons. They were all very, very talented athletes.''
Tom typified Ipswich in many ways, with his sporting prowess and working on the railways as a guard until his retirement in the late 1940s.
He was a regular contributor to The Queensland Times in the 1950s detailing his life as a guard and athlete.
Tom had eight boys and three girls, including Margaret.
The family lived in East Ipswich and attended St Mary's and St Edmund's College where one of Tom's grandsons Frank still teaches. He was a talented tennis player who won an Australian masters title.
Other family members included Peter Byrnes who was a first grade and representative cricketer in the 1930s.
However, Saturday night was all about Margaret and how it strengthened family bonds through a greyhound race in Ipswich.
Born in 1925, Margaret received her "Little Byrnes'' nickname by friends at St Mary's.
Having spent extended time with Margaret, Matthew admired his mother's tenacity, courage and persistence fighting her illness.
In Saturday night's 431m final, Little Byrnes started favourite, beating Borneo Bandit and Lost in Lantana over the 431m distance.
Seeing Little Byrnes win a major race on his home track was something to cherish for the single dad and his children.
Matthew's oldest son Jack fittingly celebrated his 21st birthday on the weekend Little Byrnes won.
Dylan, 19, and Georgia, 14, also shared in the meaningful occasion.
"My kids didn't really know the history of the family but now they are asking questions and it's bringing them back into my mum's life and they were very excited,'' Matthew said.
"They were living with mum before she died as well with me so we were all back together as a family.''
The children now watch Little Byrnes race.
"It's brought all us much closer together - making them appreciate their family and that heritage,'' Matthew said.
Little Byrnes turned two last week.
Of his 19 starts, 10 have been at Ipswich where the two-year-old greyhound has eight wins and two seconds.
Matthew said the atmosphere at the Ipswich Greyhound Racing Club enhanced the dog's soft spot for the track where he won his maiden race.
"That was just a very special time, particularly for me when getting over mum's recent death,'' Matthew said.
The greyhound is trained by John Catton, based at Greenbank.
Matthew's first greyhound is Lucky Hero, who has two wins from 17 starts in Ipswich.
Lucky Hero is being prepared to return next week after being injured.
As he paid tribute to his mum, Matthew also praised everyone looking after their greyhounds and enjoying the sport.
"They are all working class,'' he said. "They are all salt of the earth people involved.
"They are particularly willing to help everyone.
"It (greyhound racing) does bring people together . . . and the dogs are so well cared for and looked after.''