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Farewell To Clairwood Stalwarts

A bygone era

The halcyon days of the Clairwood Turf Club feel like a lifetime away when we reflect back in today’s much changed world.

The passing this week of two stalwarts in Janet Welch and Richard Leigh, within a day of each other, heralds a sad end to 2018 for their family, friends and former colleagues.

Basil Thomas writes that he is not quite sure what qualifies as ‘yesteryear’  – but says that another two personalities from a bygone era have left us.

I was truly saddened to hear of the death of Janet Welch, a former colleague at Clairwood Park and long-time friend.

Janet Welch – strived to be the best

Janet had been battling with cancer for a number of years. There were periods of respite, but every time a battle was won, the enemy came back stronger – and the struggle was finally lost on Thursday 27 December 2018.

The Clairwood Turf Club was a great place to work – a place where team members were empowered and where we all strived to be the best, where we were proud of our Brand and where service and respect was our mantra.

That culture was the perfect fit for Janet Welch.


Janet commenced her 10-year career with us in 1988, taking up the position of Marketing and Public Relations Manager, assuming portfolios which had hitherto been managed by various persons on a part-time basis.

She exuded enthusiasm and pride in everything she did, and she simply was not capable of doing “half a job”.

She was an expert in Public Relations  and very quickly became the public face of Clairwood Park, embracing and promoting our Brand, and earning the genuine respect of stakeholders (owners, trainers, jockeys, members, suite holders etc.) and patrons.

Most importantly, she earned and kept the respect of members of the media, whom she recognised as being crucial contributors to the good image of horse racing in general, and Clairwood Park in particular.

Janet drinks a toast outside Greyville to Colin and Shirley Aitken on their wedding day

Without a huge budget available to her, she introduced and managed a number of promotions which enhanced the racing experience of our patrons and made them feel relevant.

She loved her job! In a previous life, she had been the marketing executive for “Keep Durban Beautiful”. No wonder that she was such a perfect fit for The Garden Course…

She enthusiastically embraced the philosophy that people have more fun when they are in clean, congenial surroundings and are made to feel important. Quite simply, Janet was from the old school.

She never considered herself to be “off duty” – always impeccably dressed, always polite and always aware of what organisation she represented. She had respect for both her peers and her subordinates and loyalty was a natural attribute.

Outside the chapel – Janet seen with Sue Broughton and Tracy Plant

One cannot live in the past and it is unhealthy to hanker for it. We need to live in the present, because the present is where we can make a difference.

Most of your readers will not know of Janet.

She was from a bygone era. But on behalf of all of us who were there with her, I am happy and proud to say that in our world, in our time, she made a difference. May she rest in peace.

Richard Leigh was already at Clairwood when I arrived in 1982.

He was the Tote Manager. In the mid-nineties he transferred to the TAB, where he worked until retirement. I would guess that he gave between 25 and 30 years service.

An affable man, he quietly played his part in the transformation of Clairwood in the 1980’s.

He passed away on Boxing Day. A Requiem Mass will take place at the Holy Trinity Catholic Church 210  Musgrave Road at 10h00 on Wednesday 2 January 2019.

To lose two former colleagues and friends in two days is a very sad end to the year. May he Rest In Peace.

Ed – The author, Basil Thomas, was General Manager of the Clairwood Turf Club

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2 comments on “Farewell To Clairwood Stalwarts

  1. Mac Naidoo says:

    I don’t know much about them but all of us that patronized Clairwood racecourse on the race days was unbelievable lived to its name as the Garden Course one of the best picturist in this country. I still miss racing on this course and still don’t know why it was closed. It goes to show that’s how much we know about the people who work so hard to making a success. Condolences to the family of the 2 deceased.

  2. Colin Nel says:

    Richard Leigh – a scholar and a gentleman who not only looked after me and my family but countless others. He genuinely took an interest in all staff – whether they were full or part time. Never to be forgotten. RIP Richard – you were a good man.

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