Terang harness racing mourns a gentleman

Former Terang Harness Racing Club (THRC) committeeman Harold Craven was a “gentleman” and a “great thinker” who was always willing to lend a hand.

Craven, the patriarch of one of the most successful harness racing families in country Victoria, died at the Terang hospital on Sunday. He was 86.

Friends and colleagues yesterday paid tribute to the school teacher, farmer and horse owner whose influence in harness racing extended beyond his actions.

Craven grew up in Fairfield but moved to the south-west to take up a primary school teaching position at Curdievale in 1948.

“He didn’t know where he was going. He came down with his push bike, a bag of clothes and his dog,” his son Harry said.

Teaching stints at Curdievale and Timboon preceded 17 years at Nirranda East, while he also spent time educating at Cobden and Terang.

While at Curdievale he met his wife Alice, who with her brothers Jack and Watty instilled a passion for harness racing which remained strong until his death.

The couple married in 1952 and raised six children — Peter, Helen, Des, John, Marg and Harry — at their Ecklin South property.

Peter and Marg have become successful trainers, while Craven’s grandchildren Jason, Paddy, Matt and Glen are also immersed in the industry.

Together, they form the most well-known family dynasty in south-west Victorian harness racing circles.

Reinsman Jason saluted his grandfather while scoring a winning treble at Ararat on Monday.

Harness racing wasn’t Harold Craven’s only sporting passion.

He played more than 300 football matches with Nirranda as a ruckman and served as club secretary and on the Heytesbury league tribunal panel.

Former THRC president Michael O’Keeffe said Craven, who joined the committee in the late 1960s, was “a great fella”.

“He was a fella who was a great thinker with his involvement in the club and a terrific supporter of the club, gave outstanding service,” O’Keeffe said.

“He was a gentleman. He was always eager to help in any way he could.”

Terang couple Bruce and Elizabeth Clarke, winners of Harness Racing Victoria’s Gordon Rothacker Medal in 2008, also had high praise for Craven.

Elizabeth described him as “a man of integrity, absolute integrity” while Bruce recalled him as “the most perfect gentleman to deal with and a great friend”.

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