Patsy Byrne – Cheltenham sponsor and lifelong racing supporter

Founded leading construction and engineering company with brother

 Patsy Byrne: A highly successful businessman, he was a sponsor at Cheltenham and a lifelong supporter of coursing

Patsy Byrne: A highly successful businessman, he was a sponsor at Cheltenham and a lifelong supporter of coursing

Sat, Oct 5, 2013, 01:01

Patsy Byrne, who has died at the age of 64, was well known and liked throughout the colourful world of horse and greyhound racing in Ireland and Britain. A highly successful businessman, he was a sponsor at Cheltenham and a lifelong supporter of coursing.

A native of Duagh, a small village near Listowel, he was a self-made man. Having learned carpentry at the local technical school, he emigrated to England in the late 1960s to join his brother Johnny.

From small beginnings as builders, they went on to create a leading construction and engineering company, Byrne Group plc.

From the time the group gained the first major contract at St Peter’s Hospital in Chelsea, it has been involved in a string of high-profile projects, ranging from the Canary Wharf development to Arsenal stadium, the Olympic stadium, the 87-storey skyscraper near London Bridge known as The Shard and, more recently, in the construction of the new centre court and number one court at Wimbledon.

Under Byrne’s style of management, the company developed a reputation of looking after its workers, paying them on time and completing contracts on schedule. With financial success came his interest in horses. Big in stature, he stood out in the crowd at race meetings.

A popular figure, he was universally known as Patsy. His time was divided between his home in leafy Surrey and Duagh, where local people also admired his support for charities, particularly the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation in Vietnam and Mongolia.

Less than three weeks ago, Byrne’s familiar navy and pink silks were in the winner’s enclosure at Listowel where his nine-year-old horse, White Star Line, won the Guinness Kerry National. In June, his grey gelding,Tominator, trained by Jonjo O’Neill, regained the Northumberland Plate.

Greyhounds were a central part of his life since boyhood when uncles recruited him to walk their dogs on the roads of north Kerry. From growing up with hounds at his side, it was only natural for him to keep on the tradition. His involvement in the business was unstinting as owner, trainer, sponsor and investor. A director of Clonmel greyhound track, he was among its biggest shareholders. His many greyhound victories include the Irish Derby with Cool Performance, the English Derby with Ballinderry Ash and the Coursing Derby with Big Interest.

Paying tribute to his achievements, his friend of 30 years, greyhound trainer Seán Bourke, described him as “the straightest person I’ve ever dealt with. He loved his dogs and was a great sponsor in Ireland. Without him, the game wouldn’t have survived.”

In a tweet, champion jockey Tony McCoy said he was “a great man and friend. Big loss to the racing and greyhound world.”

He is survived by his wife Bridget, sons Michael and Seán, daughter Siobhán, brother Johnny and sisters Helen, Lizzie and Mary.