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SC Rewind: Remembering Wm. Rowe

Published: July 17, 2021 12:25 pm ET

Last Comment: July 23, 2021 8:52 am ET | 7 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's Rewind Robert Smith recalls the long and interesting career of the late William Rowe, a man who served the sport in multiple roles during an extremely long career.

On Thursday, August 15, 2013 The Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame held their annual induction ceremonies for that year's class. The recently elected members were honoured. It is always a very special day for the honorees and families involved and this year was certainly no exception.

William Rowe (Photo courtesy of Canadian Sportsman as displayed in Hall of Fame)

That year, the late Mr. William Lennox Rowe was among the inductees; he was enshrined in the "Builder's "category.

Unfortunately for his family despite living to a ripe old age, he passed away in March of 2011 at the age of 87, thus missing a much deserved enshrinement while he was still alive. His lifetime of contributions to the sport made him one of the most deserving candidates ever considered for entrance into the HOF I would suggest.

Wm. Rowe (right) and his father The Hon. Earl Rowe appear in this 1940's picture. Attired in their driving uniforms they were familiar participants at many harness racing meetings in Ontario for many decades (Photo from Toronto Star archives)

William "Bill" Rowe at some point in his career filled virtually every role in harness racing possible. Born into one of Canada's most recognizable racing families, he pursued some interest in the sport throughout his lifetime. He was one of three children born to The Hon. W Earl Rowe and Treva Lennox, whose homestead was located near the Simcoe County hamlet of Newton Robinson. I once had the pleasure of a long and enjoyable visit with "Bill" Rowe at the Rowelands farm office and it was a time I am not likely to soon forget. His friendliness and hospitality soon made us friends. That was likely 35 years ago.

Although the purpose of my visit was ostensibly to gather information for a story about his recently deceased father, we managed to touch on a myriad of subjects. Like many people who have spent a lifetime in harness racing, he soon relaxed into a story telling mood.

Wm. Rowe and his wife Betty appear in the Stratford, Ont. winner's circle following a victory in the Supertest Three-Year-Old Trot in 1955. An unidentified company official did the presenting (Courtesy of London Free Press Archives)

He told me of an incident that occurred when he first started driving that could have been a tragedy of major proportions. While driving at the Beeton Fair near his home area, a lady pushing a baby buggy crossed the track just as the horses approached the half. Thankfully a veteran driver cautioned the rest of the field and tragedy was averted. He also told me of how much he loved to drive in a race and compared the rush in a smaller way to what he had experienced as a pilot in the Air Force during WWII

He also told me of a more sombre and life altering day in his career when he suffered a near death tragedy that resulted in him having serious surgery to correct a brain injury. Following this unfortunate day at the Milton fairgrounds, Mr. Rowe's career as a driver ended. On another occasion he experienced a long and "chilly" ride home with his father from Toronto's Old Woodbine track. While driving part of an entry he had triumphed over the Senior Rowe in a Stakes event, overtaking his father by complete surprise in deep stretch.

Wm. Rowe stands alongside his legendary horseman father The Hon. Earl Rowe, one-time Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, in a 1972 photograph as they display one of many trophies won by the Rowe horses (Hoof Beats photo)

I have had the privilege of meeting some interesting and colourful people from our sport's past. High on my personal list of all time interesting and intriguing people, Bill Rowe would rank right near the top. His uncanny ability to mesh with people and to make wise business decisions made him not only effective in virtually everything he did, but also well liked.

Someone once said "The strength of any organization is based on the quality and character of the people within that structure." Wherever and whenever Bill Rowe was involved, he was always instrumental in getting things done, always for the betterment of the sport. It is difficult to put in words or quantify the ongoing tireless effort he put into his life's work. He always had a certain class about him that inspired others and earned him the respect of his colleagues.

The following note was received from Marvin Chantler at the time of Bill Rowe's induction into the Hall Of Fame in 2013. Thankfully I retained it and with Marv's permission I have reprinted it here today.

"Finally after all these years Mr. William Rowe now occupies the spot he has so richly deserved. He has truly been a "BUILDER".

I knew Bill all my life, from preschool until he passed away. My father worked for Bill after he had sold his farm which was just three farms east of Bill's place. He was a great man with a fantastic sense of humour and an infectious smile. I will always remember Bill as a great host. On many many occasions he entertained guests at Windsor Raceway, including myself, and always made us all feel very welcome and part of his team. He was a great trainer of talent and a team builder.

His induction into The Hall of Fame is long overdue; I am just sorry that it didn't happen while Bill was still alive to accept his award in person. I was so pleased and honoured to be present for this memorable occasion on Thursday."

Windsor Raceway officials and a special guest appear with the Provincial Cup, Windsor's top prize for many years. From left is Stan Bergstein, Wm. Rowe and Pres. Al Seigel. (courtesy of Windsor Raceway archives)

Wm. Rowe and his family left an indelible imprint on the sport and business of Canadian harness racing. They bred, owned and drove many of their own horses. They built three major racetracks, Windsor Raceway, the original Barrie Raceway and Georgian Downs. They promoted racing wherever they travelled and also started many new participants in the sport by selling them their first horse. The Rowe name will forever be linked to Canadian harness racing.

Quote For The Week: "For those who may remember watching the old Statler Bros. weekly TV shows they always closed by saying "Come back next week because we haven't even started yet." This might also apply to Rewind.

Who Is It?

Who do we have here? A very well known driver from days gone by; name him if you can.

Who Else Is It?

Who do we have in the sulky seat? Later in his career he moved "upstairs" to serve as a judge. Tell us who he is if you can.

July 23, 2021 - 8:52 amThis week's two pictures both

This week's two pictures both managed to draw correct answers from our knowledgeable reading audience.
The top photo was the recently deceased Ben Webster shown here driving Seatrain.
The lower picture was Al Caughey, former horseman who later moved to the judges stand Note from Al, "That picture of Willowbrook Smoky was taken at Kingston Fairgrounds in 1970. Every day there was standing room only!"

July 18, 2021 - 1:06 am2nd pic definitely Big Al

2nd pic definitely Big Al Caw. Great guy and one of the classiest judges ever. Was a horseman and when he was a judge treated you like a horseman.

July 17, 2021 - 8:49 pmI had the right driver, wrong

Howard Gluck SAID...

I had the right driver, wrong horse. It's Ben Webster and Seatrain.

July 17, 2021 - 5:12 pmI believe that the "who else"

John Burke SAID...

I believe that the "who else" in the sulky might be the late Richard Croteau who, in my opinion, was an excellent Racing Commission judge. Joe B

July 17, 2021 - 4:15 pmLooks like Ben Webster and

Howard Gluck SAID...

Looks like Ben Webster and Seahawk Hanover.

July 17, 2021 - 4:11 pmJust a wonderful man, entire

john crake SAID...

Just a wonderful man, entire family great people, and honour to have worked for Bill and Jane and Earl Jr., great memories at Barrie Raceway.

July 17, 2021 - 12:34 pmBenny the whip, Al Caughey

Gord Brown SAID...

Benny the whip, Al Caughey

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