Big thank you from


Kelso Stewart with one of his champion horses. US43-746SP
Owner of Down Royal Race Course and Golf Club passes away

KELSO Stewart, the owner of the Down Royal Racecourse and Golf Club passed away recently at the Marie Curie Centre in Knock at the age of 79.

A native of Kilmacrennan in County Donegal he was the son of Peter and Ethel Stewart.

He was educated in the Letterkenny area and relocated to Belfast in the mid-1940s.

He set up his own shopfitting business in the city, which became one of the most successful of its time. During the 1960's he moved into the hospitality business, opening the Seagoe Hotel in Portadown. In the early 1970's he opened the Redcastle Hotel at Greencastle in Co. Donegal, also building the nearby golf course.

Around the same time he opened the Kildrum Country Club on the main Derry to Letterkenny Road.

He went on to purchase the Glenmachan Hotel in East Belfast before purchasing Down Royal in 1983 for £275,000 from the course's then owners, the Corporation of Horsebreeders.

This was a tremendous opportunity for Kelso as the equine world really was his first love.

During the 1960's he and well known trainer Archie Watson formed a team which brought to the fore the famous 'French Tan' - at one time described as 'another Arkle'.

In 1970 French Tan came second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup but his greatest achievement was undoubtedly winning the Whitbread Trial Chase at Ascot in February of that year.

Kelso was so delighted by this result he bought the film of the race from the BBC and showed it to an audience at the Seagoe Hotel.

Annual reunions were also organised at the Seagoe to mark this achievement and became very much part of the local racing social scene.

These events were attended by many of Irish racing's best known personalities including Pat Taafe and Tommy Carberry.

Indeed, in the 1970 Cheltenham Gold Cup Taffe was French Tan's jockey while Carberry rode the winner 'L'Escargot'.

When Kelso purchased Down Royal the building, which is now the Golf Clubhouse, was a large farm. Very much a man of vision, he proceeded to design the golf course himself, even providing accommodation at the clubhouse for golfers who wished to stay overnight

Kelso's last major trip abroad was in July when he travelled to South Africa, a country of which he was very fond and in which he had a number of business interests.

By this stage he had already undergone surgery to have a kidney removed and had recovered following a second stay in hospital.

However, his holiday was followed by further admissions to hospital and he passed away peacefully on Tuesday October 18 at the Marie Curie Centre which is located close to his late residence in Shandon Park where he lived for many years.

The equine world was well represented at his funeral in Roselawn Crematorium and also at the committal of his ashes in his native Kilcrennan. Kelso will be sadly missed by all his brothers and sisters.