‘We hope to use our tragedy to help others’: suicide prevention trust launched in memory of Aintree chairman

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  • The family of late Aintree chairman Rose Paterson have launched a suicide prevention charity in her memory to help others who are silently suffering “before it is too late”.

    Her daughter, Evie Paterson, opened the virtual Aintree Grand Women’s Summit on Friday (9 April), the day before the family officially launched the Rose Paterson Trust.

    “It shouldn’t be me here today at all; it should be my mother, Rose Paterson, who was chairman of Aintree until she tragically took her own life in June last year,” said Evie.

    “She always did the introductions to the Grand Women’s Summit so beautifully and so gracefully, and I cannot hope to fill her shoes.

    “As the first female chairman of a National Hunt racecourse, she herself understood what it was like to operate in a man’s world and was passionate about helping other women succeed in racing, and sport more broadly.”

    She added that her mother would have been delighted to see Rachael Blackmore’s achievements at the Cheltenham Festival, with Rachael’s history-making Grand National win following a day after the conference.

    “I myself know how much she believed in the value of amateur sport. Thanks to her selflessness, encouragement and support, I had a relatively successful eventing career as a teenager and was selected to represent Great Britain a few times,” she said.

    “My eventing career was not only great fun, but also an invaluable experience and it would not have been possible without her unwavering support and willingness to sacrifice her weekends, driving me around the countryside and even sleeping in a horsebox. She never resented doing this as she recognised the link between physical and mental health so well, and firmly believed that competing was great training for life. Not least in learning how to cope with failure.”

    Evie added: “I hope I’ve made it clear by now what a wonderful woman my mother was and how much she did for others. By launching the trust in her name, we hope to do her proud and use our family tragedy to ourselves help others, who are silently suffering like she was, before it is too late. We’ve said from the start that if we can help just one other family from the agony of suicide, then the initiative will have been worth it.”

    Mrs Paterson was inducted as an Aintree Legend in a short ceremony at the racecourse on Saturday (11 April) morning, where a plaque bearing her name was unveiled in the hall of fame, and the trust was officially launched.

    The ceremony was brought to a close by a rendition of Ave Maria by soprano Laura Wright, and the Aintree chairman Nicholas Wrigley paid tribute to Mrs Paterson’s legacy.

    Her husband Owen Paterson, MP for North Shropshire, paid tribute to his late wife and thanked the racecourse for making her one of its legends.

    “She absolutely loved this place. She loved Liverpool, she loved the staff and she loved doing what she did. She loved the characters and I think she’d be very pleased with her position (on the wall), above Trevor Hemmings but below Many Clouds!” he said.

    “For us it’s just a very sad day. Normally we’d have come in early and we’d have walked the course and she’d be picking out all the details, and she’s not here. But what we’ve done — and I pay massive tribute to my three children — we’ve set up the Rose Paterson Trust.

    “Our very simple aim is to raise money for suicide prevention and to publicise that in the next 90 minutes someone will take their life – which is nearly 15 jumbo jets [of people] per year. We feel very strongly that this should be talked about more and if we can possibly prevent one single family going through the extreme anguish that we went through.

    “The reaction of racing has been quite extraordinary and I’d like to thank everyone who has pledged so far. We will put the money forward to projects and charities which we hope will prevent suicide and might just save that one family.”

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    Community award

    An award recognising women from Merseyside who are “making a difference” to grassroots sport was also launched at Friday’s summit in Mrs Paterson’s memory.

    “She [my mother] understood that Aintree and the Grand National belonged to Liverpool, and did a huge amount to forge and strengthen the links between the racecourse and the communities of Merseyside, through sponsorships, partnerships and charitable causes,” said Evie.

    “She even took in four rather naughty equine inhabitants of Park Palace Ponies, a riding school for deprived children in Toxteth, at the beginning of the first lockdown and they spent the entire summer with us at home in Shropshire.

    “Because of everything she did, she was — and still is — incredibly highly regarded and well-loved in the community here in Liverpool. It’s an amazing thing to be able to announce now and to bring all these aspects of her legacy together, we are launching the Rose Paterson Community Sportswoman Award.

    “This will be an annual award given by Aintree to recognise a girl or woman from Merseyside who is making a difference to grassroots community sport, through participation or support.

    “We want to reward girls and women, sportspeople or otherwise, who display the qualities that my mother possessed in abundance — perseverance, selflessness, devotion and inclusiveness among others.”

    The winner will be announced at next year’s Grand Women’s Summit and she will receive financial support, through a bursary at Aintree, and will also be invited to the Grand National.

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