9 June 2023

Mac the gentle giant touched so many lives, from Bowning across the world

| Sally Hopman
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Donkey and horse

Eddy the donkey and Mac the Clydesdale were inseparable at the Rollonin cafe at Bowning – until Mac’s shock death last weekend. Photo: Supplied.

Renata Ryan checked on her animals like clockwork. From the sheep to her donkey Eddy and his best mate Mac, the Clydesdale.

Last Saturday she knew something was wrong. The owner of the Rollonin cafe at Bowning had fed the 20-year-old Clydesdale the night before and he seemed fine. But by lunchtime, she noticed he was splashing water about in his trough.

“He seemed really hot,” Mrs Ryan said. “I thought maybe it was colic.

“I thought it best to walk him around a bit, that can help with colic, but it didn’t seem to help.”

By the time the vet arrived, Mac’s temperature was so high there was nothing anyone could do, except put the big fellow out of his pain.

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“The vet said he went very gently. He dropped down on his hind legs just like he was in the paddock and lay to the side. She said it was so gentle … that I would have been so proud of him because if he had to go, at least he went with dignity.”

Mrs Ryan described Mac as being one of the family. Everyone loved him, she said, especially Eddy. They were always in each other’s line of sight. If you went looking for one of them, you’d always find both.

“But you should see Eddy now,” she said. “He’s lost without Mac, he keeps looking for him. He even tried to make friends with the sheep but that didn’t really work out.”


Mac the Clydesdale made friends with everyone who visited the Rollonin cafe at Bowning – especially if they were offering scratchies. Photo: Supplied.

Mrs Ryan knew that Mac was popular with visitors to her family’s cafe, just off the Hume Highway past Yass, but she had no idea how much.

Since word of his death got out, she has had messages from people all over the world, from South Africa to England, as well as closer to home, all with stories about how he affected their lives.

“He touched so many people,” she said. “He was so gentle with children. He also seemed to know that he had to be gentle with people who had disabilities.

“He loved people, But he could be a bit cheeky too. Sometimes he’d nudge people as if to say ‘if you want to pat me, you’ll have to give me some of your food’.

“It was also hard to keep him clean in the winter. I even got him this special Clydesdale rug from England because he would go through so many rugs. But this one only lasted a few days, he kept rubbing and scratching it to pieces.”

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Mac became a member of the Ryan family when he was about 18 months old.

Mrs Ryan’s late husband Tony had always loved the breed. They had a former lead horse from the Carlton United Clydesdale team first.

“He was quite old but Tony loved him and was devastated when he died.”

Mrs Ryan said she started hunting round to find another Clydesdale for her husband as a surprise for his birthday. She tried everywhere before eventually finding Mac, in nearby Yass.

“Tony was overjoyed,” she said. “He broke him into harness and he pulled logs in the wagon and helped to build the place here.

“Tony also used to take the kids around in his cart with Mac’s little mate Elvis the pony. You should have seen them together. Especially at Christmas time when he’d take them around with Santa.”

Old cafe

Visitors to the Rollonin at Bowning have paid tribute to one of the cafe’s most popular residents, Mac the Clydesdale, who died last week. Photo: Supplied.

When Mrs Ryan lost her husband in 2012, she could no longer saddle up the big horse so he was left to live out his years being spoiled by his family, locals and cafe visitors. Around the same time, Mrs Ryan decided to put the business on the market.

“Sometimes I thought I couldn’t sell it because Mac was here. Now he’s gone, and Tony’s gone, maybe now is the time to move on.

“But I’ll never forget Mac, he was one in a million.”

Since Mac’s death, hundreds of people have paid tribute to him on the Rollonin’s Facebook site, recalling their memories with the big fellow.

“I had no idea he touched so many people,” Mrs Ryan said. “It really helps now to know that.”

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