"The National that surely isn't". The words of BBC commentator Peter O'Sullevan to describe the farce that was the 1993 running of the Aintree Grand National.

Two false starts and a recall system that didn't work led to the race being declared void. There was much anger in the Merseyside air on that day exactly 25 years ago.

Afterwards, one disgruntled individual made a bee line towards the starter Keith Brown and shouted: "I'll see you in the courts, I'll see you in the courts".

Trainer John Upson said that such a thing would not happen in "a backward little country like Ireland".

Upson's Zeta's Lad was among the favourites for the Liverpool showpiece and any chance of compensation in the Irish equivalent nine days later was never on after he received threatening telephone calls.

"I've had people ringing me saying if I dare to go to Ireland, myself and my horses will be shot. In the light of what's happened, I don't think I'll be taking Zeta's Lad to Ireland," was the handler's response in the press as he opted not to make the trip to Fairyhouse.

So what exactly happened on 3 April, 1993?

39 runners lined up to take their chance in the world's greatest steeplechase on what was a cold, dank day at Aintree.

The start time was 3.45. Due to presence of animal rights activists on the course, there was a delay. The jockeys were getting anxious, as were those in the stands. At 3.53, Keith Brown, in what was to be his final dispatch of the National, set the field on their way.

Keith Brown facing the questions after the Aintree debacle

However, the starting tape did not rise properly. Brown acted quickly, waving a flag to alert a recall man Ken Evans who was stationed on the run to the first fence. All the horses were pulled up and made their way back to the start.

The clock was ticking towards 4pm. The crowd were getting even more restless as the jockeys tried to form a straight line to satisfy the starter.  

At the second time of asking, Brown dispatched the field but yet again, there was a snag in the tape. Brown waved his flag frantically to notify the recall man Evans. Some horse pulled up, some didn't. The farce was about to play out in earnest. Evans did not alert the jockeys, though he claimed in the subsequent inquiry that he did.

And so 30 horses set out on what would be a fruitless exercise around the famous course.

Among them was Mouse Morris' Cahervillahow, with Charlie Swan in the saddle.

A demonstrator is chased by a policeman prior to the '93 National

Recalling that day from a quarter of a century ago, the former champion jockey told RTÉ Sport: "I remember when I arrived at the course there were a lot of protesters. As we were heading down to the start, there were more protesters, this time waving flags near the first fence. They were shouting things at us as we showed the horses the first fence.

"We had the first false start. It happened. We came back and lined up again. The tape went up and off we went. I was told afterwards that the tape actually got caught around the neck of a lady rider."

RTÉ commentator Tony O'Hehir was stationed at Bechers Brook, as part of the BBC Radio commentary team.

"I had my headphones on listening to lead commentator Peter Bromley so I was aware that something was up," he said

"Back then the BBC commentary went out over the course and I was hoping the jockeys would hear the commentary and us saying that the race was void. In fairness, there was so much noise everywhere, you could sense the anger in the stands and our commentary was well and truly drowned out.

"Officials were scampering around, desperately trying to flag the jockeys down. All to no avail."

Cahervillahow and Charlie Swan

After the first circuit, some of the field had pulled up. Swan and Cahervillahow were in the front rank, however, as the second circuit loomed.

The Tipperary jockey takes up the story: "At this point there more protesters waving flags, well that's what we thought they were.

"It was quite confusing but we continued on. There's a point of no return and that's what it was. Also, Cahervillahow's owner said he was going to look after me well if we won.

"Cahervillahow, who wasn't the best jumper in the world, was giving me a good spin. I felt I had a good chance."

The combination crossed the line in second place.

"As we pulled up at the end, people charged towards us and said 'the race is void, the race is void'," Swan revealed as his efforts were all in vain.

First past the post was Esha Ness, a 50-1 chance ridden by Wexford jockey John White.

Summing up that fateful day, Swan said: "I knew John well and I felt so sorry for him. It was the second fastest National ever run. I didn't think my fella would get around. It was all a bit surreal afterwards as I gave my recollection of events to Des Lynam. It just can’t believe 25 years have passed."

There was some talk that the '93 National would be run at a later date. That never happened. A permanent gap is there in the Aintree roll call.