Diary of a Show

The History of the Mullumbimby Show

The following is an extract from The Brunswick, Another River and its People, Jim
Brokenshire 1988.

Mullumbimby Showgrounds 1915
Mullumbimby Showground 1915

“From 1905 the story of the Mullumbimby Agricultural Society has been one of the
endeavour and it success has highlighted the rural wealth of a rich district. It has been a
story, too, or unceasing efforts by society committeemen to ensure that exhibitions
would rank well with the best country shows in Australia.

Inaugural Committee 1907

In its early years the society consolidates itself well under the guidance of early
presidents Alan Cameron, John Macgregor and James Parrish, who held the position in
1905, 1906 and 1907 respectively. Alan Cameron was a storekeeper, John Macgregor a
man of the land and James Parrish and auctioneer. Banker Ralph Mate Thompson was
secretary to each.

Although plans for the first exhibition were discussed in 1905, it was August of 1907
before the committee really got down to preparing for it.

That first show was estimated to have brought 3000 people to the ground on the main day.

It was after that show that plans were made for building improvements, including a
secretary’s office, ring fence, a pavilion, a gate and cattle pens. It was decided also to
clear a further two acres of scrub and to begin drainage of the ring.

A tree planting project was undertaken under the direction of James Parrish. Mr. Parrish
and his team were both complimented and ridiculed by lookers-on when they began the
task, but as a result the 22 acres of the ground was judged the most picturesque in the
State. Those things were in addition to perhaps the most important improvement of all –
a publican’s booth.

No doubt short of finance, the committee decided to sell 26 of its acres for £1216. That
was good business, for the society had paid only £1325 for the lot, leaving it with 27
acres for a cost of £109.

It was in 1909 that controversy arose about women riding astride in the show ring. Bitter
argument ensued and option was divided and the skirts of the women who rode manstyle. But just as boys will be boys, so would girls be girls and the moderns won by a
stride, and 1909 saw the first class for “ladies astride” at the Mullumbimby show.
So the shows and the Showground continued to make progress, each year reveling need
to further improvement. In 1912 the committee called tenders for leveling and filling of
he show ring enclosure, but it seemed that no one wanted the job.

So the grounds committee chairman, Mr. C. Shepherd, went to Mr. James Davidson, a
contractor of some note. It must be to his credit that he recalled men, horsed and drays
from other work and did the job.

At a cost of £37/15/- and in 11 days the ring area was filled to a depth of three feet, with
646c.yds. inside the ring, 47 loads around the outside and around the pavilion. Rye grass
was planted and blocks placed ready for seating planks. But perhaps the achievement, which gained for the Mullumbimby show its widest acclaim, was the magnificence of the diary cattle section. Over the years some of the finest dairy cattle in the State have been decorated with their ribbons at the Mullumbimby show.

It was the Mullumbimby show ring that butterfat contests were first held with a view to
improving production from district herds. The bacon pig contest was another first for Mullumbimby and has proved one of the most valuable for the great bacon factories of the State. The society has had its “man” for every form of rural activity from which an exhibit could be drawn, and that has had a high influence in the expansion of the various sections. An instance of the value of good organisation has appeared in the wood chopping arena where big crowds have watched great champions of the timber country – Leo Appo, Henry Foyster, George Law, jack Garrard and world champion Clive McIntosh.

The society was one of the first in the State to introduce a section for Junior Farmers
(later Rural Youth). That was in 1930 when the Mullumbimby Club became the third
formed in NSW, after Glen Innes and Coraki.

It was in 1938 that two famous horses tied at 7ft. 6in. in setting a new Australia high jump recorded on the Mullumbimby Showground. They were Joker (rider A.L. Payne) and Ruken Lass (R.Darra). It was in 1938 also that a second tree planting campaign saw the recent crop of ringside weeping figs come into being.

Through the years the Mullumbimby Show Committee was responsible for expansion of
livestock section to embrace pigs, goats, dogs, poultry and latterly beef cattle. Not all are
still in the schedule but all in their days were hailed as valuable additions to the show

During the 15 years of the presidential reign of Mr. Os McPaul, many unique trophies
were introduced, coming from other countries. Perhaps the most notable was the Jersey
Island rosette, a trophy regularly awarded at the Jersey Island Show and allowed off the
island for the only time in history. In the 1960s tent pegging became a spectacular addition to the ring sports programme and one local team achieved the honor of appearing in competition at the Sydney Royal Show.

For long recognised as one of the most attractive showground’s in the State, new
buildings in more recent years have brought amenities into line with that reputation.”

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