Murwillumbah meeting the start of one of region’s favourite events
AS THE crowds rush to see the 2018 Murwillumbah Show today, we thought we’d look back at the rich history of our community’s much-loved show.
The origins of the show date back to 1890, when a public meeting was held in Murwillumbah with the ambition of forming a Show Society.
Local farmers, producers, politicians, and gentlemen were enthusiastic at that initial meeting and chose the name The Tweed Brunswick and Border Pastoral and Agricultural Society.
The name was changed in 1907 to the Tweed River Agricultural Society; that name is still in use today.
Ten acres of land between Murwillumbah and Joshua Bray’s farm at Kynnumboon were granted in 1890 and a further five acres in 1898, making up the land the showground sits on today.
It took a huge effort to clear and prepare this site ready for the show, perhaps the reason the first event wasn’t held until 1898.
The first show was held on Thursday and Friday, November 24–25 1898.
The schedule of prizes was advertised in a full page advertisement in the local newspaper. There were categories for cattle, horses, pigs, poultry, dogs, farm produce, sugar cane, dairy produce, horticulture, fruit and vegetables, preserves and cooking, and the school children’s section included handwriting copy books..
Over 1000 entries were received across the various competition categories. Show admission was one shilling, and saw the largest crowds the Tweed had ever seen, with over 2500 people attending the two days.
The show was traditionally an important social event; it was a time to look your best. Families often purchased new outfits just for the occasion, showing off their finery at the day out. Local resident John Wessell recalls that his family, “always went dressed up, but the reality of walking around a dirty paddock would always ruin your shoes.” Dairy cattle have been a star attraction at the show since its inception; at the first show, 150 dairy cattle entries were received.
The emphasis of showing cattle was to build up a foundation of good quality breeding stock in the local area. Butter fat competitions were introduced in 1923 to boost entries into the cattle sections of the show.
The winning cow was awarded on the weight of butter fat produced in its milk in a 24-hour time period. The Clarke Brothers were cattle farmers at Midginbil, and won the first 24 hour butter fat competition at the show in 1923. The winning cow was called May Day of Hillview. The brothers went on to win many more butter fat and other cattle categories in future shows.
The pavilion has always been essential to the success of the show. It houses the exhibits of farm produce, flowers, decorative works, preserves and cakes, and exhibits from school children, and has seen much fierce competition over the years. One well-known prize winner in the preserves section was Alice Haigh, who exhibited from 1916 to 1963 and was awarded over 300 prizes. Amongst the showground’s buildings, none is more famous than the Branding Rail bar.
The bar is rustic and one of its main features is the three huge supporting logs surrounding the bar, known as the “branding rails”.
The rails are filled with burnt stock brands, which record the registered marks of many of the Tweed’s earliest farming families.
The branding rail opened in 1972 and gave stockowners the opportunity to record their family’s stock brands, burnt into the rails for posterity.
On its debut it cost $5 to record a brand, and provided excellent fundraising for the Agricultural Society. It became incredibly popular; 78 brands were recorded on the first day alone.
Locals will all have childhood memories of sideshow alley, however today it is very different to the early years, when spruikers would stand high on a platform calling through megaphones to “come one, come all” to see any number of curiosities.
In 1917 a travelling showman had a crocodile on display as part of the Show. That year the showground flooded and the reptile escaped from his holding pen.
Such an exciting event gave rise to many local stories; some say he was found in Tumbulgum a few days later, some believe he was never found and ended up in Angourie years later. A
s laws and social attitudes changed, the “freak shows” were replaced by games and rides that got bigger, better, and louder every year.
One of the most famous guests to the Murwillumbah Show was Prince Charles, who opened the Tweed Silver Jubilee Show in 1977.
After the official opening, the Prince watched the woodchop event, inspected prime cattle, and spent time in the Pavilion admiring the displays. He strolled through thick crowds, smiling back at good natured greetings such as “Hello, Charlie Boy” and had to almost push his way through sideshow alley. Before he left, Prince Charles planted a Hoop Pine in honour of the occasion; today that tree is over 11 metres high.
For more history and stories of our wonderful show, visit the exhibition, Chutney, Chooks and Champions: Stories of the Show at Tweed Regional Museum Murwillumbah.
Talking History is a column supplied by the staff of the Tweed Regional Museum. It features the stories behind their rich collection.
TOP LEFT: Clarence Johnson and horse General at the 1911 Murwillumbah Show. TOP RIGHT: The Williamson Family, well dressed at the Murwillumbah Show, circa 1941. ABOVE: Horse-drawn vehicles decorated for the grand parade, 1908. BELOW: The Tweed Brunswick and Border Pastoral Agricultural Show, circa 1900.