An undated photograph of the Grafton Show estimated to be around the 1930s as well-dressed crowds watch the cattle exhibits. The original grandstand and the Ford Pavilion (The Barn) can be seen in the background.
An undated photograph of the Grafton Show estimated to be around the 1930s as well-dressed crowds watch the cattle exhibits. The original grandstand and the Ford Pavilion (The Barn) can be seen in the background. Badgery Family

DEX FILES: Grafton celebrating the oldest show in town

THIS year is the 150th year since the founding of what is now known as the Clarence Pastoral and Agricultural Society.

Originally it was formed as the Clarence Pastoral, Agricultural and Horticultural Association in 1866.

The Association Rules were drawn up by Aldermen Payne, Avery and Jacobs with Messrs Martin and Bultitude.

Its first function was a ploughing match in September that year on land near the present Grafton Racecourse. Competition was in two sections, bullocks and horses. Judging was on the quality and speed they could plough one quarter of an acre between 11am and 3pm. The first winner using a pair of horses was Alexander Waters whose prize money was four pounds, and William Want won three pounds using a team of bullocks. In both cases the iron plough used had been made by PJ Bale.

Plough matches were held each year in the early shows and there was great rivalry between Grafton and Ulmarra residents.

The very first exhibition of Grafton products was in 1866 with the first annual show occurring a year later.

Some samples of that very first exhibition, which was held on the corner of Fry and Queen Streets, were sent to the Melbourne International Exhibition in September 1866. Several awards were won by the Grafton District in that Exhibition.

In fact, exhibits had been gathered and sent to the Melbourne International Exhibition as far back as 1862 with more than 100 specimens from the Clarence Valley including red cedar, white cedar, Moreton Bay pine, bean trees, silky oak, rosewood, red box, and grey gum. Other items included sugar cane, tobacco leaf, arrowroot, red and white wine and specimens of knitting in cotton.

These samples from the young Clarence Valley community for the Melbourne Exhibition were transport via Sydney on the 'Susanna Cuthbert' free of charge.

About 640 people attended the first exhibition in Grafton and gate takings were 25 pound. John McGillivray, a noted naturalist, said when closing the show, "The object to be attained by forming the present collection, is mainly and simply to give further publicity to the production of the Clarence River district and and thereby, more or less, conduce to its prosperity.

"Exhibitions are gigantic illustrated advertisements, and advertising if conducted with ordinary judgement, pay handsomely for the outlay incurred."

The 1867 Grafton Show was held in the grounds of the Tattersalls Hotel in Queen St. Cattle, horses and pgs were housed in the horse boxes and the farm products in a tent attached to the billiard room.

In its third year the society secured a piece of land in Hoof and Turf St of 37 acres.

This was partially fenced, and yards and buildings were erected.

In 1906, arrangements were made to exchange the Hoof St site for a part of Fisher Park, land bounded by Prince, Dobie and Villiers Sts. Annual shows have been held at this 'show'ground ever since.

Previously, in 1888, a pavilion, built on the style of the Prince Alfred Exhibition Building in Sydney, and costing 150 pounds, had been erected on the Turf St site. It was moved to the Prince St location of the showground, and yards were also erected there. The Pavilion became know as 'The Barn'.

Later, in 1954, the Pavilion was named the TJ Ford Pavilion in honour of a previous president. During the past 150 years, since the formation of the Clarence Pastoral and Agricultural Society thousands of citizens have dedicated themselves to ensuring the success of every Grafton Show.

Down through the years there have been more than 30 presidents.

The first president was Thomas Bawden who served for 17 years, 15 of them consecutively.

The longest serving president is Neville Hayward who served for 23 consecutive year and is now senior vice-president. The current president is Rex Green.

During the same 150 years there have been about 20 secretaries. The first was James Page who served for 23 years.

LC Lawson served for 26 years, the longest serving secretary.

Another long-term secretary was Anne de Graaf with 20 years service. The current secretary is Carol McDonald.

As well as these office holders there have been many vice-presidents and treasurers and hundreds of committee members and members who have contributed to the successful organisation and running of our shows.

Of course it has also been a success because of the thousands of people who have been exhibitors in the many sections of the show over the decades.

There is a lot of razzle dazzle at the shows but the exhibitors are always the ones who, year after year, showcase the industries, livestock, produce and skills of the Clarence River district and help to keep alive the vision the founders of our show imagined 150 years ago.

The Clarence Valley should feel proud and thankful for everyone's hard work and contributions over the past century and a half.

Thank you to the Clarence River Historical Society for supplying the information for this special feature.



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