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District Agricultural Society
Interviewee: Di Dean, born 1929
Date of Interview: 21 Jan, 2011
Transcription: Glenys Murray, Feb 2011
Now you left Southampton in 1947 on an important voyage? Tell me more about that?
Yes we left Southampton to come to Sydney. We travelled under troop ship conditions. That was eight to a room. My brothers had to go to a room with males. If ever we wanted to find John he was always with the nuns who were travelling to a leper colony somewhere. He was about fifteen at the time so he could get away with it.
The food was not good but they had lots of tinned fruit. Mum supplemented our food with all those bits and pieces. It was quite enjoyable, we stopped at Aden, Colombo and then we came to Perth, Melbourne and round to Sydney. It took about five and a half weeks, it was enjoyable. Best thing we ever did.
Now when did you get married?
I guess he was Australian was he?
He was Australian of English parents. I lived in Bankstown with his parents for a little while and then we bought a block of land and we built and stayed in Bankstown. Then when Susan was getting towards the age of five I didn’t want her to go to school there. I pushed and we moved up to Pennant Hills then, quite a different type of area. I stayed in Pennant Hills then until 1986.
So it’s in The Hills Shire that you spent most of your time?
That’s right yes.
What was Pennant Hills like in the 1950’s?
We were on the edge of rural country. You could drive out into the likes of Dural, all those areas, Arcadia, Glenorie. You could go and pick your fruit. You could go and get your strawberries and it was lovely. Then all of a sudden an agent bought a whole lot of land and the houses went up boom, boom, boom. At that stage Pennant Hills couldn’t continue to be as big as it was. That’s when Cherrybrook was brought into being.
Tell me now when did you become involved with the Castle Hill and Hill’s District Agricultural Society?
It’s a bit of a silly story. My husband joined the RSL at Castle Hill and we took Susan who was probably six or seven to the Christmas party. I saw a man walking towards me and I thought that’s Vern Carn. He was on the ship with us he was the officer who was with the army personnel on the ship. He talked to me and he came to see me and he said “we’re wondering if you’re interested in becoming secretary of the horse section for us?” So by the time I did first show I think I was five months pregnant with Robyn and I’ve been there ever since and that was 1966.
Did you know much about horses?
No only that I loved Clydesdales because the local farmer had a beautiful black Clydesdale stallion and I used to admire this horse. We used to go to the fairs in England. This is going back we used to go to the fairs and you’d have your produce and the different things that go on. Then the Clydesdales would have a race. They’d walk around and then they’d trot and then they’d gallop. I used to think that was heaven. I still have this love of Clydesdale horses.
You became secretary of the horse section and the assistant secretary to the Society?
I got involved with the then secretary Jean Robberds and I used to do a lot of her typing and different work for her. Then she retired and in 1972 I think I became the secretary.
What was the big event for the Society each year?
Each section (of the annual Castle Hill Show) had its own particular thing. I think Saturday afternoons when we had the official opening. The Police Band would be there. We had the mounted police and they used to do the musical ride which was fantastic. I think the people loved that. Then they would also afterwards do their tent pegging races and the barrel racing. That was to me more fun than anything else. I personally used to love it and I think the public did too. There would be big crowds round watching.
So being Secretary of the Society, what sort of things did that involve you in?
A lot of hard work. On the weekend of the actual show you were absolutely pooped. But you didn’t really have much to do. So it was very hard to stay awake. By the time you got to the Monday you were just exhausted but it all went well and you were happy. You’d done your job and that was good. We always worked for six weeks prior to the show, getting everything ready, entries and coping with everything.
Is it the big annual show at the showground at Castle Hill that you’re talking about?
Yes that’s the one in March, yes.
How many horse shows a year would you attend when you were working?
We had the main one in March which ran for three days. Then we have a Spring Horse show in October on a Sunday. Then on the second weekend in November we have the twilight show. They’re very well patronised.
Would you take admissions or what were you doing at those shows?
Well at the March show everything was done by entry form which necessitated a lot of work in the office. The other two shows we just took their entry fee on the day which was fairly simple.
I believe you even had to supply your own typewriter in the office?
Yes I did. I had an electric typewriter and I used to cart that backwards and forwards. We didn’t have photocopiers in those days. We used copious amounts of carbon paper and typing copies. It did involve a lot of work. People today don’t realise how well off they are.
How did you prepare the programmes for the shows?
In those days I used to type it out. This was for the other girl who was secretary. Then as I helped her I’d run it off on the gestetner. Then they all had to be taken home and collated and then many envelopes had to be written to post them. It was an arduous task but it was a big help. Then later on we got a printer Mr. Cooney and he printed them. So I had to arrange for sponsors, advertisers and give all this information to him and have various consultations with him. He would print it for us.
So you had quite a big job?
It was a lot of work.
How many years were you doing this?
I did that for a few years. After I became secretary then the president said “you’re certainly not doing this anymore” and he bought an electric gestetner which was a big help. Then a company got in touch with us and they did all the advertising, all the schedules and they printed them and we got them free. We didn’t pay for them. They covered the cost of it with the advertising, which relieved a lot of the work in the office. The worst part was the proof reading because you can type something and then read it again and you don’t pick up the mistakes.
Can you describe what the show consisted of when you joined in 1966?
We had a lot of sections. It ultimately grew up that we had about twenty eight different sections in the show. They took in horticulture, art, every facet of a show. Horses were the biggest. In those days we were getting in excess of four thousand horses at the March show which was fantastic. Sadly that’s not happening today. Not being as rural as we were there aren’t the horses around.
Did you have goats and sheep and all those sort of things?
We had goats, sheep, alpacas, cattle, donkeys. Then we had various crafts lots of different crafts. Hand painted china. Then we ultimately had a beautiful photographic section. Then we introduced what they call flat art and the school helped with this. The kids did paintings and brought them down. They were exhibited and they were judged. That’s been very popular too. We had a committee of thirty one in those days which also was a big help.
What birds or poultry were on show there?
We had chickens, geese, ducks then lower down we had the pigeon pavilion. We had the homing pigeons. From time to time we’ve had cats and rabbits and guinea pigs they all helped. Kids enjoy those sort of things.
Who were some of the people associated with the society who organised and ran the show?
The society was made up of a committee and you had your various chairpersons. Judy Adam she looked after the art and ran the art. Bobby Engel he helped and ran the horticulture. There were the Read brothers at one stage, they ran it. So every now and then you’d get a turnover. We’ve got a very good honey section. They run that themselves. Then you’ve got people in all those other areas. They come forward and they will look after the various sections.
Was everyone very enthusiastic about the job they were doing?
I think they were because the results were good. I think that was the proof.
You’ve had many presidents over the years? Who were some of the outstanding presidents that they’ve had.
Dan Scott was president when I first was involved. He worked tirelessly for the society. He was very heavily involved in the dog section. Aub Juleff he started off the education section. Now they’ve got their own pavilion and all the schools are circularised and the schools can bring exhibits in. Then they get some of the senior students together with teachers to look after that throughout the show. A lot of the schools are sent schedules and the art teachers will get involved. The kids not so much today but in those days they used to do a lot of handcraft and we got a lot of entries from the school children. So the schools have been fairly prominent throughout in various ways.
(Past President and local Castle Hill vet the late Aub Juleff wrote the following thoughts c1980:
is a Show or what could a Show become?
competition – education
In brief THE SHOW IS FOR:
The Competitor, The Exhibitor, The Public, and The Organisers who seem to derive something out of bringing the other three together. To me Castle Hill Show should be “the window” of the district community activity).
What can you tell me about the early history of the show?
Well from memory the early show started back in 1886 and they were known then as the Castle Hill Sports. There were actually ploughing matches. The main attraction was the donkey race with plough horses. Funnily enough the last horse home was Donkey and the first prize winner.
During the First World War it was interesting more sections and exhibits were added. This period provided the greatest display of horses that they had had up till then. The other good thing was that we saw the Light Horsemen. That made people realise what was happening and how they were involved in the forces overseas.
The other thing that they implemented on show days was that they got vehicles to transport people from the Parramatta district to come to the show. That was a good thing too. That stopped some years later unfortunately.
Those Light Horsemen must have inspired a lot of people with their tricks and so on did they?
I’m sure they did. I was in Queensland a few months ago and I went to a monstrous horse show where they did a special section appropriately dressed of the Light Horseman and that was absolutely brilliant. So many lost their lives, they saved a lot of lives and they were fantastic. They still operate out of Parramatta somewhere. From what I hear during the 1940’s mechanization was taking the place of horses and ploughing competitions were not held any longer which was very sad. Round about 1946 they opened the Harvey Lowe Pavilion and I think they put trade exhibits and arts in there.
What was the demand like for the show after the war years?
I think it was interesting because Castle Hill expanded, so naturally there was a bigger population and also into Baulkham Hills. I think the population became greater out there and the publicity that the show sends out prior to the show both in leaflets and the local newspapers. I think we naturally drew bigger crowds. The other thing that was important too was that people can bring their children to Castle Hill Show. Still not a cheap day but it’s a lot cheaper than going to Sydney Royal. I think that’s been a big advantage to us.
So in the post war years how did the show expand? What other facilities and exhibits were added to it?
I can only talk from what I know happened after I was there. We built a new horticultural pavilion. A cattle pavilion was built. I think we adapted a building which became the farmyard nursery which is a great crowd puller. Later on we built another a pavilion which is known as the Federation Pavilion. Prior to that the Harvey Lowe Pavilion was built. So because we had bigger facilities we’ve been able to put in more sections.
What sort of preparations would start leading up to a show?
Every month you work, you’re doing something. You’re getting the schedule ready. Then you start working in the office about five or six weeks before the show. So you’re dealing with people coming in who want to hire space and you deal with that. People coming in making queries about what they can enter in the show. It’s just a constant stream of people coming in to see you. You’re on the phone talking to people. It’s just very, very busy. Entertainment is another thing that has to be organised. If you’re particularly involved you’ve got to make sure that each section has their judges organised, their requisites. It is, it’s full on. Each section gets a certain percentage of free passes so you’re handing them out to the appropriate people. So there’s a lot to be done. You go home exhausted.
This is the five weeks before the show?
Yes and then you go back one week after and do some tidying up and then that still goes on for a little bit.
Is this all voluntary work?
Yes, in my time I was paid an honorarium which wasn’t very much. Nowadays the secretary is paid as a part time employee. So that things have changed there. I enjoyed it.
How did you find sponsors to finance the show?
Very difficult. We used to put banners round the ring for them, we’d put them in the schedules, we’d use them where ever we could? The sponsors today they want television coverage so you can go around all the people in the local areas and you get very little sponsorship. It’s rather sad but I understand it all the same.
What was the sponsorship like in the 1960’s and 1970’s say?
It was reasonable and every year you get in from somebody else, it’s a contra thing really isn’t it. It’s very hard you just go round and no, no, no. The banks used to be very good but they gradually pulled out.
How long would a show last on the average? How long would it run?
Well it would kick off at nine o’clock on Friday morning close nine o’clock at night. The same on Saturday. Then we’d close off about four o’clock on Sunday and then people can come in and pick up their exhibits.
Now you’ve had various events during the year? You have the Spring horse show, the Twilight? Tell me about the different shows that there are during the year?
We had the whole show which included everything over three days in March. Then the Spring horse show that was just on the Sunday in October and the Twilight is on Saturday afternoons.
What was the school participation in a show?
School participation was good because the children then did cooking at school. They had sewing and there was so much more. So we had entries from all those and we had two craft pavilions and the back one was usually dedicated to the school activities. Even today we still get a lot of kids put in exhibits in the cooking section which is good and other sections but not as plentiful as it used to be.
What was the role of coopers and farriers?
Well to try and keep things in an agricultural mode. Outside the cattle pavilion we have a farrier and a cooper and we had somebody there a couple of time to do with stone masonry. That’s something that children don’t see and you usually get big groups around them.
For those that don’t know what the word farrier means or what he does. What is a farrier?
He shoes horses.
Today’s people wouldn’t have a clue what a farrier is?
No well this is it you see. Kids in the city today… this is going away from it and I could have brought it in before but we didn’t talk about the cattle. We used to have the Macintosh sisters used to bring the equipment up and kids could see how cows are milked. We are having somebody doing it this show coming up. See kids don’t know any of these things.
Are there any shows that stand out for you?
Yes because of my love of the big horses. Each year in the horse section we used to pick a breed, it was the special breed of that show. We did it with the Clydesdales. When we had the Grand Parade I organized a piper to pipe all these horses across led by this magnificent stallion from Kangaroo Valley and they were in line all across the arena. To me that was my highlight of the show because I just love them so much.
What do you recall about the dog section?
Not a lot because I didn’t have very much to do with it. When I went there, George Bell -the dog pavilion was named after him - he ran it. The dog section is run under the auspices of the NSW Canine Control. They run independently of us. They’re all there at the show. They have just about every conceivable breed at the show and it’s very, very popular. There are shows just about every weekend on the showground with the various breeds.
The dogs are also shown in the main show of the year?
Yes they have their show down in their area mainly on Saturday and I think they do something on Sundays too. They’re quite big.
What do you recall about Vern Carn and his connection with the poultry section?
He’d been involved with the poultry section years before I even got there. He was also tied up with the horse show. But because of his involvement with the poultry pavilion the pavilion was eventually named after him. I suppose being a poultry farmer it was his main interest. But he was also interested in the trotting we used to have as an exhibition on a Saturday. His son Steven was involved in that and we used to have trotting races in a break in the afternoons. A lot of the people used to enjoy it.
Tell me about the cattle section and what happened there?
The cattle section has always been extremely good. A gentleman called Mr. de Groen was looking after it when I first got there. Then Ian Henderson took it over. Ian also has cattle of his own and he knows a lot of people in the cattle world. He built it up into something quite big. At that time we used to have the beef cattle and the dairy cattle. We had several breeds. We had Angus, Herefords, Limousins, Charolais, you name it we had them all there. The other thing that was so good was we’d have a class for steers. Most of the steers were shown by kids from the schools that had an agricultural section. They’d be judged and that was good. They would go onto the Royal. We also had beef and dairy judging competitions which the children were involved in. They’d very often go off to the Royal and win down there too. As did most of the prizewinners at Castle Hill. They’d go on to the Royal. Sadly with a lot of the cattle people going out of the area we don’t have dairy any more. We still have a few beef but the biggest part of our cattle section now is these kids and the junior judging which is really very good. They all come along and behave themselves and it’s great. In fact most of our prize winner’s horses and cattle go onto to be winners at the Royal which is interesting.
Now was there a vet and how are the animals cared for?
We had a veterinary panel and if an animal was injured as happened once. The vet who’s on duty, he will be there and he’ll attend to the animal.
Were there any injuries?
One nasty one where a horse… a lass was holding it and it reared up and it careered off round the showground. A man was going home in a ute and this horse ran toward the ute. He saw it coming and he fell out and he (the horse) went up over his windscreen and down into the back and off. Then it ran around and pinned a couple a women against the fence. That was nasty and the vet… Aub Juleff happened to be on the ground and he attended to the horse. It had cut its legs a bit. That was scary.
Who attended to the people?
Well the man who was in the vehicle he came over and he had bits of glass all over his face and in his hair. So we just took him straight up to the Red Cross people and they looked after him. We used to have Red Cross in a little building or if they’re not there the St John’s people. You must have them on the ground.
I’d imagine those incidents would be fairly rare, were they?
Who arranged for special guests to perform or open the show such as the Governor or local politicians?
That’s usually a management committee decision. Then it’s in the secretary’s hands to do the appropriate work. I was involved when we had Governor Rowland many years ago. We had Marie Bashir two or three years ago. It’s quite interesting.
So quite a few of the notables come to see it?
Oh yes, yes. It doesn’t matter who but you always have to try and pick somebody that you think is going to be popular with the public when you’re looking for somebody to open the show.
What sort of entertainment was there at the shows? Who provided the music or was there a band?
Sometimes we had the RAAF Band from Richmond. They would come over and entertain us. We had a delightful young man Roger Thwaites and Emma Hannah his wife. They came to the show for many years with this little band and they entertained us. Then the drummer, I can’t remember his name... Johnny… he and Roger who played a guitar they’d wander down to the cattle section sometimes when they had a break. They were brilliant. They have somebody else, Dwayne somebody, now and he fills in through the evening. Years ago we used to get the bush fire brigade in. They’d rig up something and they’d come in with sirens blaring and they’d set it alight and then they’d put it out. The kids thought that was pretty cool. They haven’t done that in recent years. Then of course Saturday night we always have the fireworks display which goes off very well. People bring their kids in for Saturday night.
I believe horses also had pulling demonstrations?
Yes, yes we had somebody who started that and they’d get the Clydesdales involved. They’d have pulling contests and then they’d put more weight on and so forth. That used to create a lot of interest.
Talking about horses another highlight for me was we used to have “stallion under saddle” (class) and any breed could enter it. We had this beautiful horse “Coleambally Peter” and he was owned by a photographer from one of the (TV) channels. Three years in a row this Clydesdale came in ridden by a girl and she took out the ribbon. I thought that was brilliant. Out of all the thoroughbreds and all the other breeds cause they’d all enter. This beautiful Clydesdale went off with it. That to me was a highlight.
Did you have much to do with the Showman’s Guild and how were they involved?
No the Showman’s Guild attended all the shows. The person that handles the space they look after them and that’s all organized within their own group. Ballot for who shall come to a show and they do that everywhere. The secretary basically doesn’t have anything to do with them. That’s all handled by another person.
So how does the Showman’s Guild get involved in the show?
They go to all the shows. They tour NSW and then in the winter months they’ll go up and go through the Queensland show societies. They arrive and set themselves up and then we say goodbye to them after they’re gone.
What do they actually do?
Well they’ve got different stalls they’ve got food stalls, jewellery stalls, sample bags. Some of them provide steak sandwiches, they’ve got a variety of things that they do. They’re a big attraction particularly with the children “I want a sample bag please Mum”?
Now were there any other associations involved in the show such as the CWA and the Arts Society?
CWA they run a refreshment area. RDA for years they provided the sustenance for the stewards. They can go up to the Harvey Lowe Pavilion and they can get lunch. Then if they’re working at night they can go up there and get a meal. So RDA looks after all that and they do a wonderful job. They’ve also got an extra little section where they have Devonshire Teas all day if people want to go up there and have something quiet.
Who are the RDA?
Riding for the Disabled and then we have the Lions run a very big hamburger stall too. Years ago we used to have Apex but they’re defunct I think now. They used to have a spinning wheel and people could win things. Rotary do the gates. So we’ve got quite a lot of people involved it’s good.
Now tell me about the Miss Castle Hill Showgirl Contest?
It started with the RAS (Royal Agricultural Society). Each society, most of societies anyway pick a Showgirl. The Showgirl then goes to a zone final and then whoever is picked there goes onto the Royal. Then of course when they finally get to the Royal they’re down there for a week. We’re in the throes, we’ve just selected our latest Showgirl and I’m going down, with the woman who’s running it, down to Nowra for the zone final early in March. Quite a big thing, they usually come to the Art opening and help with the refreshments and that sort of thing. Then it’s the Showgirl and if the others want to come along, they’ll come onto the show. Then we get them to go to the various sections and present themselves. They might sash something here or present a prize somewhere else. They usually get a nice prize.
This year the lass has gone up to Dubbo and she’s doing some sort of a course which has never happened before. Again, we talked about sponsorship before, that’s very hard to get. We had a local travel agent and he used to give them a trip to Brisbane or to Melbourne but its very hard to get what I call a decent sponsorship now.
I believe your own daughter was a Castle Hill Showgirl at one stage?
Yes she was.
Tell me a bit about that?
Well I asked her would she do it and she said “yes Mum”. She had a ball actually and that photograph I showed you. She went to the zone final but unfortunately she didn’t make the zone final and she was quite happy not to go any further.
Were there ever any crisis situations with the shows?
Oh you had your little ones where a judge might be running late. All sorts of little things happen but you don’t take any notice of it. You just sort of go with it and sort it all out.
What were some of the more unusual animals at the shows?
One was, a gentleman came up and he had these little trained pigs. They had all sorts of things that they ran around in. It was really very clever and it drew very big crowds. Another time a gentleman arrived with geese. He had the geese all dressed up, beautifully dressed. He’d take them out into the arena... I’m not sure whether it was a cattle dog or what sort of a dog it was... it controlled the geese and stopped them from going away. Those two were definite highlights of the show, something quite different.
I believe they had lamas at one stage?
Yes we have llamas. We have llamas each year and they’re associated with the farm animal nursery which is very, very popular. We also show alpacas which are a little bit different. They’re fascinating animals.
What are the prizes for the best exhibits and animals? What sort of prizes do they get?
Mainly prize money has been cut out now. I think the big joy to people is to get that ribbon. That’s the important thing. Because a lot of them if they’ve won the ribbon they can possibly go on further. I don’t think any sections get prize money as such. In the horses you might have… somebody might donate a hundred dollars perhaps to the champion whatever and I think there are a few of those prizes. In the horses you will have your champion from a class. Then you’ll have the champion hack, champion pony, champion Galloway and they will also compete for champion of champions. They get a sash and I think in some cases they get a few dollars as well. Which is nice but they treasure the ribbons.
What are the favourites with the children?
I think the children are more interested in going on the rides and that sort of thing (including showbags). The animal nursery, that is probably the biggest attraction for children.
How is the Council involved?
They’re the trustees of the showground. All the buildings virtually belong to the Council except the ones that we paid for. On the showground we have three licences. One for the show society. One for the Pavilion Theatre and one for the dogs. The buildings that we are responsible for, we’re allowed to charge rental if anybody uses them. The others if there’s repairs to be done to anything the Council takes care of that.
What’s the highest rank that you obtained in the society?
Probably receiving a life membership.
How many years have you been secretary of the society?
Fourteen years I was secretary.
You have resigned as secretary but what’s your ongoing connection with the show now?
Just being a member of the management committee.
What’s the society done for the Shire in having a show for so many years?
I think it’s done a wonderful thing. We’re celebrating our one hundred and twenty fifth show this year. Thinking of children they get the benefit of seeing the cooper, the farrier, goats, and the cattle. The animal farmyard which they absolutely adore. All the other animals plus the rides and entertainment if they’re interested in it. So I think you know a lot of people are enriched by what they see and what they do.
Is the show still attracting the numbers of past years?
Sadly I don’t think so. I think today’s way of life makes it difficult. So many Mums are at work, Dad’s are involved in taking children to their various sports on Saturdays and Sundays. I just don’t think that people have the time today that they did in past years.
How do you feel about that?
A bit sad in a way. There’s nothing nicer than seeing a family, a complete family, all enjoying themselves. But that’s today isn’t it?
Now the society is celebrating its one hundred and twenty fifth year, as you’ve said, in 2011. What sorts of events are being planned for that celebration?
The show as such will be exactly as its been every other year. What we’ve got to do is bring in other things. The Council are involved and we’re going to have a big Country and Western show I think on one afternoon (actually Friday evening). That should bring a lot of people in. Fireworks will be there. A lot of this is still in the planning stage. I also believe because of the musician who comes in with his little band. There’s a lot of strong talk that we’ll be holding a talent quest as well, which will be good.
So how many years have you, Diane, been involved with the society?
About forty six years.
You’ve made a very big contribution yourself to the society?
How do you evaluate that?
I’ve enjoyed it obviously otherwise I still wouldn’t be there. I would like to see the society continue but I don’t quite know at this stage how much longer I’ll remain with it. I’ll be eighty two next birthday, I think it’s time I gave it away.
What’s the future of the society do you think?
I think it will continue as it’s been going. I can’t see any changes that will be coming up. We’ll have different people. Different people will come onto the committees and I think that’s a good thing. Each new person that comes on brings new ideas. That’s very important.
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