8 months ago

Fitzgerald's Town

48. Fun at a picnic.

48. Fun at a picnic. Late 19th century. Besides the usual athletic competition other events were organised from time to time. A wheelbarrow race was popular, and amusing, especially when the contestants were blindfolded! The Liverpool hornpipe, the Irish jig, best piping on the ground, a tug-of-war, usually between married and single men, three-legged races, sack races and quoits were offered at different meetings over the years. A walking race was tried on two occasions, but without success, for few contestants had mastered the technique. Once some competitors were disqualified for “trotting”, and on another occasion the race was considered to be such an absolute farce, apparently because the competitors occasionally began to run, that the committee decided that no prize should be awarded. There was also a “menagerie race”, a contest between two roosters, two cats and a goose, much to the amusement of the crowd. Just how the race was managed is best left to the imagination, but as one of the roosters disappeared into a nearby swamp and the cats were not co-operative, the remaining rooster was declared the winner and the goose was placed second. Their owners won one pound and ten shillings respectively. 136

For the first few years competition was reserved for males, but the 1874 meeting catered for females by offering three races: 17 100 yards for girls under 11, 100 yards for girls under 15, and 440 yards for women over 15. In this last race there were five starters although “it was too far for all the ladies but the winners, who showed good pluck but not much speed”. In subsequent meetings there were usually two or three events for females but in some years there were none, and in others the only race available was for girls. Many events, including the mile, half-mile, jumping events, and the two mile walking race were open to all comers except professionals, but others, including boys’ and girls’ races, were generally restricted to those living within the Springs, Lincoln, and Little River Road Districts, although sometimes residents of Templeton, Courtenay, East or West Malvern and Port Victoria districts were also allowed entry. The format of the meetings generally followed a standard pattern, including up to three events for horses. Thus at the fourth event there was a handicap trotting race, open to all comers, over a distance of 3 miles for which the course ran from Springston to Lincoln. There was also a ½ mile hack race which was more amusing than exciting because of the poor skills of some riders although this was no constraint for A.P. O’Callaghan’s horse which took the bit between its teeth and bolted around the course to win by half a neck. The rules for horses varied from time to time. In some years horses could be entered only if they came from the Little River, Tai Tapu, Lincoln and Springs Road districts; in other years, as in 1874, the trotting race was open to all comers, and so attracted some of the best horses in Canterbury. To qualify for the January 1884 meeting horses had to have been held for at least at least three months within a radius of four miles from the Lincoln hotel. 18 The sports meeting was continued into the 20th century, the venue depending upon whose land was available. Thus in 1873 19 it was held in “that part of Lincoln situated between Mr Pyne’s paddock and the blacksmith”, probably bounded by North Belt and Lyttelton and William Streets since at that time Pyne was part owner of land stretching between Boundary Road and North Belt, and MacPherson’s smithy was just up the road from the William Street-Gerald Street, corner. The preamble to the account of the meeting printed in The Press stated that Lincoln township, as most people know, is a piece of ground that is as yet only partially built upon, although, no doubt at some future period it will be a large town, as when the railway is finished it will be the outlet of a great 137

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