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Fitzgerald's Town

The Farmers’ Club also

The Farmers’ Club also informed members by initiating discussion on various topics usually triggered by letters or by articles published in agricultural magazines. Thus, samples of wheat sent by S.D. Glyde from South Australia in 1872 led to the decision to maintain a cabinet displaying different varieties of grain for the benefit of members, and a letter from E.W. Trent of the Templeton Chicory Works recommending subsoil ploughing as a means of increasing productivity was read and provoked considerable discussion. In keeping with its objective of encouraging good agricultural practice the club decided to take out subscriptions to various magazines such as the American Agriculturist, and the accumulation of journals and newspapers led the club to rent a room from the Fair Company at five pounds a year. It was thought that the room would be a real asset to the club since it would help round out a man’s character by study and according to The Weekly Press 18 it was expected that draughts “and other innocent amusements may also be encouraged. Surely such a method of spending the evenings was preferable to euchre in a bar room”. The club also actively supported the establishment of a corn exchange and in 1871 petitioned the Provincial Council to provide funds for its establishment. 19 The petition 20 , forwarded through Colonel Renzie de Brett MPC, of Courtenay, noted the difficulty facing farmers in the sale of their grain “through the want of a Public Mart” and they prayed "that the establishment of an Exchange will receive the earnest consideration of your Honourable Council". It was favourably received and the Provincial Council voted 500 pounds towards the cost of an exchange with the proviso that this sum be matched by farmers. A.C. Knight MPC, president of the Lincoln Farmers’ Club, attended a meeting with the Christchurch City Council 21 to consider the matter, but early enthusiasm waned, opposition increased, and a correspondent wrote in amazement that a Corn Exchange Company should wish to accept charitable aid from the council to the tune of 500 pounds! In the event the proposal collapsed, partly because the ambitious working committee hoped to include facilities for both opera and theatre in the proposed building. Eventually, in January 1878, a Corn Exchange and Farmers’ Club was formed with the active support of H. Matson and Company. Matsons provided club rooms and other facilities expected to benefit the smaller farmer who could rely on a reasonable price for his produce rather than face competing merchants offering different prices. The Exchange battled on for about ten years, always with the support of Matsons, but with indifferent support from farmers; in October 1891 it 46

was decided to disband unless the committee could attract 100 subscribers, which they apparently failed to do. Local farmers who supported the Exchange were J. Gammack, J.J. Herrick, A.C. Knight, A.P. O’Callaghan, and H.W. Peryman; Gammack and Peryman were also long serving members of the Board of Directors. The Lincoln Farmers’ Club also played its part in persuading the government to re-route the Southbridge railway line from Racecourse (Hornby) through Prebbleton, Lincoln, and Springston rather than through Rolleston, a topic discussed in chapter 7. Its other significant contribution to the local economy was its initiative in developing the Lincoln Agricultural and Pastoral show. The Lincoln A. & P. Show In July 1872 the Farmers’ Club decided to hold a show and to this end it sought a grant from funds allocated to agricultural societies by the Provincial Government 22 . The show, to be held at the Lincoln Fair Company’s grounds in November, met with general approval not least because such events allowed farm labourers, many of whom would eventually become farmers, to see the best stock available in the district. The show was an outstanding success and surprised those who had doubted that the district could support it just two years after the launch of the Ellesmere show at Leeston. According to the Lyttelton Times 23 there was no reason to doubt that faults, such as the arrangement of the stock pens and the manner of their numbering, would be corrected before the next show. From the point of view of the public it was unfortunate that there was little to amuse them except for one wheel of fortune which, of course, was undoubtedly profitable for the proprietor. Despite these shortcomings the facilities generally were good; the pens were substantial, there was a secretary’s office, and a refreshment bar was available for the convenience of the patrons. 47

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