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1998 Far South Coast National Show (125th Anniversary Bega Show), Bega (NSW), Friday 13 February 1998: address on the occasion of the opening.

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Mr Mayor, Mr Watson and Members o f the Committee, M r Russell Smith, Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great pleasure for Helen and me to be with you in Bega this evening on the very special occasion o f the official opening o f the 1998 Far South Coast National Show which is the I25lh Annual Show to be held here in Bega

For some years before I became Governor-General, Helen and I lived on a very small property outside Moss Vale where, as an escape from my work as a judge, we bred rather slow racehorses We both know what a very significant part the annual Show plays in the life o f a rural district Among other things a Show such as this provides the opportunity o f strengthening the close bonds between the people o f an area Those bonds, whether they go back generations or are comparatively new, are so important in holding any community - and especially a country community - together in times o f joy as well as o f sadness In that regard, let me say that Helen and I are very conscious o f the grief that the people o f Bega and district have experienced as a result o f recent tragic events We sympathise with your sorrow We know that you will draw strength and comfort from the spirit o f shared community

For a century-and-a-quarter, the Bega Show has been helping to build and to maintain that very important community spirit among the people o f the district In fact, the Show is somewhat older than the 125 years we re celebrating today The first exhibition o f the newly formed Bega Agricultural and Pastoral Society was held very close to this date, on 15 February, in 1872. That’s 126 years ago On the other hand, in 1942, during the dark days o f the Second World War, the annual Show was cancelled for one year So this is in fact the

I25,h Bega Show.

As the excellent History of the Bega Show written by Margaret Evans for this 125th Show points out, the first formal Bega Show was an unforgettable occasion for reasons which some o f you may think are best forgotten As the History bluntly puts it: “ At 7 PM, 50 persons sat down to a dinner in the School o f Arts where most o f them got drunk” The editor o f the Gazette said he’d never had the misfortune “ to attend a more disorderly




dinner or witness so much riot at a public gathering” And before that, visitors to the Show had taken to filching and eating the fruit, the bread and the cheeses from the display tables! Those were obviously much more robust times!

The next few shows were held on land near what was then Mrs White’s Victoria Inn She in fact had been widowed when, believe it or not, a barrel o f rum being handled by her husband was struck by lightning and caught fire But from 1876 onwards the Shows were held on the town’s Market Reserve Part o f it is now the Bega Park and Swimming Pool, and part o f it, following gazettal in 1887, is still the Bega Showgrounds Only a few years earlier, in 1884, the society became the Bega Agricultural, Pastoral and Horticultural Society, the name it has retained ever since

The District owes a real debt to all who have been involved over all those years with the planning and staging o f the Far South Coast National Show And tonight we owe a particular debt to those involved with the preparation and staging o f this the 125th Show: the President, the Members o f the Committee, the staff, the judges, the exhibitors, the competitors, those who work to provide the other attractions, including, o f course, sideshow alley. Not least there are you, the members o f the public, both adults and children, who support the Show year by year by your presence I understand that, over the three days, something like 10,000 people pass through the gates

Finally, may 1 make special mention o f the NSW Mounted Police Escort and Police Band and all those members o f the Police Force who work to ensure that the Show is the safe place that it is

There has, in recent times, been publicity about alleged misconduct on the part o f some members o f Police Forces in various parts o f our country Everyone is agreed that Police misbehaviour must be eradicated whenever it occurs On the other hand, it is absolutely essential to the safety and well-being o f our community that Police morale is safeguarded, and that the great worth o f the ordinary, decent members o f our Police Forces, upon whom we all rely, is publicly recognised and acknowledged We all owe the ordinary, decent men and women o f the NSW Police Force a great debt They deserve our admiration and support They certainly have mine

Once again, I acknowledge all that Bega Show has accomplished over the past century and a quarter I express my very warm good wishes for the continued success and the Far South Coast region in all the years that lie ahead

And now, with great pleasure, I officially declare the 1998 Far South Coast National Show to be officially open