Thursday, 16 March 2017

Mornington Farmers' Society or the Berwick & District Agricultural & Horticultural Society

The Berwick and District Agricultural & Horticultural Society hold an annual show at Akoonah Park in Berwick.  The Show can trace its origins back to the first event organised by the predecessor of the Berwick and District Agricultural & Horticultural Society, the Mornington Farmers' Society in 1857. The name  Berwick and District Agricultural & Horticultural Society was adopted by the Mornington Farmers' Society at the Annual General Meeting held July 25, 1918.

Here is a short history of the evolution of the Show Society. In July 1848  the Moonee Ponds Farmers' Society was established. The aims of the Society  were to encourage  a spirit of emulation amongst agriculturalists and makers and importers of agricultural implements by offering prizes to be competed for annually - for the best samples of grain and other agricultural  produce; for the best stock for agricultural, grazing and dairying purposes and for the best agricultural implements, also by offering prizes to be competed for at annual ploughing matches and for the encouragement of district farming societies. (Source: Early Days of Berwick, which has a very comprehensive chapter on the Mornington Farmers' Society and the  Berwick & District Agricultural & Horticultural Society)

The Moonee Ponds Farmers' Society wasted no time and held their first ploughing on July 28, 1848. You can read  a report in The Argus about this event here. On August 18 1848 a meeting was held and the named of the Society was changed to the Port Phillip Farmers' Society. You can read about this. once again in The Argus, here. The Port Phillip Farmers' Society had three branches - Gisborne, Bacchus Marsh and the Mornington branch, which was established in October 1856. It was named Mornington from the County of Mornington. For land administrative purposes Victoria was divided into Counties and the Mornington County took in the Mornington Peninsula, Bass Coast region, Phillip Island, Cranbourne Narre Warren and east to Bunyip and  parts of Emerald and Gembrook.

We will return to Early Days of Berwick to find out how the Mornington branch was established -  At a meeting at Bowman's Hotel on the Cardinia Creek in 1856, for the purpose of forming a  District Roads Board, Mr Alexander Patterson brought forward a proposal to form a district Pastoral and Agricultural Society as a branch of the Port Phillip Farmers' Society, of which he was a district member. The idea was heartily approved by the meeting and about twenty enrolled as members. Shortly afterwards, on 6th October 1856,  a meeting was held in Dandenong, when it was resolved that a Society be established and named the Mornington Farmers' Society in accord with the title of the central society. It was further resolved that there should  be  a committee of nine member and the following were elected by ballot: Dr James Smith Adams, Dr James Bathe, Messrs Abraham Gardiner, Isaac Keys, William Lyall, Alexander Patterson, Charles Rossiter, Thomas Walton and John Wedge. Mr Patterson was elected Secretary and Treasurer.

The Mornington Farmers' Society held their first Ploughing match on Wednesday May 30, 1857 at 'Mr Walton's Farm near Dandenong' - this was Thomas Walton, who came to what is now called Narre Warren in 1852 and built Holly Green - his farm is now occupied by the Fountain Gate Shopping Centre. The Early Days of Berwick has the location of this first ploughing match taking place at Cranbourne, but this report, below, from The Argus contradicts this (this not to denigrate the research published in the  Early Days of Berwick which was first published in 1948 -  we now have a huge range of resources available to us on-line that were unheard of in 1948) The second ploughing match was held at Cranbourne, you can read about it here.

The Argus May 2, 1857 You can see the full article on Trove, 
here and I have transcribed it, below. 

The first district ploughing match of the Port Phillip Farmers' Society, in the county of Mornington, took place according to advertisement on Wednesday last at Mr. Walton's farm, near Dandenong.
The ground selected proved to be admirably adapted for the match, and all the arrangements made by Alexander Patterson, Esq., a member of the society residing in the neighbourhood, were calculated to give entire satisfaction to the competitors and spectators assembled ou the occasion. 
Messrs. Thomas Miller and William Dewar attended as
judges from the central society. Mr. Charles Forrester, who had been appointed to act with them as the local judge, preferred entering the lists as a competitor, and as will be  seen from the awards subjoined, succeeded in  carrying off a second prize, thus practically showing that his appointment by the Committee
 was a judicious one.
The number of entries at the hour for starting amounted to twelve, viz.,-seven horses and five bullock teams. The quantity of ground allotted to each competitor was half an acre, and, in the majority of instances, the work was completed in excellent style. The judges expressed themselves highly pleased with the ploughing in both classes, and their decisions gave entire satisfaction to all parties interested.

The awards were as follows :
Class 1, Ploughing with Horses.
First Prize- A Gold Medal awarded to Mr. A. Patterson -ploughman John Gellie.
Second Prize -First Silver Medal, awarded to
Messsrs. J. and P. Brisbane - ploughman James Rutherford. '

Class 2, Ploughing with Bullocks.
First Prize - Gold Medal, awarded to Mr. John Mills - plough held by himself.
Second Prize - First Silver Medal, awarded to Mr. Charles Forroster - plough held by himself.
Mr. James Buchanan's ploughing highly commended.

Best Team of Mares or Geldings at work in the field - 
First Silver Medal, awarded to Mr  Isaac Keys for a pair of very superior mares.
Best team of Bullocks, at work in the field. 
First silver medal, awarded to Messrs. J. and P. Brisbane.

Although, from various causes, the number of competitors was not quite so large as expected, still, as a commencement, the meeting was a most satisfactory one.. The attendance of spectators throughout the day was numerous, and comprised all the agriculturists of note in the locality. Their previous
support of the Port Phillip Farmers' Society has been most cordial,while the spirit evinced regarding the match, coupled with the successful result of the day's proceedings, speaks favourably as to the desire for agricultural improvement existing in this rapidly rising district.

After the termination of the match, the gentlemen present sat down to a dinner, hospitably provided by Mr. Walton, and eventually separated, with the determination to support next year's ploughing match with increased spirit.

You can read about the 1858 ploughing match, here. It was held on the property of the Reverend Alexander Duff at Cranbourne.

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