By John Keast
Grant Wardell is top dog for the Geraldine Collie Dog Club’s biggest birthday – its 100th.
Mr Wardell is president.
It is his first year in the big job at the Geraldine club, but he led the Kaikoura club 20 years ago.
It falls to him and the committee – Don Reith, Gerald Johnson, Tim Sowden (secretary) and Annette Waller (treasurer) – to see that all runs well for the event, at Waihi Gorge Station, inland from Geraldine, on March 7, 8 and 9.
There will be extra prize money and special trophies for winners.
“We are hoping for a big turn out, and the public are very welcome,” Mr Wardell said.
The club is no stranger to big events.
It has hosted six Canterbury championships – 1924, 1958, 1968, 1978, 1987 and 1994 – and the New Zealand championships in 2014.
Mr Wardell said the venue was rated as one of the better grounds in Canterbury, and the club was very grateful for the long-time support of former station owner, the late Archie Reid.
The club was formed after a gathering of interested people in Geraldine’s Crown Hotel in August, 1920.
The first trials were held on the Blair Bros property at Peel Forest, with a five shillings entry fee.
The trial, records show, was run in beautiful weather.
Competitors came from as far as Mt Somers, Kimbell and Kurow.
In 1924 the Geraldine club ran the first Canterbury championships, with sheep from Mt Peel Station.
There were 17 huntaway entries and 27 heading entries.
But as successful as the club is, there have been hard times: early in the Depression the club went into recess but got back on track in 1935, until world war intervened.
But the club provided funds from trials and concerts to patriotic and soldiers’ funds.
In 1941 a committee of women was formed to oversee trial catering, and in 1956 the trials moved to the Ritchie and Evans’ properties, with sheep brought over from Blue Mountain Station, owned, then, by Nix Buick.
At times, the sheep had to cross swollen rivers.
The trials shifted to the steepish Reid property in the Waihi gorge in 1974 – and have stayed.
In 1969 the club employed its first female secretary, one of the first clubs to do so.
There have been five female secretaries – Elsie Clelland, Annette Riddell, Myrtle Gray, Maureen Murphy and Jo McAtamney. The 100th event will feature the long pull, short head and yard, zig zag hunt, and straight hunt.
Waihi Gorge station will supply the sheep.