Omakere Dog Trial Club

The Omakere Sheep Dog Trial was first mooted in the days of the Home Guard when sunday parades were held on Allan Kittow's Castle Range property.  The troop, comprising 30-35 in the ranks would naturally lunch together and being in the main local, the conversation invariably centred on farming topics stock, horses and dogs,  At the time there were three prominent trial enthusiasts, J.R. Gillespie, J.W. McGaveston and L.C. Galiien, in the district, and from a little banter and boasting here and there, it was decided to call a meeting in the Omakere Hall on 13 March 1943 to gauge the true feeling of the district towards forming a local club, and this was approved unanimously.

The first trial was to be open to competitors who had never won an Open Event and dogs which had never won a Maiden Event.  The one proviso was to bar the Open Dog.  Being in the war years, it was suggested members rear pups for returning servicemen, with the secretary to act as agent.  The election of officers was as follows:

Patroness: Mrs E. Nairn, President: Mr E.C. Nation, Chairman: Mr J.W. McGaveston, Secretary: Mr L.C. Galiien.  The initial committee had 35 members!

The next and probably the most important step was to select and gain permission to use a likely course.  Several grounds were tried such as Puro Puro, Castle Range, Omakere and Pourerere.

The present grounds on Amblethorne, part of Omakere Station at that time, were selected as being the most practical and central.  It was left to Shorty Nation to call on Mrs Nairn to seek permission to hold the trials on Omakere.  This was readily forthcoming as were later requests to open up the road fence to put in the existing gateway, plant trees inside the road fence (the trees were donated by Mrs Nairn) and to erect permanent buildings.  The Club is indebted to the Nairn family for making their property available and their ready co-operation and consideration year after year.

Man-power has never been a great problem and there were always penty of willing hands.  The ladies of the Omakere Women's Institute catered for competitors, workers and visitors, providing 'smokos' and midday meals under very primitive conditions.  The water was transported on Howard Smith's 4 x 4, on one occasion arriving just in time for smoko.

Sheep make or spoil the trial.  Omakere has been most fortunate in having first-class sheep loaned from a number of district owners.

The majority of judges are still actively competing or ex-competitors so naturally know how the person on the mark feels just prior to hearing 'time'.  Alex Stead was our first judge and since then numbers have run into three figures.  Without them there would be no trials.

In our earlier years especially the war years, a number of land girls competed, like Jean Gillespie, Ann Stokes, Judy Hunter, Ann Sherston, June Davidson and Mitti Kennedy.

Omakere being a Maiden club proved a popular trial for those beginning their trial careers.  Many young locals and visitors had their first run and continued to return year after year.

 The Club was able to meet its commitments as well as finding prize money from entry fees and generous donations.  Cups and trophies were forthcoming whenever a new event was added to the programme and to date the display is most impressive.  Bench class for pups and best types were well catered for as well as children's races to add interest to all.

The Club has offered it services contract crutching to bring in income.  It was not until 1970 that local firms were canvassed for sponsorship.  We would like to take the opportunity to thank club members past and present for their efforts fundraising.

The first morning of the 1966 trials saw the creek running bank to bank and still raining, naturally putting pressure on those delegated to make a decision to cancel or continue under unpleasant conditions.  Omakere has never cancelled or abandoned a meeting but this time, releasing pens had to be shifted twice a day as sheep and men became stuck in the mud.  

The Omakere Club has fulfilled its ambition in bringing together the whole district for a few days in the year, providing good fellowship and healthy competition for locals and visitors alike competing with the shepherd's best friend.

Reference: Ballantyne, Pam and jeremy (Compiled and edited); 2008: The Pourerere Road: A history of Omakere and Tamumu District: Tamumu and Omakere District Historical Trust.