Ron Wood remembers early days of the Royal Bathurst Show

INTEGRAL: During his long association with the Bathurst Showground Trust and the Royal Bathurst Show, the now 87-year-old Ron Wood has seen many changes.

INTEGRAL: During his long association with the Bathurst Showground Trust and the Royal Bathurst Show, the now 87-year-old Ron Wood has seen many changes.

Many people in the last 150 years have selflessly given their time and talent to ensure the Royal Bathurst Show prospered as a showcase of agricultural excellence and an exceptional community event, and none more so than Ron Wood.

As well as running the family farm, Ron Wood spent much of his life serving the Bathurst community in a variety of roles. He officiated as a first grade umpire in Bathurst, was secretary of the Bathurst Harness Racing Club and served on the Bathurst Showground Trust.

But one of his most challenging, longest and rewarding roles was his almost three decades as secretary of the now-named Royal Bathurst Show, from 1969 to 1997.

Dedicated to the show movement, this was a position close to his heart. The Bathurst Living Legend was a man of vision who was “instrumental in developing the showground into the top-class facility it is today”, former show society president Brian Welch once said.

The only trouble was the sheep would get up into the grandstand and leave their ‘little pebbles’. But they got the job done.

Ron Wood, former secretary, Royal Bathurst Show

Renown for running a tight ship, Mr Wood remembers some of the challenges and chuckles from yesteryear.

“When I first started as secretary there were mainly farmers and graziers on show council,” Mr Wood said. “And it was easy to get someone to bring in a mob of sheep to chew the grass down because it grew very prolifically. That’s in the days when it used to rain,” he quipped. “The only trouble was the sheep would get up into the grandstand and leave their ‘little pebbles’. But they got the job done.” 

One of hurdles Mr Wood needed to overcome was the financial state of affairs.

“When I began they were $7000 in the red,” Mr Wood said. “But we soon got that fixed. There was no system whereby the user paid and that had to change to ensure the longevity of the show.”

He also oversaw a modernisation of administration, embarked on an urgent restoration of the showground buildings, initiated the development a modern stable set-up, built a base of volunteers, and helped generate regular income. 

“In the early days all the paperwork was done by hand, including the prize cards. It was very labour intensive,” Mr Wood said. “There was no such thing as a computer program designed to run a show. So a local bloke named Warren would meet with me every weekend to develop a program.”

The software was a great time saver, enabling stewards’ books, entry and prize cards to be computerised, while increasing the accuracy of information captured.

The Royal Bathurst Show has come a long way, Mr Wood said, since show membership earnt you “one entry ticket and two ladies passes”. And he hopes the spirit of community and camaraderie continues for another 150 years.