The Whangārei Agricultural and Pastoral Society (A & P) Show at Barge Park has all but come and gone and after months of preparation for many stallholders, organisations, equestrian groups and farmers it is over all too quickly.

At first, A & P Shows were purely competitions featuring farm animals and crops, designed to demonstrate excellence and promote good breeding. Later they included other competitions and attractions such as shearing, wood chopping and horse riding with additional displays of farm machinery, crafts and entertainment.

A catalogue of Jersey cows in the archive. Photo / Supplied
A catalogue of Jersey cows in the archive. Photo / Supplied

In the early 1900s these annual events were just as competitive, if not more so, and housed in the archives at Whangārei Museum is evidence of more than one local identity who took these agricultural contests very seriously indeed.

One such enthusiast was Dr George Walker, who fervently competed in cattle events. Although having formal medical training and graduating as a surgeon from Durham University, Walker immigrated to New Zealand around 1908.

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Shortly after arriving in Whangārei he opened and practised (in partnership) at Montazah Private Hospital which was closed in 1927 when Dr Walker purchased a farm at Maunu where he built his own private hospital, "Beaulieu", opening it a year later.

Jersey cows on show at Whangārei in 1924. Photo / Supplied
Jersey cows on show at Whangārei in 1924. Photo / Supplied

Not only was Walker a medical man, he was also a noted stock breeder and canine enthusiast, having an affinity with borzois (Russian wolfhounds). Although an unlikely combination of skills, Dr Walker established "Beaulieu Jersey Stud" on his Maunu property and a snippet from the archives incorporates one of his prize jersey cows "Lea Rig Ruby", an example of the high-quality pure-bred jersey stock raised at Beaulieu.

Two farms were operated, the hospital farm and another two miles away. Since starting his herd Dr Walker carefully selected imported high-class pedigree Jersey cattle, eventually owning one of the country's most prestigious Jersey Studs.

Being an avid member of the Jersey Cattle Club, Walker's stud's progeny figured prominently in the stock judging competitions at A & P shows where Beaulieu Jerseys won numerous championships at the apotheosis of Walker's farming career.

Another relic housed in the Museum is a stock register kept by Glorat Stud. Photo / Supplied
Another relic housed in the Museum is a stock register kept by Glorat Stud. Photo / Supplied

During the 1920s and 1930s Jersey cattle were regarded as the popular breed of the district and Dr Walker wasn't the only local involved in breeding Jerseys.

Less than a mile away, where Kiwi North is now situated, there was another avid cattle breeder. This property was once known as "Glorat Jersey Stud" and was established by James McLean Clarke in 1926. It was on this farm that the son of Dr Alexander Clarke also raised high quality Jersey dairy cows and he too had affiliations with the A & P Shows.

Another relic housed in the Museum is a stock register kept by Glorat Stud recording individual entries for breeding stock and cows purchased, along with their pedigrees and specific details painstakingly catalogued over several years.

A close-up of the register. Photo / Supplied
A close-up of the register. Photo / Supplied

The Agricultural and Pastoral show began solely as an agricultural event demonstrating excellence in farming and animal husbandry. Its main purpose was to display livestock to promote the breeding of stud animals in order to increase stock diversity in the young colony.

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Over the years more traditional events such as side-saddle equestrian and fat lamb competitions have waned but men like Clarke and Walker continued to pursue excellence in the cattle breeding arena which is still evidenced today.

■ Natalie Brookland is collection registrar, Whangārei Museum at Kiwi North.