History of the Walkerville Agricultural Society (affectionately known as "The Agsoc")
As early as 1948, a group of residents in Homestead Apple orchards felt the need for an Agricultural Show in this area, and, being the self sufficient country folk they were in those days, they decided to get on with it themselves. The first Show held in 1949 was such a success that it was repeated in 1950 and became an annual event after that, attracting entries from as far a field as Natal, the OFS and even the Cape. Also in 1948, two of the founder members, Bill and Ailie Hill, moved into their house in Apple Orchards. Bill would eventually serve as the Auditor of the Society and remain involved in all aspects of the society and the Tripoli Moths Shellhole until his tragic death in a motor car accident in April 1992 just before his 80th birthday. Ailie Hill remained an active member of the community for several years after Bill's death before emigrating to Australia to be with her children. Even then she could not forget her 50 plus years in Walkerville and sent these photographs from Walkerville in Australia.
Being sociable folk, the people began to feel that a session once a year was not enough and they dreamed up various other excuses for getting together. Soon it seemed that some sort of order was necessary and, in June 1954, a gathering of all interested parties was called. After some debate it was agreed to form an organisation to be known as the "Homestead Apple Orchards and District Agricultural Society". You'll notice from the word district that they wanted everyone to join and have a ball. And, have a ball they did! Virtually all the residents of the area became members and there was great difficulty accommodating them all in the marquees, erected in case of the odd shower of rain.
The Society was able to hold its functions on the property of one of its old established families, and over the years, built up a reasonably healthy bank balance. During the 1960's, it was decided to look around the district for a property with the idea of building permanent show facilities and a main hall, which would save the hassles of erecting huge marquees. The most suitable area found was the present site, just off the Vereeniging road, along the road to Kliprivier.
At the Annual General Meeting held on Saturday 18th August 1962 the minutes reported:-
Present: Mr. Binnie in the Chair
Brigadier Adler Honorary Life President
Mr. & Mrs. Ruddock, Mr. and Mrs. Copeland, Mr Alder, Mr. and Mrs. Cronje, B O Higgs, P Rance, Mr. and Mrs. Keartland, M Copeland, Mr. and Mrs. Southey, Mr. and Mrs. Harris, E Morkel, C Smith and Mesdames Howard, Knox, Parris, Higgs and Berrington.
Apologies received from Mrs. Copeland, Mr. and Mrs. Douglas, Mr. and Mrs. Guttridge, Mr. H Howard, Mr. A de Villiers and Mr. Parris.
Mrs. B Higgs was elected President, Mr. B Higgs Senior Vice President, Mr. Harris Junior Vice President, Mrs. Rance Secretary and Mrs. Keartland Treasurer.
The main subject discussed was the need to obtain an extension to purchase the present show grounds, portion 104 Hartzenbergfontein, measuring 13.2456 Morgan from Mrs. Christian Korthols for the sum of R3,000.
The Show grounds as it soon became known, was a popular venue for Gymkhanas but the limited catering facilities caused problems so in 1973 the kitchen was added to the main hall and also the ablution block. With these improvements, many enquiries were received for the use of the hall for private functions, and, since the upkeep and further development of the facilities were a constant drain on the finance of the Society, it was felt that a hire fee should be charged. This enabled non-members to use the hall from 1973.
The Flower Shows and Dance events became regular social events in the area and 1973 also saw the start of a badminton club. Council meetings were held once a month and this kept the Society active and ensured a smooth flow of the regular programme of events.
In 1981 the Apple Orchards Walkerville Agricultural Society agreed to a merger with the Southern Transvaal Equestrian Society who at that time where looking for home grounds. It was envisaged that such a merger would be to the benefit of both parties and would bring about a renewed interest in the Society while affording the STEA a much needed home.
Also in the 1980's one of the more successful functions, namely the regular Discos, met a violent death. Sad to say, a sign of the times, there was so much fighting, they had to be discontinued! Just when the very existence of the Agricultural Society in its original concept appeared threatened, frantic canvassing was done to drum up support and amid all sorts of rumours, there was a degree of success and by 1982 several very successful social gatherings had been held. At the end of that year the 1,200 residents of the area were implored to "stop complaining there was nothing in the area" and join the society for the grand sum of R4 for a gentleman member (wife inclusive) R2 a lady member and R1 a juvenile member under the age of 18 years.
A Tribute to Herbert Leonard Howard
The Walkerville Show
The first ever Walkerville show was held on the corner of 2nd and 7th roads in Homestead Apple Orchards in 1948, and was organised by Mrs. Cronje, Mrs. Copeland and the Knox family.
By 1973 the Society was ready to hold their 25th Southern Transvaal Show, at the new "Southern Transvaal Show-grounds" off the main Johannesburg – Vereeniging Main Road. At that time Mrs. Muriel Arthur Walker was the Honorary Life President and Mrs. Copeland was still involved as an active committee member. The Show President Mr. G Keartland, known by his nickname 'Buller' wrote the following message in the Show's Prize List;
A Message from the President
As stated in my last message we are a comparatively young Society … but now we attained our majority as the next Show will be our Silver Anniversary. I feel that I must, in this message, depart from my usual practice and mention certain names.
Mr W Catto is relinquishing the position of Honorary Treasurer after nearly nine years of service to the Society, as he has sold his property. We cannot thank him enough for what he has done, but wish him and his wife the very best for the future.
I want to thank the Honorary Secretary, Mrs. JF Burton for all that she has done for the Society and myself during my unavoidable absence. We are in the happy position to be able to thank the Building Sub-committee, Messrs K Mortimer, C Sonntag and BJ van Heerden, for all they have done, and are doing, to have the additions to the hall ready for the next Show. They have also been able to reduce the cost by undertaking a considerable amount of the work themselves.
We would like all members to call in at the show-grounds and see for themselves what has been done and so ask again that any contributions to help defray the expenses will be gratefully received.
In conclusion let me thank, as usual, the officials, Council members, members, advertisers, judges, exhibitors and all those who have contributed towards the steady progress that the Society has made over the past years. May our Silver Anniversary be the most successful Show we have ever had.
All was going well until 1976 when, for the first time, the annual Agricultural Show did not make a profit. This was attributed to fewer local people being interested in livestock, but it was interesting that social functions and the hiring out of the grounds appeared to be on the increase. These brought better returns for less effort but the Society was reluctant to abandon the Show which was, after all, its original reason for existence. In 1977, a circular to all residents to gauge their feelings brought very little reaction.
The Society stalwarts persevered and held a Show in 1980.
The 49th Show was held in 1997, and by public request it was decided to extend to three days, Friday to Sunday. The Show had become an intimate and friendly country fair that attracted more and more visitors each year. People who enjoy country life, small farming and outdoor living, or city folk who liked to spend a day in the country side had a wonderful time.
In February 1998, The Agricultural Society held the 50th and final Walkerville Show. The Golden Jubilee Show was indeed bigger and better. More visitors, stand-holders and entertainers packed the halls and marquees than ever before. The Show had been the biggest annual event in Walkerville and had grown from barely a farmer's market to a three day and night event attended by thousands of visitors.
While sorely missed by some residents, and even town visitors, the committee knew it was time to bow out on a high note. Agricultural shows all over the country have faced the same decision as the areas in which they are become less agricultural, and many residents do not even keep livestock. "It would have been too painful to see the Show die a slow and painful death, becoming more of a flea market than a proper Show. Rather go out flags waving proudly, in full sail, and be missed, than slowly waste away to nothing" was the Show Chairman's comment at the time.
In 2013 with the assistance of the Walkerville Chamber of Commerce the Agricultural Show was revived and was a great success. With a new format the show managed to combine the much loved livestock and homecraft exhibitions with a popular beer garden and modern entertainments. Young and old were once again enthralled by what Walkerville had to offer.
Today the Show-grounds functions as a community centre, and home grounds for several other clubs and societies. The Agricultural Society continues to manage the grounds, hall and pub as well as be involved in several other community endeavours in Walkerville. We are the producers of the Community News, a popular publication that keep local residents informed, and often amused, about local events. We are also the custodians of this website. The Committee of volunteers that first gave of their time freely and enthusiastically will be proud to know that the committee of the 21st century has followed in their footsteps – giving their time freely and enthusiastically to retain and improve one of Walkerville's most valuable assets. And who knows, one of these days they may even decide to hold another Show!
This delightful series of cartoon drawings were literally drawn on the backs of cigarette boxes and scraps of paper at the Deep South Pub, the official pub of the Walkerville Agricultural Society, by a certain 'Bob' (surname unknown), whom we suspect might be the same Bob referred to in "tales of old Walkerville". Local residents will surely recognise some of the characters as the resemblance is really remarkable. At the time the cartoons were considered rather risque for a publication as conservative as the "Show Brochure", but the Committee decided "print and be damned". The originals were framed and still hang in the Deep South pub till this day.
From the Farmer's Weekly - February 1954
Homestead Apple Orchards Stage Successful Smallholders Sow
The annual show of the Homestead Apple Orchards and District Agricultural Society held near Walkerville, between Johannesburg and Vereeniging, was an outstanding success. The member of the Society were mostly smallholders, but they supported their show so well that there were about three times the number of entries in the various sections there were last year. There was keen rivalry among the smallholders with the result that the exhibits were of a very high standard. In the cattle section there were 60 Frieslands and 40 Jerseys, apart from other breeds. In the pig section there were 40 entries as compared with a single entry last year. There were 120 entries in the poultry section, 42 sentries of vegetables and fruit and 50 entries in the rabbit section with a strong home industries section. The society has great plans for future and with the keen support they are getting from members they hope to stage even bigger shows in future.
Mr. George Ussher judged the Frieslands, while Mr. Chris Brummer judged the Jerseys. Mr. Brummer said that there was a very good turn out of milkers. The winners were outstanding animals. The various classes were well represented and competition very keen. Several animals, he said, could have been placed higher if they had been trained and prepared for the show. He said the champion Jersey heifer was an outstanding animal.
Mr. J.G. Mann won the cup for scoring most points in the livestock sections. The Conrad Cup for the best heifer on the show was won by Mr. Nico Bonsma with a Jersey. The Ruddock Cup for the best dairy cow was won by Mr. A. Shear with a Friesland while the Partridge Cup for the best dairy bull was won by Mr. J.J. McDonald with a Friesland. Mr. Otley Jardine won the cup for the best slaughter animal on the show with and Aberdeen Angus. He also won the award for the supreme champion animal on the show with an Aberdeen Angus.
Mr. F. Chatterton won the award for the best Friesland heifer on the show. Mr. J.J. McDonald showed the champion Friesland bull and Mr. A. Shear the champion Friesland cow. Mrs. J.C. Potter showed the champion Jersey cow. Mr. M.T. van der Merwe showed the champion Jersey bull and Mr. Nico Bonsma the best Jersey heifer. He won three first prizes in the section for Jerseys as well as the prize for the reserve Jersey champion female. Mrs. Potter’s Jersey cow was also awarded the reserve supreme champion animal on the show.
Mr. H.L. Simmons, who judged the pig section, said that for such young show the quality of the pigs was very high. Some of the pigs were as good as any in the country. Mr. A.A. de Villiers showed the supreme champion pig – a large white boar. He won the Jonker Cup. Mr. Otley Jardine showed the champion pig – a Large White sow with a litter and also the reserve champion – a Large White boar.
In the sheep section Mr. A.A. de Villiers won all the main awards with Blackhead Persians. Mr. C.J. Uys, who judged the sheep, said the animals were of a very high standard.
Mr. A.A. Vincent, who judged the Rhode Island Reds in the poultry section, said the males were not so good. But the females, with a few exceptions, were of very high standard. The winning pullet was outstanding. Mr. G.P. Coetzee, who judged the Black Australops and White Leghorns, said the general condition of the Black Australorps was good. The young female which was adjudged the supreme champion, showed exceptional quality. In the section for White Leghorns the class condition was good but feathering was not up to standard. The winner in this section was an excellent type of Leghorn.
Mr. J.G. Mann won the Dent Cup in the poultry section. He showed the best Rhode Island Red male and female, the best White Leghorn male, the best heavy breed other than Black Australop and Rhode Island Red and the best table bird – a Rhode Island Red. Mornhill Farm showed the supreme champion bird on the show, a Black Australop female as well as the best Australorp male and the best White Leghorn female. E. Dawson won the prize for the best turkey, a Beltsville Small White turkey.
E. Eggert won the prizes for the best ducks and geese while M. Millman showed the best bantams.
There was a very fine exhibit of rabbits staged under the rules of the Rabbit Council. Mrs. G.M. Stewart, the judge, said the entries were of a very high standard. There were some superb animals on show. The best rabbit on show was a smoked Angora exhibited by Messrs. Grant and Pugh. There was very strong competition and it was a difficult task to decide on the best animal. The Rex and the New Zealand white rabbits were also outstanding.
Mr. R.B. Lundi, who judged the honey section, said the standard had improved considerably. The standard of exhibiting and bottling was very high. He complimented the smallholders on their keenness. L. Dave won the prize for the best light honey, W.V. Harris for medium honey, Kennard Bros. for dark honey and sections, J. Thompson for granulated and chunk honey, L. Dave for supers, D. le Roux for creamed honey and K.M. Pyle for was.
Messrs. Kennard Bros. and J. Thompson tied for the Copeland Cup in the honey section.
Mr. A. Korthals, who judged the dairy section, said the standard was very high - much higher than last year. There were more entries too. Soft cheese which was in such strong demand in Johannesburg was also exhibited.
Madge Millman showed the best unsalted butter, E.P. Harris the best salted butter, A. Kennard the best cream, Mornhill Farm and best soft cheese and I. Whitehead the best new laid eggs.
Mr. Korthals, who also judged the dressed poultry, said the standard was very good. Smallholders know exactly how to prepare table birds for the Johannesburg market. Mrs. A.M. Dent won the prize for the best dressed fowl and Mrs. F. Chatterton the prizes for the best dressed duck, goose and turkey.
Reproduced with kind permission from the Walkerville News 1981 to 1993, and Minutes of Meetings of the Agricultural Society