The Royal Agricultural Society
An attempt to form such a society was made in 1879 at a meeting of delegates from A. and P. Associations and others interested. It was held in Oamaru “in the large coffee room of the Star and Garter Hotel”. As befitting the place and the occasion, there were many notables present and an appropriate resolution was carried. The depression of the eighties, however, was on its way and the attempt to get enough members proved abortive. The idea was revived from time to time, usually meeting with opposition from parties who feared domination by a central authority. In 1924, however, a constitution was agreed upon, and the society received a Royal Charter. William Perry (later, Sir William) became president. The society, not having a central showground of its own, has worked out a system by which the annual Royal Show is staged by one or other of the metropolitan associations. After a good start public support began to decline; potential members preferred to concentrate their efforts on their local associations and shows. Faced with this serious loss of interest in the depression of the early thirties, the president (L. R. C. Macfarlane, of Canterbury) introduced a new constitution in terms of which local interest was worked up by five (now six) district councils which have the right of taking turns in having the Royal Show in their districts.
A principal handicap to staging a worthy Royal Show in New Zealand is the cost of transporting the best stock in the country to any one place, despite the society's subsidy on costs. Because of this, any given Royal Show is usually a rather inflated version of its normal exhibition. Even so, there is special strength in particular sections at various shows. Thus the Royal Show in Christchurch has claims to be recognised as one of the finest sheep shows in the world. There are first-class exhibitions of beef cattle at Hastings, of dairy cattle at Hamilton, and a good all-round show at Palmerston North. The present (1965) president of the Royal Agricultural Society is Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Burrell, (1964–). Past presidents are Sir William Perry, 1923–31; L. R. C. Macfarlane, 1931–34; L. J. Wild, 1934–45; B. E. Keiller, 1945–52; J. S. Marshall, 1952–58; and M. S. Rennie, 1959–63.