Today – 6 April 2017 – is the 40th anniversary of the first ever Lightning Ridge Goat Race!
To commemorate the event the Lightning Ridge Historical Society held an open day at the beautiful old nurses’ quarters, just behind the LRHS HQ on Morilla Street, last Sunday.
The quarters are themselves worth a visit: a tiny cottage with an interior made of cypress pine and a delightful mansard ceiling. The building has been restored and maintained but the ceiling rose is not the original, due to bullet damage. Of course. Ask Barb: she’ll tell you the full story.
It was quiet when I got there, but then four other people turned up and it was packed to the rafters. Charlie and Cindy arrived and, to huge excitement, brought along a winning sash from the 1986 Ladies Challenge – and donated it to the Historical Society!
Part of the reason for having the open day was to help the LRHS fill in the gaps about the goat races. Who won what, and when? Who were the riders? The trainers? The sponsors? The … erm … goats?
The original winners’ roll of honour had, at some point in the recent past, been retrieved by Barb and co from the RSL. Then, by trawling the back issues of the Lightning Flash, the names of winners had been added to the board up until the last running of the race, in 2010.
It was lovely to sit back and listen to some of the yarns from the glory days of the goat races: the huge numbers that would turn up for the event, with buses disgorging tourists into a tent city on the oval; the feral goats that would go careening into the ranks of people on Morilla Street, packed in as they were like housecarls at the Battle of Hastings; the high-stakes punting; the bad blood that was caused when crews started coming up from Gilgandara, with their cunning electric prods. So many stories!
Slowly, gaps were filled in. Barb and the team have created a gallery of pictures from back in the day, and people are asked to fill in the names of those they remember. Surely that couldn’t have been Mick C dressed as Santa on that goat buggy? He was way too big! It must, of course, have been Mick the Midget!
The display fills most of the quarters, and a good part of the verandah. Bibs and buggies collected from entrants and donors pack every nook and cranny.
Barb disappeared for a few minutes and returned with Cindy’s winning sash neatly pressed. Because every Historical Society keeps an iron warming on a low heat in its back room for such an event.
The sash was pinned up in pride of place, above the honour board and a ye olde original souvenir T-shirt.
Even after the immense rush of four people there were still some gaps. Do you know any of these missing names?
Please get in touch if you do. And, if you haven’t visited the Historical Society yet, do yourself a favour and drop in. They’re open every Sunday when the markets are on. No kidding! (boom boom)