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On With The Show

The Mercury, Pen-Pictures, 16 Oct 1941

"At The Helm For
41 Years"

Drawing by Laurance
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A FEW years ago a stranger sought the secretary of the Royal Hobart Show on the showground.

He was advised to look within a radius of 20 yards of the secretary's office for a tall, straight man who looked like a well set-up farmer, who seemed about 60 years of age (though he was then over 70), and who was either puffing with great and obvious relish at a huge-bowled cherrywood or ramming home an impossible charge of black plug.

The stranger was not long finding Mr. L. N. Murdoch, secretary of the society for 41 years.

The story of the career of Mr. Murdoch is inextricably interwoven with that of the Royal Hobart Show, and mention of the show is sufficient to bring to mind a picture of this genial, perennial official. The Royal Show is the all-absorbing interest of his life. He is an authority—one of the very few remaining—on the romantic story of the rise of the show from insignificant proportions to its present high status, and much of the credit for its steady progress through the past three or four decades of its existence can be attributed to his enthusiasm and foresight.

THE society has been through good times and bad, some very good, some exceedingly bad, but adversity has served only to increase the enthusiasm of Mr. Murdoch, whose supreme confidence in the ultimate future of the show has never wavered. The essentially sound basis on which it has now been established is at once an indication of his foresight in seeing the big potentialities of the comparatively little show of long years ago (a foresight born, doubtless, of his innate love of the land), and his capacity to work unswervingly, untiringly, for the attainment of his ambition. For the elevation of the society, which had its origin in 1873 (exactly when it began in its primitive form is shrouded in obscurity) always has been his ambition. It would appear that his goal has been reached, for the worthiness of the Royal Hobart Show to compare with similar exhibitions on the Mainland goes without saying, but it is typical of Mr. Murdoch that, having attained one objective, he should set himself another.

He is not satisfied to stand and reflect on achievements. The show must go on.

THE background of the Royal Hobart Show is the only background, the society the only canvas, for the picture of Mr. Murdoch. His story largely is theirs. It is a story which begins away back in the '70's of last century, when, after several years of inactivity, the late Mr. C. E. Davies called a meeting at Hobart, and the organisation was restarted with a more ambitious objective.

The first show, at the newly-revived society was held on the Elwick racecourse, purchased by the Tasmanian Racing Club, and Mr. Murdoch attended as a child. The only means of reaching the ground then was by Cooley's bus. Elwick Rd. was in the midst of bush land, and the few cattle exhibited were tied to a rough fence. A few hurdles were arranged to hold pigs.

A second show was held at Elwick, and then the venue was transferred to what was known as Lord's Hill, facing Augusta Rd., near where the Friends' School now stands.

After three years, during which shows were conducted annually at New Town on ground acquired from the Government, the present site was purchased from the Wright brothers. That was in 1904, Mr. Murdoch some years previously having been appointed secretary after a term on the committee.

A formidable task confronted him. The new property in a sense was worse than in a state of nature, as it had been quarried in many places, and it was necessary to fill in numerous holes. Mr. Murdoch, his committee, and members set to with a will, and to such good purpose did they work that in October of the year of its acquisition the now well-known showground saw its first show. It was a dwarf by comparison with shows of recent years. Members were not many, nor exhibits, nor patrons. But it was a beginning and a sure one. The society had its vicissitudes in the succeeding years, but under the secretaryship of Mr. Murdoch the trend of the curve of its career was steadily upward.

By virtue of his office, efficiency, thoroughness, capacity for work energy, and organising ability of a high degree are expected in a secretary. All these qualifications Mr. Murdoch has and the smoothness with which long show programmes are conducted, the scrupulous attention to details of arrangement, are & witness to this fact. Yet he is no machine-like professional officer. He likes his work. His heart is in his work, and he lives for his work. In appearance he is possibly the last person one would suspect was the secretary of an organisation of such dimensions and of such importance as the Royal Agricultural Society, He smacks of the man on the land, and he is, in the end, of the land, for his interests are the land, its products, and the welfare of those who work it.

He is by nature easy-going, quiet, complacent, and friendly, but he is also a diligent, painstaking, experienced, hard-working organiser. It is a side which may not be apparent on show day, for that is an occasion that comes but once a year. It is a day of realisation. He has worked assiduously to produce a bigger and better show. He has done that for 40 years. If it is a "hit" (and almost invariably it is), he relaxes. He takes pleasure from the enjoyment of others in the production he has shaped. The show's the thing.


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