Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 24, July 1980


[see Journal 25: Correction Forwarded by Rei Darley – E]

The destruction by fire of the member's stand on December 31st closed another chapter in the hundred years history of the Paeroa Racing Club. (The name was changed from the original title "Ohinemuri Jockey Club" in 1971.) Due to the loss of many of the early records the age of the building is not positively known, but it was believed to have been between 70 and 80 years old, including the many additions to the original structure during that time. What is clear, however, is that the first totalisator meeting was held on the present site in 1892 although the first official race meeting was held much earlier, in March 1876.

Old Minute Books record the fact that the bulk of the land was purchased from a Mr Nat. Dickey in 1897, unfortunately the price is not recorded. Since that time small parcels of land were purchased as opportunities arose and added to the property with the result that today it covers 130 acres and only a stones-throw from Paeroa's main shopping area. It is of interest to note that stakes in 1896 totalled £265 for an eight race programme, today for ten races the club offers $22,000 in stakes. Bookmakers were then in full swing for we find that in 1904 at a fee of £10 per day bookmakers were permitted to "lay the odds" on the coarse [course – E] but non-members of Tattersalls (the bookmakers Club) were required to deposit £20 per day. Even in those days, it seems, no stone was left unturned to protect the Club's interests, for we are told that the Committee authorised a Mr J. Martin, at a fee of £1/1/- per day to collect the prescribed "stand" fee from the bookmakers. The reign of the bookmaker, however, was short for they were banished from racecourses by Act of Parliament in 1908 never to return.

Tidbits from the records of past history invariably evoke interest and today much humour can be read into many of those old entries. In 1903, for instance, it is recorded that a certain Mr. Evatt was appointed handicapper "provided he attends the first day's races". That they could be "tough" too in those far off days is illustrated by a Minute in 1903 which instructed the Secretary "to give a certain Mr. Whewell seven day's notice to furnish receipts for the following accounts (specified) otherwise the matter will be placed in the hands of the Club's Solicitor".

Present day farriers should note that in 1904 a resolution "that no farriers passes be issued" was carried. In the same year the Secretary was voted a bonus of ten pounds for his services. Again, in 1904, the fee of the starter, a Mr. O'Connor, was reduced from £20 to £15 (reason not recorded) but loyalty to the Club evidently was a by-word in those days. The Paeroa High School was granted permission to hold its annual picnic on the racecourse in 1904. In 1905, so we are told, the auctioneer (name not recorded) was voted seven pounds ten shillings for selling course privileges, and in 1906 the caterer for refreshments was guaranteed 120 lunches "of approved quality" at 2s.6d per head. In the same year we are told that the Jockey riding the most winners at the meeting be presented with a whip valued at £2.2s and the Caretaker's salary in that year was the unbelievable sum by today's standards of £26.

According to a Minute in December 1911 we are told that after discussions with the Waihi Jockey Club, the Committee decided to take over the assets, and "liabilities up to £140" of the Waihi Jockey Club. It is interesting that the Auditor's fee in that year was £4.4s. In 1912 it is recorded that £200 was paid off the mortgage. A resolution in 1913 raised the Secretary's salary to £80 from March 1912, and that he receive a bonus of £12.12s for the year 1913. Edicts from the Racing Conference of 1912 apparently held no terrors for the Club, for it is recorded that "a request from that body for the payment of £10 to the Sports Protection League" was declined, the Committee had decided "not to contribute nor take part in the leagues business". The Club's loyalty to a country at war was clearly exemplified by a resolution pledging the profits from the 1917 meeting to the Patriotic Fund.

Coming a little nearer home we see that in 1937 a Mr. M. Crimmins (a member of one of the districts best known families) was appointed starter. In the same year it is on record that the birdcage steward was instructed "to keep all who get into the birdcage outside the chalk line". One, Major Shaw, (of Auckland) a man with a military background, one would guess was appointed the Club's official to control the birdcage in 1937 and so successfully did he carry out this job that he occupied the position for almost thirty years when illhealth forced him to resign. It is also recorded in 1937 that a donation of £2.2s "towards the cost of "Mounting" Phar Lap at the Museum", was made by the Committee. The programme Committee of that year was authorised to "frame a race programme, stakes not to exceed £2400".

That money was regarded as a very precious commodity in 1937, for it is on record that the Secretary was instructed "to write to a certain Mr. Lipsey explaining the reason for the deduction of £3 from his account". "In recognition of the time and attention he has devoted to the Club's sheep", so says a Minute in 1938, a Mr. T. Barrett was voted the sum of £10/10/-. One Committeeman (named) exercised his democratic right and requested his "NO" vote be recorded. It is noted, also in 1938, Mr. J.J. Poland was appointed Secretary of the Club (following his father, Mr. Hugh Poland, who died in office) at a salary of £150 per annum, a position he held for twentythree years, but obviously not at that same salary. Further into 1938 we are told the Committee "agreed reluctantly to the Borough Council water rates of £20/2/6d". In the same year the records tell us "that the announcer of IZB be thanked for his services and asked to accept complimentary tickets for the meeting". That year saw the Club take over the totalisator permit held by the Taumarunui Racing Club.

Up until 1938 the Club held permits for two days and it was traditional to hold one day on March 17th (St. Patrick's Day) in honour of the patron Saint of Ireland, due, one suspects, to the strong Irish influence which existed in the Ohinemuri area in those early days. Happily, this tradition has been preserved to this day insofar as it is possible with the allocation of racing dates. Today the Club has five permits. The records of 1938 tell us that the Paeroa Golf Club was granted the use of the course at £20 per annum. On the financial side we find that the bank overdraft in 1938 was £6600. It is well worthy to record that the longest serving honorary official of the Club was the late Mr. Pat Corbett of Hikutaia who was honorary timekeeper for twenty years. (1938 to 1958).

Friendly neighbourliness surely was an outstanding characteristic in 1960 and again in 1962 when the Ohinemuri Jockey Club (as it was then), allowed the Thames Jockey Club to race on its course at Paeroa free of charge. As late as 1961, would you believe, according to the Minutes, a Secretary was appointed at the commencing salary of £1092 plus a car allowance of £26 per annum. Mr. S.G. Tonks was appointed the Club's handicapper in 1961, a position he still holds. Clearly something must have gone amiss in January 1965, for the Minutes record the passing of a resolution expressing thanks to Mr. Tonks for his very generous gesture in not accepting the handicapping fees due to him.

And so, with mixed fortunes, the Club rolls on to the 80's with a membership of 450. In 1925 it stood at 50. No doubt it will surprise many to learn that the government valuation of the course property (130 acres) is $125,000 while the Borough Council (wherein the property is situated) collect rates to the tune of $5,000 and it will surely surprise many, even more, that the government tax for an average meeting is $101,000. It could therefore be said, perhaps with some justification, that the Paeroa Racing Club plays a very significant part in our country's economy.

The present members of the committee, aided by an indefatigable Secretary, with new President Cyril Marceau at the helm so to speak, have already served notice of dedication themselves to the very demanding task that most assuredly confronts them. The writer is convinced that few of the general public appreciate, or even give the matter much thought, to the time Committee-men are called upon to give in the interests of the Club, particularly that of President. This article would be considered incomplete if the names of Mr. John Paul and the late Mr. Tom Gregson (both former Presidents) were not given deserving mention. Mr. Gregson will be remembered as the driving force behind the work of reforming the course in the early 1960's. The amount of time he gave to this and the other undertakings of the Club went far beyond calculation. Mr. Paul who guided the destinies of the Club for twelve years (1967-1979) gave of his time equally freely and unstintingly in every conceivable way. Surely the time these men gave must have made heavy inroads on their private lives. The membership should be proud of the few who did so much and may those who follow vow to emulate their deeds in the interest of the Paeroa Racing Club.

A Mr. W. Kelly, it is recorded, was the Club's first President, this was in 1896. Then followed Hon. A.J. Cadman 1898-1900; Jackson Palmer 1901-02; J.M. Coote 1903-1910; R.T. Bush 1911-1912; W.J. Towers 1913-1915; J. Clarkin 1916-17; E. Shaw 1918-19; P. Grace 1920-22; W. Neill 1923-24; A. McGuire 1925-26; H.R. Bush 1927-28; T.P. Vuglar 1929-30; P.E. Brenan 1931-32; and again in 1942-44; E.P. Fathers 1933-34; J.J. Barrett 1935-36; F.E. Flatt 1937-39; T.A. Barrett 1940-44; H. Dent 1945-57; (died in office); V. Young 1957-59 (died in office); T. Gregson 1959-67; J.A. Paul 1967-79; C.E. Marceau 1979 --

Secretaries from 1896 were: R. Walker 1896; F. Vercoe 1898; J. Dalston 1900; T. Whewell 1901-02; H. Poland, the doyen of racing club secretaries, occupied the position for 35 years, from 1903-38 (died in office); J. J. Poland (a son of H. Poland) 1938-61; J. Evans 1961-63 (although he had been appointed assistant Secretary in 1952); J.W. Fair 1963-67; P. Hanan 1967-72; A.A. Schmidt 1972-79; C.F. Russek 1979 --