The Henty Machinery Field Days community has paid tribute to its longest serving chairman and tireless volunteer Colin Wood upon his passing this week.
Colin, who died aged 79 on December 5, was chairman for a record three decades, devoting himself to the field days, juggling activities on his Cookardinia farm to fit around the Henty schedule.
His connection with the field days goes back to the original one-day header school held at the Henty showgrounds in 1961.
At age 19, he was working for Henty contract silage and haymaker, Milton Taylor.
Milton was the driving force behind the first header display at the Henty showground where Colin demonstrated hay and silage equipment for the assembled crowd of interested farmers.
Colin was invited onto the Henty Field Days committee in the mid 1960s and was always quick to help out with preparations for each field day, pegging out exhibitor sites or preparing the car park.
He was elected chairman in 1973 and under his leadership the event moved to a three day format.
Colin worked with his directors and committee members to secure a permanent site on the Cookardinia Road – an old travelling stock reserve.
The committee turned to local clubs, organisations and schools to help with the mammoth task of field days catering.
Last year, Colin reflected on his connection with Henty upon the eve of the 40th anniversary at the permanent site.
“It was a great feeling to be able to get the respect of the community and sit down with them to work out a reasonable way of organising the catering, with a decent percentage of the profit being used to improve buildings and grounds,’’ he said.
“Our volunteer reach had expanded beyond Henty to benefit the communities of Holbrook, Yerong Creek, Walbundrie and Culcairn, and this is still maintained today.’’
Colin was pleased to see women and young people being welcomed as members of the co-operative.
The challenge of constantly coming up with a new program each year meant visits to other Australian and New Zealand field days to gather ideas.
“It was about talking to the Department of Agriculture to see what was happening in the cropping industry and the trends in agriculture, liaising with machinery firms to encourage them to bring the latest technology along,’’ Colin said.
“We aimed to showcase different crop and pasture varieties, and what needed to go into the soil.
“We endeavoured to keep things as close to the machinery theme as possible and maintained the word machinery in the field days title – we never wanted to be an expo.
“Now I can stand in one spot and see what has been achieved over the life of the field days for the members, community and district as a whole.’’
Last year, Colin and Milton Taylor were honoured by the HMFD Co-operative Ltd with the naming of a new permanent structure, the Taylor Wood Pavilion.
In latter years, Colin teamed with his cousin Bruce Taylor to exhibit at the field days on behalf of the Headlie Taylor Header Museum.
Colin and Bruce are great nephews of pioneer inventor Headlie Shipard Taylor, and spearheaded a memorial project to recognise the remarkable man in bronze.
A sculpture of Taylor toiling over an anvil in his Emerald Hill workshop will be placed in front of the museum, fronting the Olympic Way at Henty.
The project also aimed to provide an ongoing memorial scholarship to support innovation in agricultural equipment.
HMFD chairman Ross Edwards said Colin’s passion for the field days was evident by his 30 plus years as chairman.
“He was an outstanding leader, someone who was respected by everyone that was involved in the field days,’’ Mr Edwards said.
“Colin mentored our younger members who had great respect for him.
“He was always bringing up ideas and innovations as to how the field days could be improved for both exhibitors and patrons.’’
Mr Wood was supported in his role as chairman by his wife Gwen until his retirement from the position in 2007.
“Not satisfied with just the field days, he served as a shire councillor for three terms on what was the Culcairn shire, and was actively involved with NSW Rural Fire Service and the National Party,’’ Mr Edwards said.
“In younger days, he was an accomplished footballer and tennis player.
“In the hey days of the old Farrer Football League, Colin officiated as a professional boundary umpire – officiating at many grand finals.’’