Royal of the North

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A love of local history and respect for one of Wauchope’s true iconic women was the inspiration behind Garry and Janice Bruem’s 12-month labour of love – The Royal of the North. With 200 pages of photos, interviews, stories and historical facts, the history of the Wauchope and Port Macquarie Shows have been documented in this unique book … but if you’d like a copy, you’ll have to get in fast, as there’s a limited print run of 1,000 copies.

How are you both associated with the Wauchope Show Society?

Janice: We’re members of the Wauchope Show Society.

Garry: We’ve only actually been in Wauchope for 24 years – which is a distinct contrast to most of the Show people, whose families have been there for generations; for example, the Lindsay family, who’ve been associated with local shows for 113 years.
Where did the idea come from to write the book?

Garry: We’d written one book previously, for the Centenary of Bain Bridge, in 2007. This book is now out of print, but it’s available in the local libraries and at the schools. We felt that the Show Society needed to do this Centenary book – other shows have had books written to celebrate their Centenary.

Janice: We had been asked back in 2010; we were asked if we could write a book for the Centenary Show– we laughed and said, “Not for this Show!” The Show Society came back to us at a later date and asked again if we would consider writing a book a few months before the 2011 Show, and we again thought we wouldn’t have enough time to write the book before the Show began.

I don’t think anyone realised just how much work would be involved or how long it would take to write the book.

Garry: Our good friend, Hazel Suters, who passed away in 2010, had helped us with the Bain Bridge book. Hazel was a granddaughter of Duncan Bain, and she had, herself, written a book about the Wauchope Show in 1973. Hazel knew another book needed to be written about the Show, and she had also asked us if we would do it. At the time, we didn’t commit ourselves to the task. We thought maybe someone better qualified would do it.

Janice: At a later date, we went to visit Hazel again. She’d been sick – she was 97 at the time – and as we got up to leave, she said to us: “Now, you two promise me you will do that book for the Show”. The sad thing is, that’s the last time we saw her – so these were her parting words to us. She was an inspiration for us to go ahead and write the book.

Garry: I think she’d be so glad we’ve finally accomplished it. We dedicated our previous book on the Bain Bridge to her – she was a marvellous lady. She didn’t have a lot of schooling, because back in her day, there was no high school in Wauchope or Port Macquarie, so she had to travel by train to Kempsey. But she was always interested in history and kept a diary from when she started school.

Lots of people would consult with her on historical matters – she had a great memory. We feel very privileged to have known her.
You said your interest is local history … are you involved with any historical groups, and did this help with your research for the book?

Garry: I’m a member of the Wauchope Historical Society. Most of the information and research for the book came from the local papers – the Wauchope Gazette and the Port Macquarie News. We had to actually track down any old photos available – one particular photo we knew about, but it took us 3 months to find it. It was taken at the very first Wauchope Show in 1910, and we found it down at Tea Gardens. We really had to work to get interviews with people – a lot of the people you want to interview aren’t the type to put themselves forward to be in a book.

Janice: It was an interesting process, because right at the end we were getting pointed towards stories we hadn’t included … we just ran out of time.
How long did it take to research and write the book?

Janice: It took about 15 months, but there was a trip overseas to visit our son in Ireland during this time, so in actual time it was about 12 months.

Garry: It includes information about the Port Macquarie Show too, which started in 1884 and went through until 1914. We feel the start of the War may have had something to do with the Show ending, but by then the Wauchope Show was going. We actually have an early photo of the committee men from the Port Macquarie Show.
You mentioned interviewing people and photographs, but how have you compiled all of this information?

Janice: We didn’t want to compile a book that was just a list of names of past winners and events from the Shows; we wanted it to be a book that people would want to read.

Our friend, Trevor Thatcher, recorded the interviews with us to save writing. He Photoshopped all the photos and did all the technical things that were needed.

Garry: We started off doing a history of the area and the early pioneers and wrote about Robert Davidson and Duncan Bain; Bain gave the land for the Showground and Davidson was President of the Port Macquarie Show in 1900. They had a very interesting history, so it seemed logical to include them in the book. We’ve interspersed the interviews and stories we’ve been told throughout the book, so it’s more interesting than just a history of the Show itself.

The book is 200 pages, with over 200 photos. This book is probably a book like no other Show book. Because we did it voluntarily and we weren’t given any guidelines, it was left up to us how we wrote it.
What was the most rewarding part of the whole researching and writing process?

Garry: Finishing the book! (Laughs). And it gave us a feeling of accomplishment.

Janice: Meeting such an enormous range of people we wouldn’t normally have met and hearing their stories.
How many copies of the book will be available, and where can they be sourced?

Garry: The Royal of the North was printed by M&S Printing in Wauchope, and the Show Society has ordered 1,000 copies. They will sell for $20 each, plus a small extra charge for postage if needed.

The book is available through Saddle World, High Street, Wauchope and Wauchope Stock and Estate Agents.

Thanks Garry and Janice.

Interview by Jo Atkins.

This story was published in issue 78 of Port Macquarie Focus 

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