Duncans celebrate Royal Show connection

Duncans celebrate Royal Show connection

Royal Adelaide Show
FOND MEMORIES: Jock Duncan reminisces about his years at Royal Adelaide. Inset: His father John (second left) shows the Duncan familys Shetland ponies at Royal Adelaide.

FOND MEMORIES: Jock Duncan reminisces about his years at Royal Adelaide. Inset: His father John (second left) shows the Duncan familys Shetland ponies at Royal Adelaide.


ROYAL REWIND: The Duncans have a rich history in the RA&HS, with five generations involved in the organisation, and the Adelaide Royal.


THE DUNCAN family has a rich history entwined with the Royal Agricultural & Horticultural Society of SA, with five generations having strong involvement with the organisation and the event it underpins - the Royal Adelaide Show.

Many will recognise the Duncan name, even if they do not know the strong history between the family and the RA&HS.

There used to be a pavilion at the showgrounds named after the family, but this was removed during renovations and reconstructions.

Today the Duncan Gallery - linking the Goyder and Jubilee Pavilion - still carries their name.

The first member of the family to become involved with the RA&HS was Sir John James Duncan, who in 1913 instigated and donated a sterling silver trophy for the Royal Adelaide Show District Competition.

His son, Sir Walter Gordon Duncan, RA&HS president from 1924-1925 and 1932-1950, was highly involved in the early development of the Adelaide Showground at the Wayville site.

His son, John James Duncan, was appointed to the RA&HS Pastoral Committee in 1955, the finance committee in 1960 and also served as deputy chairman, chairman and trustee.

He was RA&HS president from 1976- 1986.

In turn, his sons were also strongly involved with the society.

The key to the success of the show is that it is a voluntary society and so the people involved love and enjoy what they do. - JOCK DUNCAN

Walter Hughes Duncan was appointed to the RA&HS Pastoral Committee in 1975, elected chairman of the Horticultural Committee from 1985-1996 and 1998-2007.

He was appointed to the RA&HS board in 1994 and elected treasurer in 2004.

Jock Duncan was appointed to the RA&HS Pastoral Committee in 1981, then appointed to the Finance Committee in 1988.

He was the RA&HS deputy-chairman from 1990-1992, a trustee since 1997, board member since 1998, and president from 1993-2004. In 2006, he was appointed an honorary fellow of the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth.

Jock's son Andrew is the latest member of the family to follow in his family's footsteps.

He is a member of the RA&HS Pastoral Committee.

"We've never been stud breeders, we've always been commercial producers," Jock said.

"My grandfather was a parliamentarian and businessman, and had connections to the land.

"My brother Walter also had a very long involvement in the society - he was a board member, but only recently stepped down.

"Walter was very involved in horticulture and was a great exhibitor.

"They had some wonderful floor displays in the past including ones from the Peter Rabbit stories."

Jock's earliest memories of the show are being taken to the administration office by his grandfather at the age of five.

He jokes that he has not missed many shows since then.

"The sheep pavilion is where I grew up," he said.

"I began on the broom, stewarded from the 1960s until I joined the RA&HS Pastoral Committee and went on from there."

Jock said there had been quite a few changes over the years.

"My grandfather, Sir Walter Gordon Duncan, was involved with the show at a critical time, when it moved from its previous location (at North Terrace) to Wayville," he said.

"A lot of developments have taken place since then.

"I remember the Rosella Soup, ABC and Golden North stand but they have all since disappeared as other developments have utilised this space.

"One of the most recent developments - the Goyder Pavilion - has been the icing on the cake."

Jock says that the Learning Centre, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2014, and the Farmyard Nursery, are two very popular developments at the show.

"Leith Jenkins was very involved with the nursery and filled it with his animals. He also used his pet sheep to lead the street parade up King William Street before the show," he said.

Jock says that in his role as president he worked alongside a very strong board.

"The key to the success of the show is that it is a voluntary society and so the people involved love and enjoy what they do," he said.

"This year (2014), the 175th, is a wonderful achievement and a credit to all who have been involved.

"We've been through a lot since the first show was held in 1840 - two world wars, influenza and drought.

"The stability of the society is a credit to the wonderful chief executive officers that we've had, the board and the overall planning and vision of those involved."

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Jock says the society was "very much involved" with founding Roseworthy College, now the University of Adelaide's Roseworthy campus, and the Botanic Gardens of SA.

"We are the only horticultural society in Australia," he said.

"We will continue to look for opportunities to promote agriculture.

"Agriculture to me is still such a vital part of the structure of SA and the backbone of this state.

"The show provides a base where people with no involvement in agriculture can come and experience parts of it by heading to the Taste SA tent, milking a cow or simply being near a led bull."

Jock says there are more than 100 councillors, and 30 sectional committees with four to 14 members, who hold four council meetings a year.

"It's a very efficient way to keep those in charge up-to-date," he said.

Jock says the present RA&HS committee, including chief executive John Rothwell, continues that very strong tradition.

Over the years there had been many highlights, including the Duke of Edinburgh opening Hamilton Boulevard at the Adelaide Showgrounds on a visit with Queen Elizabeth.

Jock recalls his first official luncheon very well - because he led the guests out the wrong way.

At the time, the members' dining room was undergoing renovations and instead of leading the official party outside, Jock mistakenly led them to the kitchen.

He quickly recovered and turned to the special guest Dame Roma Mitchell and asked: "What are you like with a tea towel?"

She laughed, and they quickly moved out of the kitchen!

The official lunch at the Royal Adelaide Show, held on the second Friday of the event, is a prestigious affair with heads of state, and other high-ranking officials attending.

At the end of proceedings the Royal Agricultural & Horticultural Society of SA president and chief executive stand and lead the invited guest speaker and officials out.

This article was originally published in September, 2014.

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