A celebration of Clutha champion ploughman Stewart Allison will take place at the New Zealand Ploughing Championships from Friday, in the town where his family have tilled soil for nearly 140 years.
Milton farmer Barrie Allison put his hand up to host the championships on land in his cropping operation, despite not competing in the sport.
‘‘It was my father’s sport.’’
His father died in late 2006, aged 74. He had been 15 years old when he first competed in the sport in 1948, the same year he left school.
For the debut, Stewart competed with a team of two Clydesdale horses from his family’s farm and was crowned champion ploughman.
Barrie Allison is the fourth generation to farm the now 125ha farm Gowanbank in Allison Rd, growing crops including barley, canola, grass seed, oats, peas and wheat.
The Allison family has farmed Gowanbank since 1886.
His great grandfather Alexander Allison was able to buy Gowanbank by horse trading for the decade after moving from Scotland to Otago.
At Gowanbank, his grandfather William Allison bred Clydesdale horses with brothers Alexander and Gordon.
‘‘This farm didn’t have a tractor until 1956. They had to give in because tractors had taken over in the early 1950s and there was no money in breeding horses.’’
He recalled his father’s frustration when his grandfather sold a proven team of horses on short notice when there was ploughing work to be done.
‘‘He’d have to break another team to finish a paddock. He was still [angry] about that when he died,’’ Barrie said laughing.
Stewart’s widow Nancie Allison said when her husband started in the sport and continued to win matches, he discovered he only had enough time to pursue one sport.
At the time, he was knocking on the door for selection in the Otago rugby team.
At age 23, he qualified for his first New Zealand ploughing final on a tractor in 1955.
He went on to became the first ploughman to win the national championships final three times.
‘‘No other ploughman has won three national championships by the age of 37,’’ Mr Allison said.
He represented New Zealand at the World Ploughing Championships in Northern Ireland in 1959, Christchurch in 1966 and Yugoslavia in 1969.
New Zealand hosted the world championship for the first time in 1966 so ‘‘he pulled out all the stops to compete on home turf’’.
In Christchurch, he got his best result at a world championships — a second place ploughing stubble.
After qualifying for the nationals in 1969, he learned the world championships clashed with lambing and he was busier than usual after increasing the size of his farm e and did not have time to compete overseas.
In an attempt to set himself up to fail, he tweaked his plough so he would lose points for a lack of weed control. But despite this, he won the nationals and went on to represent New Zealand ‘‘behind the iron curtain’’.
The two-day national championships this year would be held on about 90ha the Allison family leases from Calder Stewart, opposite its headquarters, Revolution Hills, on State Highway 1.
The championships would showcase traditional ploughing techniques used before herbicide was used for weed control, Mr Allison said.
Without herbicide, ploughing needed to be precise to ensure ‘‘trash’’, such as weed seeds and shoots, was buried and would not germinate.
Ploughing in a straight line had become easier by technology, such as GPS, but competitors were not allowed such modern aids.
National competition organiser Nigel Woodhead, of Milton, said more than 30 teams would compete across five classes — silver plough, reversible, horse, contemporary and vintage.
Challenges for competitors would be the contour of the plots and the possibility of buried fence posts, Waratahs or wire.
If a competitor dug up a fence post and it impacted the presentation of their plot, that was the luck of the draw.
The event would include trade sites, food, entertainment and demonstrations of vintage machinery, freestyle motocross and an i-Plough, technology allowing plough settings to be adjusted from a screen in a tractor cab.
Mr Woodhead encouraged people to come and see the ‘‘best of the best’’ compete.