Lowburn Collie Dog Club stalwarts Geof Brown, Peter Morton,
Bob Perriam, Duncan Henderson, Claire Davis, Jack Davis,
Richard Anderson and (front) Murray MacMillan with Rusty,
at the club's headquarters. Photo by Sally Rae.
Central Otago's Lowburn Collie Dog Club marks a major
milestone this week with the holding of its centennial trials
on Friday and Saturday.
And in the words of one of its stalwart members, Jack Davis,
reaching that achievement is a ''bloody great effort''.
For the club has had a colourful history, including
uncertainty over its future because of the construction of
the Clyde Dam and raising Lake Dunstan.
The Ministry of Works did not originally understand the
''social significance'' of the club in the Lowburn community,
committee member Bob Perriam said.
Records showed the first trials were held behind the Lowburn
Hotel 100 years ago after musterers and runholders spent many
hours in the hotel ''discussing'' who had the best dogs, Mr
The venue for later trials soon moved to a larger site at the
southern end of Sugarloaf. With no club facilities for many
years, the hotel continued as the meeting place, with the
publican being made the first patron.
During the Depression, the club declined in size and there
were no trials between 1931 and 1935.
During World War 2, with several members overseas, the trials
were reduced to one day in an effort to keep them going. In
1942, they had to be postponed altogether but were held again
two years later.
The late 1970s saw a time of biggest uncertainty with the
Clyde Dam proposal.
The original Ministry of Works plans involved a new highway
constructed against the base of the Sugarloaf hills for most
of the length of the flats through the trial grounds were.
That upset stalwart members, facing the threat of losing the
club's grounds, and a concerted effort was made to showcase
the grounds as among the best in New Zealand, which also lead
to the timely awarding of the South Island and New Zealand
championships to Lowburn in 1982, Mr Perriam said.
Adding to the pressure on the ministry, landowner the late
Charlie Perriam refused to negotiate further on land purchase
until the club's needs were met.
Fresh plans were adopted, enabling the trial ground to
continue with only a zig-zag hunt course shifting to the
When the property was sold to developers, the entire face and
lower flats of Sugarloaf were vested in the Central Otago
District Council as a scenic reserve, securing the trials
Some of the club's stalwart members, all with long family
associations with the club, gathered last week, reminisced
about days gone by and also expressed some concerns about the
There had been many changes over the years, the biggest being
the ''sheer pressure'' of what was now a very busy State
Highway 6 close to the grounds.
Duncan Henderson, the club's assistant secretary, recalled
going to the trials with his mother helping in the cookshop,
before he went to school.
It had been ''good fun'' and he hoped the club could continue
but that was doubtful, largely because of tenure review and
''There's a lot of things in the way,'' he said.
The club's president, Peter Morton, whose grandfather was a
successful competitor at the first trials in 1915, was also
concerned about the future, citing the logistics of the event
and also saying there were not the young people in the area
to join the committee.
Mr Morton's involvement began through the Young Farmers Club,
whose members were used as sheep liberators.
He progressed through various positions and is now serving
his second term as president.
It had been a real family and community event over the years,
He recalled the heady days through the 1980s when there were
about 200 competitors on the hunt courses and about 180 in
the heading events. Now, there were about 55 in the hunts and
about 80 in the heads.
Jack Davis, who started dog-trialling when he was 15, said he
enjoyed the camaraderie involved and also the challenge of
He attends between 15 and 20 trials a season. While he had
judged at the national championships and been on the
leaderboard at the event, he had never made a New Zealand
This year, he has a new trials dog called Dick, whom he
described as ''very interesting''.
''You can take from that whatever you like - it covers my
options,'' he laughed.
The Lowburn trials will be Dick's ''maiden voyage'' and Mr
Davis will also be running two other dogs, while also being
in charge of the short head and yard course.
Triallists enjoyed the Lowburn trials - the first of the
season - as they wanted to compete on what were national
courses, he said.
The club has hosted the South Island championships in 1969,
1977 and 1987, and the New Zealand and South Island combined
championships in 1962, 1972, 1982 and 2002.
Mr Perriam said the steepness of the Sugarloaf hill was
always a challenge, while another long-time club member,
Murray MacMillan, from Mt Pisa, recalled once riding a
motorbike up the hill on the promise of a dozen of beer -
which he never received.
The MacMillan family supplied sheep for the trials for many
years, until tenure review stopped that three years ago.
While the trials might have taken three days, they involved a
week's work for the club by the time members organised the
sheep, Mr MacMillan said.
Bannockburn farmer Richard Anderson's involvement with the
club dated back to 1961 when he was ''talked into it''.
''Forced into it, probably,'' he chuckles.
Mr Anderson (76) was involved with running the New Zealand
championships in 1962 and 1972, spent 11 years as secretary
and is now the club's patron, a role that required ''just
Describing himself as ''not a great doggy man'', he was
looking forward to this week's trials.
''I'll even run a dog if it doesn't let me down. We'll start
and we probably won't finish,'' he said.
Geof Brown's father and grandfather were both involved with
the dog trials. Geof Brown used to come down to the grounds
when he was a child and started liberating sheep after
leaving school in 1969, with ''huge days'' spent on the hill.
He used to drive the sheep down the road with Mr MacMillan
for ''years and years''. In those early years, by the time he
had arrived at the grounds, he had sometimes been given a
couple of cigars and several beers.
Nowdays, he was head shepherd for the trials, making sure
there were sheep in the pens early in the morning and the
sheep supply did not run out throughout the day.
Mr Brown's wife, Joyce, had also been heavily involved with
the club. She is currently treasurer and she also ran the
cookshop for many years.
The Browns, who operate the Locharburn Hereford stud, have
sponsored a new event this year - a teams event, with a
minimum of two members from one club, using a minimum of
three dogs - with $1000 prize money.
As well as the serious business of competition, the social
element of dog trials was also important and there had been
many ''good natured high jinks'', as Mr Davis eloquently put
Charlie Perriam operated Charlie's Bar from its establishment
in 1962 until he became too elderly to run it.
''`Haven't you b******* got a home to go to?' was what we
used to hear at two in the morning,'' Mr Morton
There were many tales of funny incidents, including the night
there was an ''almighty noise'' coming up the road, along
with a shower of sparks.
After the final run on the zig-zag hunt course, an old hut
was being towed up the road behind a ute. Young Farmers
members used to have a lot of fun when they were liberating
and consumed a lot of refreshments.
Some of them probably would not have won the hearts of the
competitors by the end of the day, Mr Morton said.
One of the reasons for instigating Charlie's Bar was the
problem with many competitors disappearing during the heat of
the day, to seek shade under willow trees - or at the pub.
When the sun started to drop away, then 30 or 40 competitors
could turn up, looking for a run.
• To mark the centenary, special one-off trophies will
be presented and local school children are encouraged to
attend the trials on Friday.
A dinner will be held at The Moorings on Saturday night. Mr
Morton asked people travelling on State Highway 6 to respect
the fact there might be dogs around and to take care.