A spot on the hill no trial at all for these two

Johnny James (left) and Lindsay Carruthers, with Bill the dog, take a break from liberating sheep...
Johnny James (left) and Lindsay Carruthers, with Bill the dog, take a break from liberating sheep at the Strath Taieri Collie Club's centennial dog trials.
Michelle Holland (front), with Lynnore Templeton and Ellen Catherwood, in the cookshop at the dog...
Michelle Holland (front), with Lynnore Templeton and Ellen Catherwood, in the cookshop at the dog trials. Photos by Peter McIntosh.

Lindsay Carruthers may have completed the odd dog trialling course in his time but the Middlemarch farmer acknowledges he never relied on prize money to ''keep him in refreshments''.

Instead, Mr Carruthers' preferred spot at the annual Strath Taieri Collie Club's trials was on the hill on a heading course, liberating sheep with fellow club life-member Johnny James.

And when it came to characters involved in the sport of dog trials, it would be hard to get a pair more colourful, or larger-than-life, than that particular duo.

The club is celebrating its centennial this week, with three days of competition, which began yesterday, at Neil Grant's property Glencreag and Brent McKenzie's property Kinvara.

Mr Carruthers (56) and Mr James (59) have given a combined contribution to the club that spans more than eight decades. Both became involved when they were teenagers.

In those early years, Mr Carruthers remembered being ''just the boy'' liberating sheep on the hunt courses.

''You were the tame dog as it were; `do this, do that','' he said.

He had received a promotion in latter years although he could not quite remember what the title was.

''I'm stock what?'' he asked Mr James.

''Co-ordinator,'' came the reply.

''No. I've been the sheep convener, that's what I am,'' he said.

That involved making sure the sheep were available for both heading courses for the liberators to pick up in the morning.

Generally, he tried to be first on the course every day but that did not always work out, he said ruefully.

''Sometimes I have been second, as opposed to first.''

For Mr James, now a fisherman on a charter boat at Moeraki, the trip back to his home territory of the Strath Taieri was a welcome diversion.

''It gets you away from the missus. She's quite excited I'm away for three days. Everyone's happy,'' he confided.

He left his dogs at home, describing them as ''too rough'', but he did once win a maiden event with Ben at Middlemarch, although it was quite a few years ago.

Ben was probably not quite so notorious as a big dog he once owned called Bill, who was trained to dig out nodding thistles.

There was no floor on the booth at the dog trials in those days, and Bill could dig it up on command.

Mr James had been involved with a few other pranks, including tying a can of beer on to a sheep he released and sending it down for prominent Danseys Pass triallist, the inimitable Neville Hore, ''to wind his clock''.

Even on a cold day up the hill, it was hot work and hydration was necessary, Mr James said.

''We're quite happy to come up here in the morning. We don't get growled at by people down the way,'' Mr Carruthers said.

Down in the historic cookshop, built in the late 1860s, Michelle Holland and her team of helpers were churning out meals and morning and afternoon teas for hungry triallists. Cold meat, salads and potatoes were on the menu for lunch.

She was full of praise for her fellow helpers, saying it would not be possible without them. She usually budgeted for feeding 40-50 a day, but with the increased entries due to the centennial, she was looking at between about 60 and 70 meals.

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