Origins of Manilla Vintage Machinery Group
Manilla builder Peter Grill toured England in the late 1980s and visited a number of vintage machinery rallies. He was impressed, and thought there was no reason that Manilla couldn’t do something similar.
With a couple of other interested people, he visited the Armidale vintage club to seek advice, then put an ad in the Manilla Express on 13th of June 1989, calling a meeting to be held in Louis Johnson House on 16th of June.
Peter recalls that about 30 people turned up, eight of whom are still members in 2019.
The first formal meeting of the new club was on 7th of July 1989. Peter Grill was elected president, and held the position for several years. Ross White became secretary, Doug Goddard treasurer, and George Parris vice president.
Unfortunately we don’t have original documentation of the attendance at these first two meetings, but members have reconstructed it since, and have agreed that those with continuous membership from the start are:
Peter Grill, Alan Cameron, Jim Liddle, Tony Russell, Denyce Roach, Ken Roach, George Parris and David Jones. Graham McCallum joined soon afterwards. All these stalwarts of the Group have been recognised with life membership.
At that first formal meeting, tentative arrangements were made to hold a rally at the Manilla Showground in June 1990. And so it has been every year since.
Long-term treasurer David Jones recalls that the machinery display at the first rally didn’t quite cover the small triangle between the main gate and the viaduct, and that the Soil Conservation Service had a big display of its work and the earthmoving machines it used.
The club called itself ‘Manilla Historical Society – Vintage Machinery Group’ until its annual general meeting in August 1992, when it confidently proclaimed its new identity – Manilla Vintage Machinery Group Inc. At this stage its first constitution was drawn up with the assistance of Ian Bennett.
Many of those who joined in the early years remain active in the Group and, along with more recent additions, form the backbone of our continuing success. With membership edging towards 200 in 2019, Manilla Vintage Machinery Group Inc. has become a key part of the regional scene.
Graham McCallum believes that equality among members is a big factor in our success. “The professional and the battler are welcomed and treated the same”, he says, “and all are valued for their knowledge and skill”.
He also notes that the lack of competition among rally exhibitors means that every machine is admired without comparison with the next one, and that all members are keen to share their experience, and in many cases hardware.
Denyce and Ken Roach run a major raffle at each rally, and say the friendly and helpful nature of the members keeps them coming back each year. “Every machine is restored to the best of the owner’s ability, and is appreciated by other members”, they say.
Alan Cameron says his special interest of making models of ploughs and wagons shows the wide-ranging interest of members.
Tony Russell’s contribution to our rallies is organising the street parade, which takes a long line of tractors and vehicles from the showground to the main street of Manilla and back. There was no parade at the first rally, but they started very soon afterwards, and for many people of Manilla have become the public face of the Group.
Our strength allows us to help other organisations. We are regular donors to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service, the Manilla Pre-School, and the Children’s Hospital at Westmead which, though a long way away, has a close association with families of the district. We are also there to give a hand to small local organisations and people when they need it.