Attending every Ekka since 1939

A stubborn steer at the Ekka.
A stubborn steer at the Ekka. Contributed

HE HAS been attending the Ekka every year since 1939, but Ken Crotty still loves show time.

"Oh, I look forward to it every year,” the honorary council steward said.

In fact, there was still a note of disappointment in his voice when he recalled the week in the 50s when he only had the chance to attend one show day out of the seven.

"That was in 1951. I only got to go on the Monday because I had the call-up for National Service. I was 18 then. So that year I only went for the one day,” he said.

"I have gone every year except for the year they didn't have one in 1942. That was when the army was camped up there.”

In celebration of the Royal Queensland Show's 140th year, an online forum has been launched for residents to submit their own historic Ekka photos.

Ken Crotty has been attending the Royal Brisbane Show every year since 1939.
Ken Crotty has been attending the Royal Brisbane Show every year since 1939. David Kelly

As the competition is all about reflecting on years gone by, the Rural Weekly chatted to Mr Crotty to learn from an expert about the trends he has noticed within the show ring.

After beginning his apprenticeship as a butcher in 1946 as a 14-year-old, Mr Crotty spent 17 years in the trade before studying to become a meat inspector for the Department of Primary Industries in Queensland.

By 1968 he became more involved with the Ekka, helping organise a pen-of- three carcase competition.

That competition was for yield, and the stock entered were quite different to kinds of cattle that are judged today.

"At one time they all had full mouths, so six teeth, so that would make them three years old,” he said.

Heavier and older cattle presented for judging phased out as meat-consuming trends evolved.

"It's much smaller cuts of meat now, and that's what the local people want. They don't want big slices of meat, they want a smaller cut to put on the plate,” he said.

A horse team in the main arena at the Ekka in 1925.
A horse team in the main arena at the Ekka in 1925. Contributed

"Now, when we get to our led-steer carcases they are all milk teeth, so 18 months of age,” he said.

While the grand parade at the Ekka now has cattle from just about every beef breed in Australia, Mr Crotty remembers when there were only common breeds like herefords, short horns, angus and devons on display.

"A lot of the European breeds have now filtered into Australia,” he said.

Prominent crossbreeds, as well as popular beef breed charolais, Canadian breed speckle parks and the Australian founded murray greys all had a presence at the current shows, he said.

Now, aged in his 80s, Mr Crotty is as busy as ever with show duties. Last week he was weighing cattle at Dalby that were being prepared for the 2018 Ekka.

Mr Crotty said his "country blood” had been what had sustained his passion for the Ekka and the cattle industry over the years. His mum grew up in the bush, and his dad in Kyogle.

Although he grew up in Brisbane, his family attended the show every year when he was a kid. In the late 30s to early 40s, Mr Crotty remembers show bags being free.

"They were free samples of little chocolates and lollies,” he said.

Historic photos of two girls getting early samples of show bags in the 1940s.
Historic photos of two girls getting early samples of show bags in the 1940s. Contirbuted


THE Ekka is celebrating a remarkable milestone, and to commemorate its 140th anniversary organisers are asking all show-goers to send through historical photos. An online history portal has now opened up on the Ekka website.

Photos uploaded before the end of June will go in a draw to win an Ekka Family Pass. Sharing your stories is as simple as creating them - just take a photo of an original historic image, caption it with a brief description and the year it was taken, and submit it for approval. Heritage photos will appear in the image library on the Ekka website, where visitors can view pictures of a long ago era - colonial Brisbane in the early 1900s.

The Ekka has a special place in Queensland childhoods, bringing country and city families together for the 10 days of show to create lifelong memories.

Topics:  cattle ekka herefords