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Lost at the Show

Posted on : 31 January 2017

WORDS: Vicki Hastrich
Article first appeared RAS Times November 2016

A Royal Agricultural Society (RAS) Heritage series by Vicki Hastrich
While operational policing has always been an important part of the compact, NSW Police have traditionally joined in the fun of the Show, taking part in activities which go above and beyond normal duties. Over 120 years an interconnected relationship has developed between the force and the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW (RAS), to the mutual benefit of both organisations.

For a wily, cash-strapped junior in need of refreshment, taking yourself off to the Lost Children’s Tent at the 1950 Show was a good option. That year the 700 lost children who visited the tent consumed more than 60 dozen bottles of drink, 24 gallons of milk, 1000 ice creams, 12 dozen chocolates and innumerable tins of biscuits.

Traditionally, police looked after lost children at the Show at their on-site police station, but by the 1920s there were days when the station was chaos. To handle increasing numbers police pitched a tent, which was staffed each year by ‘matrons’. Police reports indicate that most stays were short with parents turning up within ten to fifteen minutes. Given the generosity of the hospitality, waiting was usually not too traumatic. In 1909, however, there was one tragic case where the parents of a two-year-old boy could not be found. When public appeals yielded nothing, authorities assumed he’d been abandoned. The child, too young to identify himself, was given the name Sidney Moore, after the Showground. After a short stay in a State institution he was adopted by a family of means, though how he ultimately fared is unknown.

Thankfully, happier stories abound. When a photograph of police escorting a lost boy was reprinted in 2003, the young tyke in question came forward to identify himself. He was Victor King – well and truly grown up – and obviously none the worse for his adventure.

Read Part One: RAS join the Force
Read Part Two: Police museum on Show
Read Part Three: May the Force be with you
Read Part Four: RAS the Horse