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RAS join the Force

Posted on : 25 January 2017

WORDS: Vicki Hastrich
Article first appeared RAS Times November 2016

Part One in 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.

RAS join the Force
Close ties were first forged with the Mounted Police Unit, who became early neighbours of the Moore Park Showground, but as the Show’s effectiveness as a forum to connect with the public was recognised, other arms of the Force got involved.

In 1901 the NSW Mounted Police found themselves in urgent need of a home. Turfed out of their Belmont Park barracks to make way for the construction of Central Railway Station, they found temporary accommodation at the Moore Park Showground while new stables were built – just a short clop away in Baptist Street, Redfern. The stables were completed in 1907 and that same year the Mounties performed their first Musical Ride at the Show, perhaps as a thank you to their hosts. A drill and sword display had been performed by the Mounted Unit in 1895, but adding the NSW Police Band to the mix was a clincher. From the outset, main arena crowds loved the combination of riding routines set to music and the Musical Ride has endured ever since as one of the great traditions of the Show.

For the Mounties, the event is important from a training perspective. and no doubt this has helped ensure its survival. Intensive pre-Show rehearsals sharpen skills used all year; in a crowd control situation or a demonstration, precise team-work and co-ordination between horse and rider could be life saving. Competition between troopers for trophies in six police horse classes at the Show is another incentive to hone horsemanship skills.

Police no longer compete in the tentpegging competition, but when the event was reintroduced in 1969 their participation was instrumental in getting the sport back up and running. The tentpegging perpetual trophy is known as the Golden Livermore Lance, named in memory of former Mounted Police Commander, Sergeant Ron Livermore. Police teams won the Lance on eight occasions. The event remains the most prestigious on the Australian tentpegging calendar.

On the back of the Mounties’ success, other units began to perform at the Show, demonstrating their abilities and law enforcement techniques to the public. The Dog Unit, formed in 1932, was the first to follow and in 1972 the Police Motor Cycle Display Squad debuted.

With the move of the Showground to Homebush the closeness of the relationship between the RAS and NSW Police could easily have changed, especially in an era of user pays. But good leadership on both sides prevailed and special agreements were made in regard to the Mounties, who were no longer near neighbours. To offset the cost of services provided at the Show, the RAS offered the Mounted Unit year-round access to stabling. These facilities are used as a second base when on operational patrol in the western suburbs. It’s a nice echo of former days when the Mounties needed a home. 

Read Part Two: Police museum on Show
Read Part Three: May the Force be with you
Read Part Four: RAS the Horse
Read Part Five: Lost at the Show


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