An interesting recent addition to the Museum and Historical Society’s object collection was the McFarlane Shield for Agricultural Science. Made in 1917, the shield first belonged to the Education Board and was then passed on to the Canterbury Horticultural Society in 1989 when the Education Board closed. The shield was awarded to schools showing the best improvement in agriculture or dairying, or combined, and care of grounds and buildings including a scheme of beautification.
It was competed for by primary schools of Canterbury and judged by the chairman of the Education Board, the chief inspector and the chief instructor of agriculture. It was first presented in 1917 to the Carlton School; a school of 23 pupils under the headmastership of a Mr W J Sloane (Christchurch Sun. Vol. IV (1275) March 14, 1918). This school was near Oxford but the shield’s instigator was Andrew McFarlane of ‘Glenara’ at Alford Forest, and it was designed by Mr T Stagpoole, headmaster of Springburn school in 1917.
Who was McFarlane?
A pioneer of the Ashburton District, Andrew McFarlane was born in Stirling, Scotland in 1835 and is listed in the Alford Forest section of the Cyclopedia of New Zealand (1903) as a farmer at ‘Glenara’. He had published in serial form an autobiographical sketch of his life – a fascinating insight into life in Canterbury and Ashburton District in 1860!
He was an apprenticed and qualified blacksmith who came to NZ in 1860 with his wife, and along with George Thompson of Thompsons track fame became one of the early blacksmiths in the Ashburton County. His third son, (also Andrew) worked out of Lyndhurst with William Cook in 1887. Mrs McFarlane died in 1912 aged 76 and is buried in the Alford Forest cemetery. Her obituary was published in the Ashburton Guardian March 6, 1912 under the heading of “An Old Pioneer”.
Andrew McFarlane gave up blacksmithing and became a farmer grazing and fattening sheep on a 4,500-acre property at ‘Glenara’. He was a member of the Mt Hutt Road Board and a member of the Ashburton County Council for two terms. He was also chairman of the Alford Forest school committee hence his dedication to establishing the Shield named after him.
One claim to dubious fame was that it was McFarlane’s property that was subdivided into quarter acre plots in the false ‘diamond rush’ of 1883! McFarlane died in December 1926 aged 90 leaving four sons, three daughters, 34 grandchildren and 25 great grandchildren.
On each side of the top are figures of a bull’s head and horses head with a scroll of roses and oak leaves. The shield has been won by 34 different schools with Willowby 9 times and Weedons 8 times. Other local district schools to have won the shield are: Rokeby, Lowcliffe, Lismore, Mayfield, Lyndhurst, Flemington, Fairton, Westerfield, Ruapuna, Eiffelton and Anama; take a bow.
The last record placed on the shield was in 2001 with Lismore school and Mr A D G Thomson as principal.
By Glenn Vallender
This post was modified for this blog and was originally published in the Ashburton Guardian, 26 December 2020.
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