Back after beating odds

Returning to show his romneys

PENNY WARDLE
Last updated 16:00 08/11/2012
Alastair Campbell
Emma Allen

Show perfect: Alastair Campbell has been showing romney sheep at the Marlborough A&P Show for more than half a century. He will be back tomorrow and Saturday joined by family, including two grandsons, Angus, 4, left, and Huw Cotching, 2.

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Rapaura farmer Alastair Campbell counts himself lucky to be showing sheep at the Marlborough A&P Show tomorrow.

The 74-year-old spent a month in Wellington Hospital this year after a triple bypass and heart valve replacement operation. Family members were called in to say goodbye but Mr Campbell beat the odds and is back on the land.

Half a century of showing romney sheep began at the side of his father Mac, a herd tester who came to New Zealand from the Isle of Islay, in Scotland, in 1928 with £30 in his pocket and bought a farm at nearby Hillocks Rd.

Under Alastair and his wife Louise's management, then ownership, the farm has expanded to include another Spring Creek property and two near Seddon supporting three families.

After developing about a third of their land into vineyards, Mr Campbell missed three or four shows. However, the former A&P Association and New Zealand Romney Council member and Royal Show judge is back exhibiting with help from son Stuart and son-in-law Bryn.

For him, the show is about enjoying the atmosphere and spending time with family and friends, Mr Campbell said. That's a change from the days when he bred stud romney sheep and there was deadly - but fun - rivalry between breeders, including the late Bill Williams.

"Sometimes it was not the best sheep but the best showman that won," he recalls.

Mr Campbell loved his stud but demand fell away as vineyards took over Marlborough's best lamb breeding and finishing country. Nowadays he buys rams from Bill Williams' son Ike, who runs the Waidale romney stud at Pleasant Point in Canterbury.

This year the Campbells have entered sheep in five classes.

"The modern romney would have been considered a bit plain in the past and today we would describe those old-time sheep as a bit dolly-ish," Mr Campbell said.

He likes the show because it helps break down the widening urban-rural divide.

"It is a way of keeping the rest of the community in touch with agriculture and showing them this is still our biggest export."

The 140th Marlborough A&P Show opens tomorrow at 7.30am with dog trials, moving into pony classes, sheep and dairy judging. On Saturday, stock to be judged include beef cattle, pigs and poultry as well as sheep and wool, with the grand parade at 2.30pm.

Blenheim rock band Helter Skelter will entertain from 7 o'clock on Friday night and through the two days performers will include country rock artist JamesRay, singer, actor and dance performer Jason Chasland, Craven Noble and the Blenheim Country Music Club.

Gate sales cost $12 for an adult, $5 for a child or $25 for a family or $5 for Friday night's entertainment.

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- The Marlborough Express

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