Farmers to relive 'Bloody Friday'

Reunion marks 35th anniversary of protest

TERRI RUSSELL
Last updated 15:00 06/06/2013

2013 Bloody Friday anniversary

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Almost a third of Southland farmers who ran their starving sheep through Invercargill's city centre in 1978 before killing them in protest will reunite at the Invercargill Workingmen's Club this weekend.

The protesters will gather for the 35th anniversary of "Bloody Friday", when about 300 farmers ran 1300 starving ewes down Dee St before slaughtering them on a Victoria Ave section.

Farmers were frustrated by industrial chaos across the meat industry, worsened by the worst drought much of the province had seen since 1956.

Protest leader Syd Slee said about 160 people were expected to attend the reunion, and of those, he estimated about 80 were protesters.

"We're looking forward to it.

"I feel proud of what we achieved - for more settled industrial conditions for the future. It was dramatic, but it made politicians and the union take notice," Mr Slee said.

In the first half of 1978 there were only four days in which all four Southland freezing works were operating. The stoppages meant Southland's kill was about 700,000 behind the previous season.

Former television presenter John Gordon will MC the event, and guest speakers will include former editor of The Southland Times Clive Lind and Prime Range Meats managing director Anthony Forde.

Protest spokesman Owen Buckingham said it was a significant day in Southland's history. The reunion will include the screening of videos, as well as talks from protesters and a book launch.

Author and event organiser Dr June Slee was teaching at Gore High School when all of her four brothers took part in the protest.

In 1979 she published a "modest little account" of the protest and returned to Southland earlier this year to write a more in-depth edition titled Bloody Friday Revisited: Recollections of the 1978 Southland Farmers' Protest.

The book includes interviews with almost 50 protesters and will be launched at the event. Proceeds from the book and the reunion will go to Southland Hospice.

The reunion will be held at the Invercargill Workingmen's Club from 4pm on Saturday, June 8.

Registrations cost $50 and can be made by contacting Syd Slee on 03 249 7085.

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- The Southland Times

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