Macksville Gift's: proud history

JACK FLASH: 2014 Macksville Gift winner Jack Newman has been a strong supporter of the event for many a year. Photo: Stuart Scott
JACK FLASH: 2014 Macksville Gift winner Jack Newman has been a strong supporter of the event for many a year. Photo: Stuart Scott

THE 64TH Macksville Gift will be run on Saturday, November 11, and the carnival will see a gathering of professional athletes from across the country, aspiring Olympians, and a few locals who would like to win some prize money.

The first Gift was held in 1953 in front of a crowd of 1200 people. The track in those days was created in the centre of the show ground. It was around this time that Macksville had two hotels, five banks, two bakers, a cordial manufacturer, a butter factory and abattoir. Macksville High School had just been established.

The manager of the English, Scottish and Australian Bank, Athol Dane, tried hard to persuade local organisations to support the concept of a “Gift” modelled on the famous Stawell Gift – with no success.

In desperation he approached the local assistant parish priest, Father Russell Redford, who was himself trying to raise funds for the construction of a Catholic Church in Nambucca.

Neither of these men had the know how to organise such an event but a local man by the name of Keith Eyles who was heavily involved in rugby league did, and so the Macksville Gift was born.

There were many traditions that were formed as part of the Gift over the 64 years. Some have had to be changed as the years rolled on however still today the finishing ‘chute’ remains, the finals are held under lights, and a street procession is part of the day’s festivities.

Races are now run over 120/70metres and the track runs diagonally over the Macksville Gillett Oval. The once popular Queens competition has been replaced by a Princess competition.

Across the valley there are buildings and equipment which have been funded by the Macksville Gift.

Macksville Swimming Pool, Nambucca Catholic Church, the hospital and more recently the dialysis unit plus hundreds of other charities have all benefited from the foresight of Dane, Redford and Eyles.

Come Saturday week, the community is encouraged to come and watch the old athletes such as Ritchie Donovan and Lennie Duroux run once again. Watch the Hannah family – Michael (who won last year) or Tim Eschebach blast down the track.

Age means nothing, it is all up to the handicapper and the speed of the runner.

Come 8pm we will be all talking about the speed and fitness of this year’s runners as the 64th 2017 Macksville Gift draws to an end.