An historic gift to Macksville

Image sourced from NSW Athletics League. The 66th Macksville Gift will run at Scotts Head on Feb 29.
Image sourced from NSW Athletics League. The 66th Macksville Gift will run at Scotts Head on Feb 29.

The rescheduled 66th Annual Macksville Gift is fast approaching, on February 29. The event has such a rich and valued history that hellfire itself could not prevent the Valley's premier footrace from striding 'ever onward'.

It was Dot Eyles, wife of Gift progenitor Keith, who penned that very motto in a competition held in 1954, the ten bob winnings dutifully reinvested into the event.

But it was in 1953 that Athol Dane first hatched the idea to run a footrace in Macksville. Mr Dane was the manager of the English, Scottish and Australian Bank, and a former resident of Stawell, which boasts Australia's most prestigious footrace.

Ironically, the inaugural running of the Macksville institution was conceived as a fundraiser for the construction of a Nambucca Heads institution - Our Lady Star of The Sea Catholic Church.

But Mr Eyles was adamant he would only organise the event if it was to become a lasting legacy for Macksville.

Keith Eyles and Athol Dane gave the gift of the Gift.

Keith Eyles and Athol Dane gave the gift of the Gift.

The first Gift took place on September 19, 1953, on a day blessed with the bluest skies - a good omen given the gamble of the event.

"When this programme goes to print the success or failure of the Macksville GIft is still in the lap of the Gods"," Mr Eyles had written.

But special attention had also been paid to ensure the event's success, which included an innovative advertising campaign of a boat moored in the middle of the river near the Macksville Bridge brandishing the words - GIFT - leading many to ask what the meaning of this was. All other sport for the Nambucca had been cancelled on the day, in order to boost numbers. And a novel starting gate - believed to be the only one of its kind in the state - had been constructed as a 'gimmick' to entice even more of the perpetually curious.

There were 53 starters for the title race, and WJ Brickley from Grafton won the honour and the 50 pound purse in a time of 11.2 seconds from Alf Duncan of Bowraville.

But Mr Duncan didn't go home empty handed - he won "the Footballers 100 metres Event in Gear". Other local winners included Nambucca Heads' Tony Gillon who took out the 880 yards Championship and placed second in the 440 yards.

But the real winner on the day was the organising committee. The ladies' restaurant was so successful that finding a spare seat was a challenge, and the Gift's "profit target of 500 pounds was well and truly bettered when a cheque for 680 pounds was handed over to the Nambucca Heads Catholic Church Building Fund". From Brian J Smith's 'Fifty Years and Still Running - A History of the Macksville Gift'.

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