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The sun was starting to sink as I drove up the winding driveway of “Gallanani” near the attractive, rural town of Esk. Flocks of white cockatoos scattered the sky and the tidy, classic homestead on the top of the hill was a welcome sight. Within minutes Mrs Drynan, a small, neat older woman, was telling me how her father used to compete in trotting events at the Ekka in the early 1910s, and how her great uncles used to win ribbons for their renowned Jersey Cattle. “I actually led one of the stud Jerseys in a Grand Parade when I was only 13 years of age”, she says in her matter of fact tone. Clearly, agricultural shows run strong in her blood.
Last week I had the explicit honour of sitting down with the first female president of the QCAS (Queensland Chamber of Agricultural Societies), Mrs Estelle Drynan, for a cuppa on her family’s cattle breeding property North West of Brisbane. Over homemade scones and biscuits, Mrs Drynan shared with me her journey to her current role, and a number of Ekka stories. Her country hospitality and sheer pride in her family’s participation in the QLD shows made for a warm afternoon.
It’s not only Mrs Drynan who grew up with the Ekka. Her husband John has also spent his childhood and adult life participating in local and state shows. In 1967 John & Estelle announced their engagement at the “Bushwackers Ball”, held in City Hall during Ekka. Both sides have competed numerous times in the Horse sections and this year it’s her grandchildren who are riding ponies. But I was curious to hear how a stud competitor from Esk became the first female president of QCAS.
Clearly the road to president ties in closely with Mrs Drynan’s commitment to community. Apart from her role in QCAS, she’s also is President of her local Country Women’s Association (CWA). She’s also previously been involved with Meals on Wheels & her local Red Cross. But for the QCAS it was an organic progression, and not a job for the faint hearted. “We’ve got 128 shows, and they’re broken into 11 sub-chambers. What I hope to do is visit as many of the sub-chamber meetings that I can”. That’s a lot of travelling.
Those 128 shows are spread out from Mt Isa & Roma, north to Townsville, and south to Gold Coast. For one woman in her late prime this does seem quite ambitious. I asked Mrs Drynan what drives her involvement. Her response was very clear.
“I’m passionate about our immediate community. We want to see tradition kept alive while still being able to provide our little community with entertainment, and this is what a local show is all about. And to provide our younger generation with education. Milk doesn’t come from carton. It comes from a cow. If we don’t educate, they won’t know”
On this note I quizzed Mrs Drynan on the changes that have occurred over the years for the Ekka and the agricultural shows.
“I’ll tell you what hasn’t changed”, she said with a smile, “Everyone looks forward to having their hotdog and their ice-cream at the Ekka”
As the sun set further Mrs Drynan continued to share with me stories of her family and the shows. She showed me photos of winning cows and grandchildren on ponies. I wanted to stay and hear more. We took some photos and before I knew it, an hour and a half had passed and I was saying goodbye. I had a bellyful of scones and some sound advice on the best day to attend the Ekka. Between you and me, it’s Friday 11th August. Straight from the President herself.
Author: Cat Cookson
Images: Taken at the Drynan Residence