During March 1892, several residents of Wagga took the unusual step of organising a Tug-of-War competition, and not surprisingly, the event captured the imagination of the entire town.
Between March 19 and March 29, Oddfellows Hall was filled to capacity, often with female spectators outnumbering the men, to see local teams battle it out. The make-up of the teams was quite diverse with many men representing teams based on their country of origin, birth or heritage. Other teams, like the pictured Lake Albert Farmers, were from similar occupations or trades.
Each team paid a deposit of £5 to nominate, and by the first night of competition the ten teams assembled were: Australia, England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Town and Country, Agents, Infantry, Riverine Laborers and the Lake Albert Farmers.
Of all the rivalries that surely existed between the different teams, one appears to have been the most intense. The teams representing the Lake Albert Farmers and Ireland first competed against each other on Saturday evening March 26, 1892. After a tiring three hours neither side had achieved victory, and owing to the late hour (midnight) the pull was declared a draw.
Two days later on March 28 a rematch was held between the same two teams to determine which team would progress through to the finals. The pull began at 9pm as it had the previous Saturday evening with a shot from the starter’s pistol. The two teams battled back and forth, gaining and then losing advantages. Amazingly, when the time reached midnight, three hours into the struggle, the teams were even again just as they had started, however this time there had to be a result.
Incredibly, the contest was only decided after an astounding five and a quarter hours! At around 2.15am, the Irish team finally triumphed over the exhausted farmers from Lake Albert. What makes this story even more remarkable is the fact that the Lake Albert Farmers team gave away an incredible weight advantage to their Irish opponents. Whilst the Irish team averaged 14 stone (89kg) each, the farmers averaged only 11 stone 4 pounds (71.5kg) in weight!
Both the duration of the Tug-of-War and the respective weights of the two teams were verified by both the details written on the back of the original photo and the information published in The Daily Advertiser on March 29 and 31, 1892. The wonderful photo of the Lake Albert Farmers team was donated to the CSU Regional Archives by Mr Bill Bullivant from Cowra in 1987.
For the record, the Irish team finished in third place overall behind the Riverine Laborers and England, no doubt exhausted from their record breaking battles with the farmers from Lake Albert.