Surprise planned to mark National Lamb Day

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National Lamb Day is being marked at Totara Estate on Sunday, though how exactly the occasion is being recognised is a surprise, organisers say.

The day is held to mark the first shipment of frozen sheep meat which set sail on the Dunedin from Port Chalmers to London on February 15, 1882.

Meat destined for England was slaughtered at Totara Estate, south of Oamaru, the site considered to be the birthplace of what would eventually become a huge industry for New Zealand, contributing $8.5 billion to the economy annually.

The 5000 sheep carcasses arrived in London 98 days later in excellent condition, though not without incident due to the challenges refrigeration posed.

Prior to the shipment, New Zealand mainly sold wool overseas, as no-one believed it was possible to have a thriving meat export business.

Estate property manager Anne Sutherland said the 133rd anniversary of the inaugural shipment would be recognised, but the exact nature of the event would not be revealed until the day itself.

“We will be marking the anniversary specifically to remind people what the history is. We’re working on our exact programme … but it’s a bit of a surprise.”

The estate’s annual country picnic is also taking place on Sunday, and Mrs Sutherland expects it to be as popular as in previous years.

“We’ve invited people to bring a picnic along. Devonshire teas will be offered and we’ll have live music from the Central Coast Country Music Association as well as games like skittles, horseshoes and a giant tug-of-war.”

She said a new addition to this year’s programme included traditional Victorian country dancing.

“Back in earlier days rural dances were popular and social occasions were a good opportunity for the young people in a rural area to meet their future husband or wife. Totara Estate picnic-goers will be invited on a historical dance journey starting with a simple renaissance circle dance, through a lively Regency polka, on to some early Victorian-era dances and right up to a more modern changing partner circular dance, the friendship waltz.”

The events take place between 11am and 3pm.

By Daniel Birchfield