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“Champion Softfeather Big Fowl”

These family heirlooms have a surprising connection to the Easter Show

When I was very little, my parents would take me and my brothers up to Terrigal on the central coast to visit my great-Grandmother. I remember her as ancient, shrunken with age, and to me a strange and intimidating figure with whom I had very little in common. The highlight of these trips for my brothers and I was that she’d usually give us a Freddo frog at the end of our visits.

After she died, my Dad kept some of her things including a set of brightly coloured china teacups, which we kept in a cabinet with the wine glasses, and an old tarnished tin cup with a mysterious inscription on it: “Manning River 1966 Champion Softfeather Big Fowl”. Much later on I found out where these came from.

Turns out, my great-grandparents used to keep chickens – not just any chickens, but prize-winning Rhode Island Reds, and they used to exhibit them at the Easter Show. Those teacups pictured above were a prize my great grandmother had won for her chickens many years ago, and as far as anyone knows she was so proud of them that she never, ever used them.

I learned most of this from my Dad. He has very fond memories of his grandparents from when he was growing up, although some of what he remembers is a little old-fashioned compared to what a lot of us are used to today. He remembers my great-grandfather took great care of his show chickens, stroking the hens to make them lift up their heads so they’d impress the judges. And he remembers that if any of the chooks weren’t quite up to snuff, his grandad would pop outside with the cleaver… and it’d be chicken for dinner.

Dad always thought it was funny that his grandmother never used the teacups she’d won all those years ago. Now, apart from the tin cup from Manning River, they’re all that’s left of her and her husband’s legacy. I guess it’s in her memory that Dad never uses them either.

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