In the mid-1950s, Mr George Coleman, a Taree businessman and landowner at Bulga, for some time had imported orchids from India. In conjunction with Mrs Kerr he decided to seek support in forming an orchid society in Taree.
In August 1957, a meeting was called and the Manning River Orchid Society was formed.
Mr Jack Folkard was appointed president, George Coleman secretary, Mrs Simpson treasurer and Mr Dick Boyce as publicity officer, a position he held for many years.
Others present at this meeting or early meetings were Mr Eric McGregor, Mr and Mrs Keith Folkard, Mr and Mrs Mick Wrigley, Mr and Mrs John Bury, Mr Arthur Beal, Mr Reg Dowling, Mrs Marcia McCarthy, Miss Isabel Perrot, Mr Bruce Johnson, a current member, Mr Kerr and Mr and Mrs E Wedmore.
A 76-year-old man, Mr C P Whatson of River Street, Taree, a reluctant exhibitor, won the grand champion award of the first Manning River Orchid Society show held at the Methodist Church hall in Albert Street on Tuedday, September 30, 1958. The cymbidium, Louis Sander ‘Kirribilli’ was his first success in an orchid show.
The reserve champion was exhibited by Mr F W Hibble of Forster. It was a magnificent Cygnus ‘Opalscent’.
There were more than 200 entries, as well as non-competitive displays at the exhibition.
With exhibitors from Newcastle to Lismore, some intending exhibitors had to be turned away because of lack of space.
The blooms were valued at almost £4000 (pounds).
The society was supported by many including Mr Harry Bond, an orchid exporter and cymbidium nurseryman and judge from Newcastle. As well as judging he provided many cymbidium plants for local growers.
Another Newcastle identity, Mr Bill Redriff provided many show plans and helpful advice to members.
Mr Frank Slattery, an orchid nurseryman of Sydney, also visited in the capacity of president of the New South Wales Orchid Society, providing advice and many cultural hints to local members.
Being the only orchid society over a large area, the club had members attending meetings and shows from Wingham, Wauchope, Kendall, Laurieton, Gloucester and Forster.
In 1964 the membership of the society was an incredible 115 full and three junior members.
Later the Manning River Orchid Society was involved in the formation of orchid societies of the Hastings and Great Lakes.
Fast forward to 2017 and the society celebrated its diamond anniversary at its spring show on August 31 and September 1. The society still flourishes with a membership of more than 40.
- Manning River Orchid Society meets on the fourth Tuesday at 7.30pm at the Uniting Church Hall, Albert Street, Taree. Contact: Terry Russ, phone 0429 650 590.