Contributed by Debbie Ravanello, RAHS Member
My great grandmother was Australian born; a descendant of an English convict. The family eventually made their way to the Monaro district settling in Adaminaby and it was there that my great grandmother Ada Elizabeth Blinman met and married my great grandfather Harry Ah Lick in 1900. Harry had immigrated from China around 1890. Harry and Ada raised their family in Gegedzerick and Dalgety where he grew his own vegetables which he sold to the local community. He tendered a small garden market plot. My grandmother said that her father told her of stories of entering into the local shows with some of his friends with lots of banter amongst them during the year as to who would produce the best vegetables for the next show.
Harry Ah Lick entered his produce in the Vegetable category in the shows organised by the Berridale and the Cooma Pastoral and Agricultural Societies. He was one of many successful exhibitors in 1892 and then again in 1899-1902. His winning produce covered a collection of vegetables at the shows, often ranking first or second. He produced quality potatoes, pumpkins, tomatoes, marrow, celery, carrots, parsnips, beans, peas, rhubarb, beetroot, lettuce and turnips.
My research turned to the gap between 1893 and 1899 as I wondered why Harry’s name had not appeared as a show exhibitor and/or prize winner.
I found two interesting articles in the local newspaper The Monaro Mercury, and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser (NSW: 1862 – 1931). The newspaper on 7th May 1892 featured the Minutes of the Berridale Pastoral & Agricultural Association meeting. A motion was proposed and carried, that “Chinese be not allowed to become members of the Association, nor to compete at the shows.” In a few letters to the editor later that week there were strong complaints against this decision and challenged the legality of the Association’s decision. I could not find any further articles on the matter. I am unsure of whether this decision was changed.
Then seven years later, in April 1899 at the Cooma Pastoral & Agricultural (P&A) Annual Show, Harry is an exhibitor and places 1st for some of the produce in the Vegetable category. Later that year (October 1899), the Cooma P&A Association held a meeting to plan for the next year’s Cooma country show, and records show a member saying “he thought there should be a separate class for Chinese gardeners who competed at the show”. Another member said “if a Chinaman made his living by gardening he was not entitled to compete against amateurs.” – as far as I can find, no motion was passed.
In 1901 and 1902 Harry again is an exhibitor and ranks 1st and 2nd. It is noted in the newspaper the week after the show by the Cooma P&A Association that “In the vegetable section there were some excellent specimens of all classes, the most successful competitors being Chinese gardeners.”
I cannot find any mention after that year of my great grandfather in any competition at the local country shows from then on and I am not sure if this is because he entered the competitions but his produce was not competitive enough or whether it was because he was a Chinese market gardener making a living from his produce and was not allowed to participate.
My grandmother said that her father adopted a more “Australian” last name for himself and his family in the early 1900s and so he became known as Harry Leck.
 The Monaro Mercury, and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser, 26 March 1892, p.5 <https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/119414439>; The Monaro Mercury, and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser, 9 April 1892, p.8 <https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/119417422>
 The Monaro Mercury, and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser, 7 May 1892, p.8 <https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/119415337>
 The Monaro Mercury, and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser, 10 May 1892, p.6 <https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/119417001>; The Monaro Mercury, and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser, 17 May 1892, p.3 <https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/119417095>
 Monaro Mercury, and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser, 14 April 1899, p.3 <https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/119026397>
 Monaro Mercury, and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser, 6 October 1899, p.2 <https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/119026523>
 Monaro Mercury, and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser, Friday 29 March 1901, p.2 <https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/119046299>; Monaro Mercury, and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser, Friday 21 March 1902, p.2 <https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/119041837>
 Monaro Mercury, and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser, Friday 29 March 1901, p.2 <https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/119046299>
A version of this contribution appears in History Magazine no. 153 (September 2022)