Monday, 22 April 2019

The Stawell Gift

Living in a family where sport was an important part of our life, I always knew that the Stawell Gift was run each year at Easter.

Since 1878 (except for four years during the Second World War) an athletics carnival has been held in Stawell with the feature race being the Stawell Gift. Since 1898 the event has been held at Central Park.
Central Park, Stawell - Heritage Council Victoria
My father, Ken Moses, was a sports' journalist in the late 1940s and the 1950s and one of the areas of sport that he covered, initially for The Sun News Pictorial then from 1950 for The Argus, was athletics, including the Stawell Gift. This meant that each year he would disappear to Stawell, in western Victoria, for several days. After The Argus ceased publication in January 1956 Dad maintained his interest in the Stawell Gift and continued to visit Stawell for this athletics carnival from time to time.

Searching in Trove for "Ken Moses" AND "Stawell Gift" produced 97 articles that Dad wrote about the Stawell Gift from 1950 to 1955. Some of these references to the Stawell Gift appeared throughout the year in his 'Why Keep it Quiet? column while there are also articles covering the event each year.

In 1955 an article written by Dad was published in The Argus Weekender (9 April 1955) - 'Anything happens at Stawell' where he recounted some of the more sensational events that had occurred  throughout the history of the race. (article)

Using Google I located an article available via PressReader published in the Seymour Telegraph 5 December 2012 entitled 'Full of Life'. The article was an interview with an 86 year old Les Pianta who had been involved in athletics in the 1940s. In the article Les described how he became the Stawell Gift favourite in 1947. "I won alot of races around this area, I got a bit of a name for myself and somehow or other this Ken Moses (Sports Editor of Melbourne's The Sun) got to hear about it and that's how it started." Les did not make the finals. I am sure that Dad would have been amused by the promotion to sports' editor if he had seen this article.

Many years later I worked with a colleague who had been involved with professional athletics as a runner and a trainer and who for many years had attended the Stawell Gift. He spoke of some of the journalists who regularly covered the event and knew of my father. I gained the impression that the Stawell Gift was a special place to be each year.

One afternoon we called into Stawell when exploring part of western Victoria and made a visit to Central Park. I wanted to see the place that was so special to many followers of athletics including Dad. My father had been dead for many years but I was able to visit a place where he had enjoyed working.

A number of books have been written about the Stawell Gift:
Murray Macpherson, Twelve seconds to glory: the official history of the Stawell Gift (2014)
Gary Watt. The Stawell Gift almanac: history of the Stawell Gift (2008)
John Perry. The quick and the dead: Stawell and its race through time (2002)

Additional information:
Stall Gift history
Heritage Council Victoria - Central Park, Stawell

A selection of 1940s and 1950s Stawell Gift finals available online:
Stawell Gift final - 1946 - YouTube
Stawell Gift final - 1947 - YouTube
Stawell Gift final - 1951 - YouTube
Stawell Gift final - 1953 - YouTube 

Selection of other years:
Stawell Gift final - 1927 - YouTube 
Stawell Gift finals - 1971-1989 - YouTube


  1. I enjoyed your blog story. Being an ex-Victorian and from a family who listened to the radio covering sport, etc., I knew about 'The Stawell Gift' at Easter also. But it was nice to read of your father's commitment and that you were able to visit Central Park.

  2. Such an iconic event each Easter, enjoyed watching it today.

  3. We always watch the Stawell Gift on television. Today, however, we needed to go out so ended up watching some of the events on my husband's phone when we stopped for a coffee. In the 1950s we could never have imagined that such a thing would be possible. However we did get home in time to watch the finals on TV.