Tears and joy for special show prize

One of the great joys of the Kyneton Show is the joy that fills the pavilion when people run in to see their entries on display, squealing with delight to discover a prize card, even a coveted aggregate championship or best in show sash.

But there’s a story behind some of the special prizes.

For 10 years the winner of the aggregate prize in photography, for the most first and second prizes across the competition, has won a sash awarded in memory of Nash Dudley. Few of the recipients would know the story behind their award.

Long-time committee member and chief pavilion steward, Renai Dudley and husband Craig sponsor the annual prize, named after their baby boy who died through stillbirth on December 4, 2009 at 21 weeks.

It was Craig’s birthday and he faced the possibility of not only losing his son, but also seeing his wife die.

She survived and Renai says they consoled themselves, grateful to have three healthy older children. But they have never forgotten their last child.

“In a sense, I am lucky we had Nash when we did because we had the opportunity to hold him, to have a little service. We know where he is. But we even had one doctor say we will just dispose of him for you. It’s still my child. Even after they found out it had all gone wrong people told us to go home and try again.”

“You feel like you are alone. It is good for people to realise but people don’t talk about it and everybody sort of forgets,” Renai said. 

Renai and Craig Dudley have just marked the 10th anniversary of the day they lost their tiny boy. 

The question of how many children do you have remains fraught, even now. “It’s the worst question in the world,” Renai said. “I say, ‘We have a 17-year-old, one who’s 16, a girl who’s 12 and one in our hearts’.

“When a person dies who was alive, there are photos of them, they are in other people’s memories,” Renai said. “They are friends and colleagues. So their name will be remembered by other people because of the relationship other people had with them.

“Unfortunately when a baby is stillborn you are the only ones who have had that relationship.

“Nash lives on in us but he wasn’t known to anyone else. The sash is a way of trying to keep his memory alive in others, so they still know his name, that he’s acknowledged. “

For the nine years since, Renai’s sister Nicole Laity has entered a swag of entries in the photography competition, her favourite section of the show. She’s been desperate to win one particular prize – the sash named after the nephew the world never got to know.

“It’s a reason to say his name. It’s a reason to talk about him, to see his name in print every year,” Nicole said.

Nicole was one of the few who saw Nash. “He wasn’t just our child,” Renai said. “Nicole was his aunty.

“Every year, Nicole always says, ‘I was thinking about you’ on the day,” Renai said. “It makes me tear up, in a good way, that someone else thought about him. It’s heart-warming to think somebody has remembered him.”

So there were tears and much joy – on all sides – when Nicole walked into the pavilion this year to discover she had, finally, won the photography competition and therefore the award carrying the name of her sister’s last child: the Aggregate Prize awarded in Memory of Nash Dudley.

“When Renai and Craig first proposed that ribbon and that aggregate for photography, that’s something I really wanted to win,” Nicole said. “It’s taken me that long – and I have tried every year,” Nicole said.

As chief steward, Renai oversees the entire pavilion, loving the atmosphere of excitement as adults and children rush in to find their entries. Seeing her sister finally win the sash named after Nash was a standout this year.

“It’s lovely to see someone who has been aiming for it for nine years – and the emotion involved in achieving that dream,” Renai said.

“From a personal point of view, it was wonderful to see someone get it who appreciates the meaning of it, the meaning behind the ribbon.”

“It means so much to (Renai and Craig) and it means so much to my family,” Nicole said.

“I think it’s important for the family. It helps healing and hopefully other families who have gone through the same thing.”


One thought on “Tears and joy for special show prize

  • December 14, 2019 at 8:55 am

    I was lucky enough to spend a little time in the pavilion this year with my aunty-in law, Rita O’Sullivan. She told me some of the stories about people who have prizes named in their honour, and she carefully looked for the entries of special friends.
    I have really enjoyed the Midland Express’s reporting about the show, and this is another excellent article. Thank you for explaining the story behind the Nash Dudley prize. Sharing their story and their words so well is a way of furthering the positive impact of Nash’s parents’ beautiful idea.


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