Tom Kirk grew up at Mt Wilson, surrounded by trees and immersed in a family culture that valued and selectively exploited the forest. He worked in his father's sawmill alongside his brothers and became a world champion axeman. With one brother, he also won wood-sawing competitions. The objects he donated to the Museum represent his participation and achievements in these entertaining contests of strength and skill. They also represent the era in which Tom grew up, before chain saws greatly reduced the labour involved in timber-getting and before forests were routinely clear-felled, destroying habitat and leading to erosion and pest incursion.
The axe, saw, wedge and tree-felling board represent the tools that Tom and fellow contestants used in competitions. The axe is also a prize that he valued and kept, along with the ribbons and medals, and the program gives us a glimpse of how the competitions were organised and of the respect accorded to past winners and officials. The clothing represents the uniformity of dress expected of the axemen. The words 'Hytest Axe' on one shirt, along with sponsors' names on several ribbons and one medal, remind us that amateur sport has long needed commercial sponsors to be viable.
Debbie Rudder, Curator, 2013