- Posted September 24, 2012 by
New Ross, Ireland
President Higgins among 200,000 people coming to National Ploughing Championships in South East Ireland
President Higgins will attend on the opening day Tuesday at noon to perform the official opening of the championships.
The National Ploughing Championships provide the biggest annual social outing in Ireland, almost three times bigger than the internationally famous All Ireland Hurling finals, attracting urban and rural families and national celebrities to a giant festival of food, exhibitions of the latest farm machinery, social and cultural events and competitions. The nation’s political parties all have exhibition stands here.
Local leaders have said that based on a previous study by UCD- University College Dublin, the event will bring more than 40 million euro into the region which is beleaguered by the international recession. Exhibitors, tourists and visitors, TV crews, presenters, researchers and journalists from many national and international news organisations have taken up hotel and local bed and breakfast spaces including renting homes from farm families. Roads to and from the event are controlled by hundreds of Irish police (Gardai) and security firms.
Ploughing competitors will compete in using tractor and horse-drawn ploughs to plough more than 200 acres over the three day championships. The winners will receive prestigious trophies and prizes.
The ploughing venue, half of which is a huge tented town, dubbed ‘Plough Town Wexford’, is made up of two adjoining farms owned by Bridget O’Dwyer and her son David and neighbour Peter Kehoe. More than fifty local farmers have also opened their lands to accommodate free car parking and access for emergency and security services.
The venue is a few miles from the ancestral home of a native hero, former US president John F. Kennedy and The Dunbrody a replica of the ship which brought his grandfather from nearby Dunganstown to the USA in the 1840s is docked in New Ross town. Close by too in the local hotel, the quaintly named Horse and Hound, Ballinaboola, headquarters to many visitors to the championships, lives Ireland’s 2012 Olympian swimmer Grainne Murphy. On the adjoining Carrigbyrne Hill, 233 above sea-level, is the site of a rebel camp from the battles of 1798 in which more than 30,000 people died. Nearby, close to The Cedar Lodge Hotel, is Scullabogue, scene of a notorious massacre of 100 people in 1798. A monument recognised by road users on the N25 is the 94 feet tall Corinthian style tower, the Browne-Clayton monument, which commemorates Lord Abercrombie, friend of the farm owner in the Napoleonic Wars of 1799 to 1815. The famous Wexford town, an ancient port town of Celtic, Viking, Norman ancestry and closest Irish town to the UK and mainland Europe, is twenty minutes away.
Ireland’s Prime Minister, An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny T.D., of the Fine Gael party, the deputy prime minister, An Tanaiste, Eamon Gilmore, T.D., and the minister for public expenditure and reform, Brendan Howlin T.D., Wexford, both of the Labour party, are expected to attend.
Opposition party leaders including the Fianna Fail Party leader Miceal Martin T.D., Sinn Fein party leader, Gerry Adams T.D., too are expected. Also there will be Mick Wallace T.D., an Independent public representative from Wexford, builder and football club owner, whose family supermarket, now managed by his brother Joe, was a major supporter of the world ploughing championships held on his neighbour’s farm Leigh’s of Rosegarland, Wellingtonbridge, in 1973. The national presidents of the agricultural and rural organisations IFA, Macra na Feirme, ICA, ICMSA and ICSA will attend also as will Larry O’Loughlin, area manager and the directors of the State’s agricultural advisory service Teagasc.
Soccer legend of Italia ’90, Packie Bonner will give a demonstration to visitors of his goal-keeping powers during the championships.
The national ploughing championships were founded more than eighty years ago ( 1931) by two farmers, one from County Kildare,J.J. Bergin, a founder of Macra na Feirme, the rural young people’s organisation, and one from County Wexford, Denis Allen, father of former minister of state, Lorcan Allen of Gorey, who wanted to settle an argument over which was the best ploughman. The event was developed by a local Macra na Feirme branch secretary Anna May McHugh in Athy, Co. Kildare and the National Ploughing Association was established to develop the competition. Her daughter Anne Marie, who now helps her mother in the management of the huge event, is front page celebrity on the current edition of Ireland’s international family magazine, Ireland’s Own.
The competition grew exponentially to become one of the biggest events of its kind in the world attracting the world’s leading motor and tractor brands to Ireland.
Today, the host county of Wexford, known as the Model County because of its production of quality food, and the Sunny South East because it has 500 more hours of sunshine than the rest of Ireland, has bred a host of national and world ploughing champions and several European ploughing championship winners. They live mainly beside the tiny but prosperous rural village of Ballycullane, near the world famous Tintern Abbey. The most famous champion is Martin Kehoe of Yoletown townsland beside the village. He has won three world ploughing titles – one in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1994, one in Nakura, Kenya in 1995 and one in Reims in France in 1999. He is also a tug-of war champion and holds a title as one of Ireland’s strongest men.
A group of monuments at Rosegarland, Wellingtonbridge, erected originally to commemorate the hosting of the world championships held there in 1981 carry the legend Pax Arva Colet – let peace cultivate the fields. The names of previous Wexford competitors in the European Championships and in the World Ploughing Contests are listed on the monument there. Listed are European championship winner, John Whelan,( now a board member of the Irish National Ploughing Association) and with him James Walsh, Dan Donnelly, Willie Murphy, Michael Shanahan and George Walsh who represented Ireland in the championships. Accompanying three-times world champion Martin Kehoe in World Ploughing contests up to 2000 were Andrew Cullen, Richard Byrne, James Shanahan, Joseph Shanahan, Michael Keating, John Somers, James Murphy, and Frank Curtis. Wexford was represented in world championships after 2000 by John Whelan, Sean Keating, and Willie John Kehoe, son of the world champion Martin.
Paddy V Whelan, local community leader in Ballycullane, farmer, writer and contributor to Ireland’s bestselling national rural newspaper, the Irish Farmers’ Journal, said today that the ploughing champions of Ballycullane and Wexford and the O’Dwyer and Kehoe families and about fifty other families around Heathpark have made Wexford the centre of the agricultural and rural universe this week.
- Report by Michael Freeman in Wexford.