A mad but magical place to be for at least one day every year

As far as the eye can see . . . Bales, cars, stands and people: all part of Ploughing 2017 at Screggan, Tullamore.
As far as the eye can see . . . Bales, cars, stands and people: all part of Ploughing 2017 at Screggan, Tullamore.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

After missing out on it for the past few years, there was a little hankering last week to make a return to the Ploughing Championships and their central location at Screggan, not far from Tullamore, made the expedition that little bit more user-friendly.

The event started out from very humble beginnings back in 1931 on a February day in the Kildare village of Athy where apparently there was a ‘challenge’ arranged between the ploughmen of Wexford and the tillage men of the lily-white county.

One of the original mission statements of the early organisers of the event was, ‘to bring the message of good ploughing to all parts of the country and to provide a pleasant and friendly place to meet and do business’.

On that early Spring morning back of February 16, 1931, possibly a few hundred-people turned out for the event but now it is quite difficult to actually grasp the scale of the event, with a record breaking crowd of 291,500 people attending over the three days in Screggan last week.

And that, despite a horrendous day of weather on the Wednesday of last week which brought well over an inch of rain to the Midlands venue and meant that millions of gallons of water and muck had to be pumped out overnight, to make the place accessible for the final day of the event.

Whether you’re a city slicker or a country bumpkin (in the kinder sense of the expression), a lifetime certainly should not pass without a visit to the Ploughing and in the ideal world with time permitting, an overnight stay and a two-day visit is probably the perfect scenario.

There is simply no chance of even seeing one third of the events or exhibits with a daily visit with the overall site area extending to over 700 acres while the exhibitor stands normally hover between the 1,200 and 1,400 mark.

I have to confess to a state of mild confusion after about half an hour at the event along the maze of walkways, exhibitions and side-streets that make up the centre-piece of the event.

Giant helium balloons of different colours, a couple of hundred feet up in the sky, are the aerial guides to the car-parks while on Thursday last the sun was a welcome reference point in terms of keeping it either at your back or front as one exited another exhibition.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.