National Ploughing Championships
|National Ploughing Championships|
View of the National Ploughing Championships held in Tullamore, County Offaly, 2007
|Location(s)||Tullamore, Offaly (current)|
|Organized by||National Ploughing Association|
The National Ploughing Championships (Irish: Comórtas Náisiúnta Treabhdóireachta)(previously known as The National Ploughing Championships Machinery & Livestock Exhibition) or (NPC) is an agricultural show in Ireland. The event is one of the largest outdoor events in the world with over 1500 exhibitors and attendances of over 200,000. It takes place each year in September.
The first inter-county ploughing contest was held between County Wexford and County Kildare on 16 February 1931 in a 26-acre field at Coursetown in Athy. Since then, the National Ploughing Championships has expanded to over 800 acres with 1,400 exhibitors. It has been extended beyond ploughing, farming or machinery enthusiasts, to now featuring attractions such as a tented trade village, live entertainment, music & dancing, fashion shows, craft village, live cooking demonstrations, celebrity appearances, sheep dog trials, pony games & welly throwing.
The Big Idea
The original Mission Statement for the National Ploughing Association, NPC's governing body, was set out their big idea in 1931: "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". In September 2013, the Farming Magazine, Grassroots, in exploring the progress of NPA in an article entitled 'NPA Recalls'(p53) asked the question "Did NPA live up to its Mission Statement?" and concluded "There is no doubt that it has, tenfold".
"The story of the National Ploughing Association (NPA) that has since unfolded was described by Examiner newspaper in asking what was the secret to our national ploughing and national hurling success in Ireland: they noted that both national events have a common requirement for participants and spectators — buckets of stamina and a focused approach; that thousands of people had again flocked to the final day of the rural pageant in 2015 and many of them paid homage to the enduring triumphs of the Kilkenny hurlers and the National Ploughing Association, headed by Anna May McHugh.". They are both an integral part of the story of Rural Ireland’s development.
Following in the footsteps of the GAA and going on to become another Irish Community phenomenon, the National Ploughing Association (NPA) as it’s now known was born of the humble seeds sown in that 1931 challenge between its co-founders Kildare man JJ Bergin and Wexford man Denis Allen. It has continued to grow through the endeavours, foresight and the development work of its three extraordinary Managing Directors and their director teams throughout its 84 year lifetime to become the powerful International showcase of Irish Farming it is today.
Inspirational founder, JJ Bergin, was NPA’s first Managing Director and he laid the sowed the seeds for what was to follow. He was widely acknowledged as a man of tremendous foresight. In 1952 he represented Ireland at the first meeting of the World Ploughing Organisation (WPO) and was appointed their vice president. The first World Contest was hosted by Canada in 1953, and the second was in Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland in 1954. That was also the first European venue for the ‘Worlds’, when 10 countries competed. Also in 1954, the first ploughing competition for women was introduced, called the 'Farmerette' class, and which was open to girls and single, married or widowed women and without reference to age. The winner was known as 'Queen of the Plough'. In 1955 the National Ploughing Championships expanded into a 2-day event. The Association became a limited liability company and was incorporated on 2 March 1956, with number of directors limited to forty, with period of office of one year; its liability limited by guarantee and without shares.
JJ Bergin continued to manage NPA until his passing in 1958.
In 1958 the NPA appointed Kilkenny GAA 1933 All Ireland medal winner and Senior Hurling star Sean O'Farrell as Managing Director to harness its already evident future farming potential and to lay the foundations for its future development.
A national bread baking competition was introduced by NPA in co-operation with ESB in 1958 that continues to this day. In 1959 he represented the NPA at the 7th World Ploughing Contest to Armoy, County Antrim, Northern Ireland and that was the first time they held there. A special moment followed for him when he got to ‘bring home’ the NPA Championships to his native county, at Burnchurch, County Kilkenny in 1959, while returning to Danesfort, Co Kilkenny in 1964 and again in 1970. He attended the 8th World Ploughing Contest in Tor Mancina, Roma, Italy 1960 where he proudly presented a distinctive block of his native Kilkenny Marble as Ireland’s contribution to Rome’s ‘Cairn of Peace’ in 1960 One of the highlights of his tenure of office was in 1961 when representing Ireland at 9th World Ploughing Contest, Grignon, Paris, France. He was officially introduced to President of the French Republic, Charles De Gaulle. John was a big man over 6 ft. but he proudly displayed that photo on his wall, dwarfed as he was by the 6’ 5" tall President De Gaulle. Another big event was when the first ever Ploughing Championships were filmed by RTÉ National TV at Killarney in 1961, believed to be the first outside coverage by the new TV station. It was filmed on 8 and 9 November 1961 and broadcast in the first ever episode of the farming programme ‘On the Land’, on 1 January 1962. The film, featuring both local organiser, Mrs Grosvenor, and Sean, was remarkable in that it was broadcast the day after Teilifís Éireann first went on air. And Teilifís ÉireannArchives, itself founded on 1 June 1960, released in 2016 this video from 1961 of then NPA MD, Sean, and current NPA MD, Anna May, at the presentation of the NPC Farmerette trophy to Eiline Brennan from Laois being crowned Queen of the Plough, 1961.
Sean continued to build on NPA’s international profile and in 1964 the NPA sent two competitors to Fuchsenbigl, Near Vienna, Austria, where Ireland won their first World Title when the late Charlie Keegan, from County Wicklow was the winner. It marked a huge Irish International achievement for NPA at that time and was an inspiration to future competitors, demonstrating that the Irish had the standard and the potential to compete with the best in the World. Arriving home from the World Contest in Vienna, the Wicklow man was proudly brought home to Enniskerry, Wicklow on an open top bus to be met by bonfires along the roadside as they greeted NPA’s first World Ploughing Champion. That was a special day for Sean, as County Wicklow was his adopted county. The Irish Times reported how the tractor on which Charlie Keegan won World Ploughing Championships in 1964 had now been restored. It was a green Deutz D40L tractor that was magnificently restored to its original condition by his grandson, Michael, devoting 1,000 hours to restoration work.
At the National Championships 1964, a new Youth class was introduced for Youths 21- 28. In 1965 Esso became an NPA sponsor and introduced the Esso Supreme Trophy which is still presented to the Senior Conventional Champion annually. In 1966 a new competition was introduced to cater for Students from the Agricultural Colleges. In 1969 the Irish Countrywomen's Association (ICA) were invited to give demonstrations in cookery, crafts. This also combined with introduction of the Country Markets as the ploughing was an ideal venue to sell produce. Sean held the position of MD until his sudden death in 1972. The Kilkenny People in their September 1972 obituary recorded that he was NPA Managing Director and a member of World Ploughing Organisation and that the graveside oration was delivered by Seán Ó Síocháin, General Secretary of GAA.
A Dream Fulfilled
The second half of the NPA 84 year old Story, all of 42 years, was led by NPA's long serving Secretary of that time from 1954, Anna May McHugh. In 1973 she was appointed NPA's managing director. Anna May, has served for 61 years as Secretary of the NPA organisation. She brought to fruition as MD of NPA what once a big idea of NPA founders back in 1931, what becomes a dream by 1958, and what had been just aspiration by 1972 - turning their collective dream into reality by 2015. And in September 2015, National Ploughing Association Managing Director Anna May McHugh was awarded the Officier de l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole by the French Ambassador to Ireland Mr Jean-Pierre Thébault. Anna May is the Irish Board Member to the Board of the World Ploughing Organization, where her daughter, Anna Marie McHugh, is now General Secretary.
1973 was also the year when 20th World Ploughing Contest was held in County Wexford, Republic of Ireland, in a four-day Contest that was attended by 100,000 people, and when 25 countries took part. Further World Ploughing events have since been held in Ireland with 29th World Ploughing Contest in Wexford in 1981; the 43rd World Ploughing Contest at Oak Park, County Carlow, Ireland in 1996 and the 53rd World Ploughing Contest at Tullow, Carlow in 2006. In 1994 Wexford man Martin Kehoe brought home the first of his three World Champion titles - in 1994 from Outram, Dunedin, New Zealand; in 1995 from Egerton, Njoro, Kenya and in 1999 from Pomacle, France. It is noteworthy that the only other Irish World Champion (apart from first winner, Charlie Keegan) was Eamonn Tracey, winning in Saint Jean D'Illac - Bordeaux France in 2014. Milestones in their illustrious history were recorded in Independent Newspapers in 2011.
Together with her 32-member board of directors team, she has steered NPA into becoming one of the largest outdoor annual events in Europe. Among their achievements, NPA records that in 1975 the number of national exhibitors was 100, the number of counties competing was 21 and the number of demonstrators was 18. In 1978 the Championships returned to County Kilkenny this time to the village where Anna May McHugh's predecessor, Sean O'Farrell, was born, Knocktopher. Attendance figures grew very steadily throughout the 70s & 80s until 1988, when the event was expanded to 3 days in order to cater for heavy traffic due to escalating attendances. According to NPA records, the ICA and Country Markets then started giving cookery and craft demonstrations at the Shows. Other new Events were added with the Fashion Show in 1981; their introduction of Shopping & Business Arcades in 1985 & Kverneland World Class Challenge; the Livestock Section in 1987 and the Nissan Classic in 1989. They record that the "Tented Village" era was developed substantially at the Ploughing contests throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s. They credit Enterprise Ireland with bringing delegations from a number of countries to review the event, where exhibitors travelled from Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Poland and the USA.
Between 2000 and 2011 the Ploughing Championships had grown to 180,000 spectators, 320 competitors, 1,100 exhibitors, 14 shopping arcades and was by then generating €10m for the local Irish economy.
Now in its 84th year NPA records that Events Costs are in the region of 3.5 Million Euro, and have Ploughing Associations in every county in the country of Ireland. NPA claims to now hold the biggest National Ploughing Championships in the World, where over 320 competitors participate in the National Finals; to cater for 19 All-Ireland Ploughing Title Classes; are Ireland’s primary Agricultural Exhibition, and hold one of the largest Agricultural Events in Europe; that many international visitors, exhibitors and delegations from right around Europe and from as far afield as New Zealand now participate; that Events have up to 1,100 Trade Stands which exhibit billions of Euros worth of the most modern agri-equipment in the World on exhibition at the Championships.
It is extraordinary that NPA are still a voluntary association that depends on voluntary efforts of their members from all around the country to achieve such goals. With an average of 180,000 spectators, the NPA attendance has grown from the 3,000 that attended in 1932 to the 280,000 heights it reached in 2014 and 281,000 in 2015. Together NPA's National Ploughing Championships (NPC) are a shop window to what Irish people can achieve when working together, and a great credit to spirit of Rural Ireland ever since the Country's gained its independence one century ago.
||It has been suggested that this list be split into a new article titled List of venues for National Ploughing Championships. (Discuss.) (December 2016)|
|Year||Photo||Location||Start date||End date||Attendance||Notes|
|1931||Coursetown, Athy, County Kildare||16 February|
|1932||Gorey, County Wexford||19 February|
|1933||Clondalkin, County Dublin||15 February|
|1934||Athenry, County Galway||13 February|
|1935||Mallow, County Cork||13 February|
|1936||Tullamore, County Offaly||February|
|1937||Greystones, County Wicklow||9 February|
|1938||Oakpark, Carlow||10 February|
|1939||Killarney, County Kerry||8 February|
|1940||Thurles, County Tipperary/Kilkenny||21 January||1 February|
|1941||Cork/ Navan, County Meath||12 February||18 February|
|1942||Cloghran, County Dublin||12 February|
|1943||Portlaoise, County Laois||12 February|
|1944||Ballinasloe, County Galway||9 February|
|1946||Balbriggan, County Dublin||7 February|
|1947||Maynooth, County Kildare||11 February|
|1949||Drogheda, County Louth||10 February|
|1951||County Wexford||1 February|
|1952||Athenry, County Galway||7 February|
|1953||Mullingar, County Westmeath||11 February|
|1954||Cahir, County Tipperary||11 February|
|1955||Athy||10 February||11 February|
|1956||Nenagh, County Tipperary||1 February||11 February|
|1957||Boyle, County Roscommon||7 February||8 February|
|1958||Tramore, County Waterford||12 February||13 February|
|1959||Burnchurch, County Kilkenny||28 January||29 January|
|1960||New Ross, County Wexford||9 November||10 November|
|1961||Killarney, County Kerry||8 November||9 November|
|1962||Dovea, Thurles, County Tipperary||7 November||8 November|
|1963||Athenry, County Galway||6 November||7 November|
|1964||Danesfort, County Kilkenny||18 November||19 November|
|1965||Enniskerry, County Wicklow||17 November||18 November|
|1966||Rosegarland Est.,Wellingtonbridge, County Wexford||2 November||3 November|
|1967||Tullow, County Carlow||25 October||26 October|
|1968||Banteer, Mallow, County Cork||23 October||24 October|
|1969||Rockwell College, Cashel, County Tipperary||22 October||23 October|
|1970||Danesfort, County Kilkenny||28 October||29 October|
|1971||Finglas, County Dublin||27 October||28 October|
|1972||Rockwell College, Cashel, County Tipperary||25 October||26 October|
|1973||Rosegarland Estate, Wellingtonbridge, County Wexford||3 October||6 October|
|1974||Watergrasshill, County Cork||16 October||17 October|
|1975||Bennettsbridge, County Kilkenny||15 October||16 October|
|1976||Wells, Gorey, County Wexford||13 October||14 October|
|1977||Rockwell College, Cashel, County Tipperary||19 October||20 October|
|1978||Knocktopher, County Kilkenny||11 October||12 October|
|1979||Watergrasshill, County Cork||10 October||11 October|
|1980||Rockwell College, Cashel, County Tipperary||7 October||8 October|
|1981||Wellingtonbridge, Wexford||7 October||10 October|
|1982||Edenderry, County Offaly||12 October||13 October|
|1983||IDA Grounds, Waterford||5 October||6 October|
|1984||Ardfert, County Kerry||3 October||4 October|
|1985||Kilkea, Athy, County Kildare||2 October||3 October|
|1986||Woodsgift, Urlingford, County Kilkenny||8 October||9 October|
|1987||Charleville Estate, Tullamore, County Offaly||7 October||8 October|
|1988||Oak Park Research Centre, County Carlow||4 October||6 October|
|1989||Oak Park Research Centre, County Carlow||October|
|1990||Oak Park Research Centre, County Carlow||October|
|1991||Crecora, County Limerick|
|1992||Carrigtwohill, Midleton, County Cork|
|1993||Shanballyard, Clerihan, Clonmel, County Tipperary|
|1994||Drumgold, Enniscorthy, County Wexford|
|1995||Ballacolla, County Laois|
|1996||Oak Park Research Centre, County Carlow|
|1997||Parkmore, Fiveally, Birr, County Offaly|
|1998||Ballycarney, Ferns, County Wexford|
|1999||Castletownroche, Mallow, County Cork||28 September||30 September|
|2000||Ballacolla, County Laois||26 September||28 September|
|2001||Ballacolla, County Laois||2 October||4 October||Event cancelled due to Foot and Mouth outbreak|
|2002||Ballacolla, County Laois||24 September||26 September|
|2003||Ballinabrackey, County Meath (5 km South of Kinnegad)||23 September||25 September|
|2004||Athy, County Kildare|
|2005||Mogeely, Midleton, County Cork||27 September 2005||29 September 2005|
|2006||Grangeford, Tullow, County Carlow||27 September||28 September||Also hosted World Ploughing Championships 29–30 September|
Tullamore, County Offaly
|25 September||27 September|
|2008||Cuffesgrange, County Kilkenny (8 km Southwest of Kilkenny City)||23 September||25 September|
|2009||Cardenton, Athy, County Kildare||22 September||29 September|
|2010||Cardenton, Athy, County Kildare||21 September||23 September|
|2011||Cardenton, Athy, County Kildare||20 September||22 September|
|2012||Heathpark, New Ross, County Wexford||25 September||27 September|
|2013||Ratheniska, County Laois|
|2014||Ratheniska, County Laois||280,000|
|2015||Ratheniska, County Laois||22 September||24 September||281,000|
|2016||Screggan, Tullamore, County Offaly||20 September||22 September||283,000|
|2017||Screggan, Tullamore, County Offaly||19 September||21 September|
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