The National Ploughing Championships Co Carlow September 17th to 19th
Overview/Background of Event
The National Ploughing Championships takes place each year in the month of September. The 2019 Championships will be held at Ballintrane, Fenagh, Co Carlow from September 17th to 19th. The first inter- county ploughing contest took place in 1931 as a result of an argument between two lifelong friends, Denis Allen of Gorey, County Wexford and JJ Bergin of Athy, County Kildare. Each argued that their respective counties had the best ploughmen. This resulted in a challenge being called for. Therefore on Monday 16th of February 1931, the first National Ploughing contest took place in Mr W.K. Hosie’s field at Coursetown in Athy. Since then, the National Ploughing Championships has grown in size, year on year.It has expanded from requiring a small field of 26 acres to needing over 700 acres of land today. Within this, the site now requires 180 acres for ploughing, 100 acres for trade stands and exhibition space, 400 acres of car parking and a demonstration area of approximately 25 acres. Since its inception, the National Ploughing Championships has become much more than just an annual inter-county competition; it has become an intrinsic part of Irish rural life.
The National Championships is now no longer just for ploughing or machinery enthusiasts, the modern event now features something for just about every member of the community.These include a Tented Trade Village, a Food Fair, Craft Village, Livestock, Forestry, Education, Lifestyle, Motor Show, Financial Services, Bio Energy and Agri Service. Along with this, there are many entertainment and special events taking place.Some of these include: Fashion Shows, Celebrity Guests, Sheep Dog Trials, Loy Digging, All Ireland Lamb Shearing, Most Appropriately Dressed Lady & Gent Competitions, Craft Demonstrations, Meggers, Celebrity Cookery Demonstrations, Outdoor Radio Broadcasts and much more.
With all this happening, the Championships attracts in excess of over 1,700 exhibitors and up to 240,700 visitors.
FORMATION & ORIGINS OF THE NATIONAL PLOUGHING ASSOCIATION
1931 – 2019
We can only guess at the number of centuries during which local ploughing competitions have been taking place, but records tell us of a match in Camolin Park, Wexford on 20th October, 1816.
On that occasion, a special prize of £5 was put up for the carpenter or ploughmaker who produced the best and cheapest plough made by himself and who contracted to supply the public with similar ploughs at the same price.
Between 1816 and 1930, ploughing competitions thrived between neighbouring parishes, the competition was good and people were enthusiastic but there was no goal to strive for.
In 1931 the Republic of Ireland had suffered the impact of the War of Independence and the dreadful wounds of its own Civil War still festered. It was passing through a bruising economic depression, but the Irish way of life went on much as usual. What better antidote to widespread national anxiety than vigorous debate about the comparative skills of the men who tilled the land?
Minister for Agriculture, Paddy Hogan, had pinpointed the challenge of the day with the clarion cry “one more sow, one more cow, and one more acre under the plough”. His challenge seemed to have been ignored. The wheat acreage for 1930 had declined to one of the lowest points at just over 20,000 statute acres, since records were kept.
Two men who lived very close to the hard core of Irish politics, the late J.J. Bergin, from Athy, a progressive farmer and Civil Engineer, and farmer Denis Allen of Gorey, sought the relief of just such a safety valve. They debated which county had the best ploughmen, Kildare or Wexford. Interest was generated at once. Local ploughing matches and challenges were common and had probably existed in one form or another since the first horse, plough, or race in Ireland but the idea of an Inter County Ploughing Contest had never arisen.
The debate resulted in the inevitable challenge. The pick of the ploughmen in Kildare would meet the pick of the ploughmen in Wexford in a field combat. The competition would take place at a time when it was widely believed that the plough was Ireland’s only redemption. The excitement of the prospect made the two men contact tillage farmers in other counties, and on the 16th February, 1931 nine counties met in competition on the “plains of Kildare”, Coursetown, Athy – the same venue of the 2011 National Ploughing Championships.