THIS year will see a double celebration for the busy Macroom Ploughing Association.
Not only is the association marking the great milestone of 50 years of the club, but it is also hosting the West Cork county finals for the sixth time.
Sunday February 26th – weather permitting, of course – will see the lands of Angela Leonard at Teergay, Kilbarry, (postcode P12 KV00) kicking off the celebrations at 11am.
‘Macroom Ploughing always attracts great local interest,’ says association treasurer Richard Hinchion. ‘First of all, it is the only agricultural event now in the Macroom area, and secondly, there is a great interest in watching the local competitors testing their skills in the standard 3 furrow, the reversible, the beginners, and of course the horse class, to mention just a few.’
That night’s results event is always a popular affair and this year Coolcower House will host the proceedings, which features music, song, dance, and finger food.
The idea of forming a Ploughing Association in Macroom was originally discussed by present and former members of Macra, which was a very active organisation in Macroom in the early 70s. It had about 50/50 male and female members, recalls public relations officer Breda Kelleher.
‘The Victoria Hotel was their anchor, with the late Harry O’Leary being a strong advocate of the theory of seeing after them in their young adult years, so they will support you when they have a bit of money! How right he was,’ said Breda.
The club was formed and the first ploughing match was held on the lands of Denis Murphy in Leeview on a Tuesday in February 1971.
‘It wasn’t permitted to plough on a Sunday that time, but Macroom was actually the first club in Cork to plough on a Sunday in the early 80s.’
The Victoria Hotel continued to be their base, with meetings, socials, and get-togethers allowing the organisation to grow in strength from year to year, competing at all levels, in both tractor and horse at local, county, and All Ireland levels.
‘Many of our members, both male and female, have come first and second at the All Ireland Ploughing matches in both tractor and horse levels, which is no mean achievement, considering the high standard required at this level,’ Richard pointed out.
‘In latter years the meetings moved to Coolcower House, where they enjoyed the same freedom and hospitality. In fact, a founding member ploughed with a tractor in Macroom’s first ploughing match, and came second. He will be ploughing with horses at the 50th, and is planning on being first!’
The love of horse ploughing is very evident in the Macroom club and this, no doubt, emanated from the famous Horgan brothers – Johnny and Jerry – who ploughed with horses in the late 60s and early 70s.
Jerry actually had the honour of being the first president of the newly-formed club.
The Macroom club would also be unique in that it had, and has male and female members who competed and came first in the All Ireland U 40 horse class.
The association is also very proud of the fact that it hosted the first millennium ploughing match in Ireland on January 1st 2000. It was held on the lands of the Casey family at Coolcower, and attracted a huge crowd – an occasion remembered proudly by the club.
‘You could say the backbone of this club is family participation, handed down from generation to generation,’ said Breda, who pointed out that, sadly, the membership of the club is no longer 50/50, but more heavily weighted with men. ‘But women still play their part, and we can presently boast of an exceptional female secretary. And the first secretary of the club was also female.’
Richard says the club would like to acknowledge and thank its generous sponsors over the years, without whom, they couldn’t function.
‘We have also been so lucky with excellent ploughing sites, mainly Lea ground, with very obliging landowners.’
The present committee also wants to acknowledge the past contributions made by the now-deceased members. ‘Their commitment and drive is one of the reasons Macroom ploughing is still so vibrant,’ noted Breda. ‘We also appreciate the fact that some of our members, who still attend meetings, and work for the club, are founding members. This is to be commended. We have definitely benefited from their advice over the years.’
And she also had a word for the younger members. ‘The organisation is lucky to have these young people joining on a yearly basis, so that all our members can enjoy this milestone and look forward to the next 50 years being just as successful.’
• The West Cork ploughing finals will take place on Sunday February 26th at Teergay, Kilbarry, (P12 KV00) at 11am.