LAST YEAR Evan and Megan Rowley, Killasser, winners of the Best Flowering Plant in Pot, pictured with Kayleigh Halligan Lacey, Claremorris, at the 2017 Claremorris Agricultural Show. Pic: Carmel Donnelly
THE 100th Claremorris Agricultural Show will be staged at the Old Racecourse on this Sunday, August 5. It will be a proud day for all associated with the show and the many families from the region who have rendered loyal and faith service down through the decades. Minister for Rural Community and Develment Michael Ring, TD, will perform the official opening at 12.45pm.
The first show was staged in 1904 at a very different time in Ireland and the world. It was disrupted for a number of years during World War I and II as well as by two outbreaks of foot and mouth disease.
The 1940s and 50s saw it being held at in Dillon’s Field, and this was home to the show for a good many years. The 1960s ushered in a new era of hope with the winds of change blowing through many strands of Irish society.
It was decided to move the agricultural show to the Old Racecourse where volunteers worked hard to ensure that it was a fitting venue for the expanding show.
Space was one thing that was no problem at all. Fr Jimmy Gibbons, PP, and the committee set about clearing and preparing the new venue and it was just ready for its first show in 1960, which was a huge success.
The Old Grandstand provided the ideal viewing spot for the major showjumping events that became such a massive attraction in the mid to late ’60s and during the 1970s. It was the era of the legendary jockey Tommy Wade and his renowned horse Dundrum.
Other legendary stars of the showjumping saddle like Eddie Macken and Paul Daragh and other members of Ireland’s Nations Cup winning teams, including several of the top Irish Army riders, featured at the Claremorris Show, providing the highest quality of entertainment. Local young rider at the time, James Burke, was a big hometown favourite on Stylish Boy. (Cameron Hanley from Claremorris has continued that proud tradition on the international scene in more recent years).
The ’60s was also the decade of the Claremorris-based Royal Blues Showband who became the first band from the west of Ireland to score a Number One in the Irish charts with Old Man Trouble in 1966. The band was managed by Andy Creighton from Claremorris and local parishioners Frank and Vincent Gill were members of the ‘Blues’. They became sponsors of one of the major competitions at the Claremorris Show and were great supporters too.
The Claremorris Show has been blessed over many years with enthusiastic committee members who cherished the tradition and worked hard to preserve and promote the show in good times and demanding times.
Many of them are no longer with us but they are remembered with much affection by all associated with Claremorris Show. People who spring to mind are Arthur Hanley (RIP), Michael Reidy, Jimmy O’Boyle (the current Show President), Tom Hughes (RIP), his daughter Mary Margaret, Mary McTigue and of course Martin Waldron (RIP) who served as chairman for many years.
Martin was from Cartownacross and so much of his life revolved around the Claremorris Show. He epitomised the spirit of community involvement and had a wonderful understanding of the rural psyche.
When Martin stepped down, he was succeeded by Paul Hanley, whose energy and ideas added a new dimension to the show. It was during his tenure that the legendary American actor, James Drury (a friend of Hollymount native Eamonn Finnerty who resides in Houston, Texas), and who starred as The Virginian in the hugely popular TV western series, came to town and presided at the official opening of the 90th Show on a memorable day back in 2008.
Tom Byrne succeeded Paul and introduced many new features to match the needs of an ever changing demand from both exhibitors and the public.
Gerry Lynch has been involved in the show for many years and succeeded Tom Byrne as chairman in recent years. The Cavan native, who was a member of the teaching staff at St Colman’s College for many years, brought his own ideas to the role and has been responsible for numerous innovative features.
Maureen Finnerty has been Show secretary since the early 1980s and has amassed an enormous knowledge of the show and its role in the community life of the region. She knows the scene inside out and has had a unique insight into the many characters and loyal supporters who support the show year after year. Maureen also has established a good working friendship with sponsors and exhibitors and she is the longest-serving secretary in the history of the Show Society.
Michael McGrath from Garryedmond, better known for his involvement in athletics over many years, has also been on the show committee since the early ’90s and has served as treasurer for the past 15 years.
Show chairman, Gerry Lynch, says the 100th Anniversary Show will incorporate some major new attractions along all the well-established ‘backbone’ categories and events that are part of the show each year.
“We are hosting the first Connaught Truck Show organised by Jarlath Sweeney and Fleet Magazine with over 100 trucks on display and this will be a massive attraction.
“We have a Disneyland-style simulator with 26 different activities. There will be the dog agility and handling, a fashion show hosted by the Mandy Maher Model Agency, bubble soccer, hot air balloon demo, a wrestling exhibition, and a cookery demo by TV 3 chef, Adrian Martin. The farm safety folks are with us to demonstrate the risks with quads and tractors.
“There is also a new sand-sculpting exhibition by renowned sculptor Daniel Doyle who is working on the display with the help of teenagers from the area.
“We have a prize fund of €7,000 in Cattle section. The All-Ireland final of the pedigree Suckler Heifer Championship has entrants from qualifying shows all over Ireland.
“The showjumping is back again, including the stone wall puissance. It will bring back memories of some great jumping and keen competitions by such riders as Frank McGarry, Derry O’Brien and John Daly in former times.
“As always, the Show Committee is deeply grateful to our loyal sponsors and supporters. This year we are very pleased to welcome our main sponsor, Malone Farm Machinery, a thriving farm machinery business that caters for the farmer’s needs in this area.
“The event now covers three fields, the athletic grounds, the soccer pitch and Cullinane’s field. We are very thankful to all three for their excellent co-operation,” says Gerry.
A special souvenir booklet to mark the 100th Claremorris Agricultural how will be published to honour the milestone occasion and will be on sale at the show.
The current Mayo Rose, Rachel Gibbons from Annies, Hollymount, will be among the guests of honour at the Show. Music will be provided by Stuart and Jason Moyles while David James from Donegal will provide the music for the Jiving Juniors who will exhibit their skills.
There will be a park and ride in place, with collections every 20 minutes from the pick-up points, which include the Railway Station, the back of the Square and Heffernan’s Car Park.
The Show Committee estimate they will have close on 150 volunteers on duty for the big day on Sunday. Admission is just €10 and under 16s are free.
The Show Committee would also like to assure patrons that they will have screens on site covering the Mayo v Kildare All-Ireland U-20 final live from Croke Park at 1.15pm and also coverage of the All-Ireland senior hurling semi-final replay between Galway and Clare at 2pm, followed by the Super 8 football game between Donegal and Tyrone at 3.30pm.
Further details can he had at the Claremorris Agricultural Show on Facebook and Twitter.