Saturday 1 October 2016

'I loved the job from day one'

Published 20/07/2016 | 02:30

Nuala Hourihane with some of the breed that she has championed for over 40 years
Nuala Hourihane with some of the breed that she has championed for over 40 years

From the centre of Bantry town to a busy office at the Irish Farm Centre, you would not expect a woman with no background in farming to end up as secretary of the Irish Charolais Cattle Society.

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However, this is the lovely story of Nuala Hourihane, who has recently stepped down from a role which she served with great pride for 40 years.

By nature a large majority of farmers' daughters tend to fall back into the rural way of life at some time in their lives, either by farming itself, or through horses, with many others going on to marrying farmers in adulthood.

Not so for Nuala, who had absolutely no experience of the farming way of life before being completely immersed in the world of beef cattle in her early 20s.

"When I finished school I wanted to travel so I headed to Australia with my friend Norma. On the flight we met Holy Ghost missionaries on their way to Papua New Guinea. From that contact we ended up working on coffee plantations there for two years.

"Norma then returned home alone and on her way back she met the late John Mooney who told her about a vacancy for an office job in the Irish Farm Centre.

"She took the job for six months and when I returned home, I basically took over. I had already completed a secretarial course so it came in very handy."

Within a short space of time Nuala's role as secretary with the Irish Charolais Cattle Society developed into one of liaison officer, show co-ordinator and even overseas representative.

"When I started, we had just 76 members but that was in the 1970s and the society was just beginning to grow.

"There were a lot of imports from France in the 1990s and the grading-up system was also beginning to take effect."

With members on the increase, and cattle standards continually improving, it did not take long for the Charolais to become one of Ireland's most popular beef breeds, a status which it has held for many years.

Today, the Irish Charolais Cattle Society has close to 2,500 members, with some 7,500 cattle registrations on the books. Through her valued role, Ms Hourihane always ensured that the farmer had the support of the society, and seeing them get better prices for their cattle gave her immense satisfaction.

"I loved the job from the day I started and met some wonderful people.

"Farmers work so hard but everyone was so helpful to me and always gave me guidance."

In 2015, Ms Hourihane was honoured for her contribution to the society and the breed by winning the FBD Women and Agriculture Lifetime Achievement Award.

Last month, she made the difficult decision to retire and hand over the mantle after 40 years. "I never planned on being there that length. I loved it so much and I had been putting it off for a long time, but finally decided it was time to bow out.

"I never married, instead I fell in love with the Charolais cattle, but I am sure I will find plenty to do now that I am retired. I'd love to do more travelling," she added.

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