Saturday 1 October 2016

Limerick Show looks to the future

IFA deputy president Richard Kennedy is heading up a review of the Limerick Show

Martin Ryan

Published 17/08/2016 | 02:30

Pictured at the launch of Limerick Show were Richard Kennedy, chairman, Aidan Liston, Cattle Committee, Liam Woulfe, MD, Grassland-agro, Pat Byrne, Agricultural Advisor, Bank of Ireland, and Pat Walsh, Cattle Committee.
Pictured at the launch of Limerick Show were Richard Kennedy, chairman, Aidan Liston, Cattle Committee, Liam Woulfe, MD, Grassland-agro, Pat Byrne, Agricultural Advisor, Bank of Ireland, and Pat Walsh, Cattle Committee.

One of the country's oldest agricultural shows, first held nearly a century and a half ago, is to undergo a major review, to ensure that it is 'fit for purpose' for the challenges ahead. Heading the review of Limerick's Agricultural Show Society is the deputy leader of the country's largest farming organisation, the IFA's Richard Kennedy, who took over as chairman of the society in 2015.

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Speaking at the launch of the two-day 2016 programme to be held at Greenmount, Patrickswell on Saturday and Sunday August 27-28, the Clarina dairy farmer said that "there will have to be changes" but he is confident with the goodwill that continued to be evident for the event meant "there is a good future" ahead for the popular event.

"I have to be honest about it, we do need more volunteers if the show is going to continue. The future of the show depends on more volunteers.

"We have made a change in the office which is open now for three months, while previously it was open for 10 months of the year. There are more changes which we will have to make and they will be considered when we have a full review after this year's show," he said.

Dividing his time between the role of IFA Deputy President and chairman of the Show Society he is the first in the 60 -plus year history of the farmers movement to combine the running of a major agricultural show with senior leadership in the farming organisation.

The show has come from a time when most of those engaged in the running of the annual event were employed by the society. To-day they rely on volunteers.

Getting volunteers is a challenge, he confessed, but points out that the biggest challange is probably the weather. However, he points out that the society are "blessed" with the facilities at Greenmount.

Financially, 2015 was the best in many and they are hoping to continue the progress this year.

"As soon as the show is over we will have to have a full rewiew and see how we are going to involve more people.

"We have to make changes. I would like to make the show more family friendly. For families with young children it is a great day out and we have to have enough attractions for them" he says.

"We can't complain about sponsorship. Our sponsors have been very good to us and that is why we have to look at the show. I will be asking people who sponsor us to talk to us about how we can improve the show.

"There is a traditional goodwill to the show and I would be very conscious that we have to build on that. It is imperative that we give better value to the sponsors" he added.

So how does he manage to combine his busy role in the IFA with running the show?

"I try to give the show as much time as possible. Limerick Show has always been a big thing in the family. My father was involved for many years; a lot of my friends are involved" he said.

More than a century ago the event was generally known as the 'Limerick Horse Show' and it is not a coincidence that the promotion of horse classes remains a major element of the show. The classes include the long running and very successful Limerick Lady and Limerick Matron Horse Classes. In addition, classes for the Traditional Irish Horse Association (TIHA), was founded four years ago, are also extremely popular.

'Unique' breed

Society secretary, Joan Bateman, a leading member of the show horse committee, is passionate about the preservation and propogation of the traditional breed, unique to Ireland.

She says that the Traditional Irish Horse (TIH) is a unique combination of up to three breeds, the Irish Draught, the Connemara Pony both unique native breeds and the Thoroughbred.

All three breeds have strong links to the Irish Hobby, a long extinct ancient Irish Breed. Genetic research (Hill and Bower 2010) has shown that the breeds most closely related to the Thoroughbred are the Irish Draught and the Connemara. The Traditional Irish Horse (originally known as the Irish Hunter) was fully established as a sport horse breed centuries before most of its continental counterparts and was used as a breed improver for many of these breeds.

On Saturday, the programme will included the Festival of the Irish Traditional Horse, including the finals of the Limerick Lady and Limerick Matron competitions with an overall prize fund of €11,000 to be awarded.

Dairy cattle classes will be judged on Saturday, with commercial and pedigree beef classes on Sunday under chairperson of the Cattle Committee, well known pedigree livestock breeder, and veterinary surgeon, Doreen Corridon.

Ms Corridon is long associated with Munster AI Centre and is a producer of award winning Limousin cattle from Round Hill herd at nearby Fedamore, which is one of the visit destinations for delegates to the Irish Limousin Society World Congress next week.

The society are also encouraging the revival of the traditional Limerick industry of 1830 onwards when the city became famous for lacemaking. Several factories operated, and later the fine art of Limerick Lace, which became famous all over the world, was continued in the homes of the region.

Ann Gabbett, chairperson of the Crafts Committee has reintroduced a section for the traditional craft associated with the region, for which several entries have been received.

The Limerick Show was originally founded in the 1880s and held at various venues around the Treaty City. The business people were keen supporters of the show and availed of the opportunity to display their goods or network with other businesses.

A new committee was formed in 1929 and Limerick Show relaunched with Greenpark Racecourse becaming "home" for the event under a 99 year lease obtained from the Limerick Racecourse Company. The new committee was made up of a number of prominent city business people, including the fifth Earl of Dunraven.

Due to the closure of Greenpark racecourse, the event moved location once again in 1997 and for the following four years was held at Clonshire Equestrian Centre, Adare until work was completed on the development of the new Limerick Racecourse at Greenmount, Patrickswell where the event was held for the first time in 2002.

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