Long live the Ploughing pilgrimage
"Do you want to go to the Ploughing?" I asked our 9-year-old daughter Ruth.
"If I can go to the Ken Black stand", was her prompt reply.
"What's the big deal about the Ken Black stand?" I said, a tad touchily, pointing to the fact, as she well knows, that there is a giant Ken Black toy store in Portlaoise, which is much closer to us than Tullamore.
"Its just special somehow bringing something home from the Ploughing," she replied.
Ireland's great annual agricultural pilgrimage begins today and there are as many reasons why people go on pilgrimage as there are pilgrims.
While attendance at organised religion events is struggling, numbers participating in pilgrimages are burgeoning. People take their own meaning from the participation, not what someone else tells them to.
Irish agriculture is at a similar juncture. We have become more questioning and critical of many of our traditional sacred cows - the IFA, Bord Bia, Teagasc, the banks, etc. At the Ploughing, there is a great choice in who you listen to. Or don't.
Most pilgrimages require the taking of a journey, usually a long one. After a vehicular trip of varying duration, we will spend hours trudging up and down trakways, battling through crowds and perhaps testing underfoot conditions.