Young people to learn ploughing skills from stalwarts in effort to save the tradition

Cousins David Cassidy and Ralph Foster from Ballyconnell, Co. Cavan at the County Longford Ploughing Championships. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Cousins David Cassidy and Ralph Foster from Ballyconnell, Co. Cavan at the County Longford Ploughing Championships. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Bobby Owen from Carbury, Co Kildare. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Father & son team Liam Dolan Snr & Liam Dolan Jnr from Arva, Co. Cavan take part in the Loy Digging at the County Longford Ploughing Championships
Mattie Connell from Granard, Co. Longford sizes up his next move as he participates in the Loy Digging at the County Longford Ploughing Championship. PHoto: Lorraine Teevan
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

When Granard man Kevin Durkin was a teenager, the countryside fields were "covered in clay" such was the level of ploughing taking place in Longford.

While ploughing is still popular in the county, with it recently holding its 85th Ploughing Championships, in an effort to keep the skill alive, Kevin has organised a ploughing skills days for secondary school students in Kiernan Milling, Granard, tomorrow.

"Young people these days think food comes from a box. They don't understand growing or cultivation. Ploughing is a huge part of food production," says the suckler farmer and former ploughing contractor.

"I'm no spring chicken and a lot of people involved in ploughing are older, too, but if we don't do something to encourage more young people into it, the skill could get lost. When I was a young lad there were no tractors, it was all horse ploughing. Obviously times have changed, but there are less people ploughing now because there is more grass in the area."

Kevin adds that he hopes that NPA director Anna May McHugh or daughter Anna Marie will make an appearance at the ploughing day tomorrow.

On March 24, Longford Ploughing Championships hosted yet another successful year since its inception in 1933. The competition is one of the biggest contests after the National Ploughing Championships and attracts competitors who take part in a range of categories including loy digging and vintage.

Pauline Lavin from Roscommon at the County Longford Ploughing Championships in Granard
Pauline Lavin from Roscommon at the County Longford Ploughing Championships in Granard

Chairperson of Longford Ploughing Association ­Cynthia Geelan-Cruise, who has previously competed in the farmerette class, says that while Longford isn't notable for tillage, it has impeccable ground for ploughing and always welcomes competitors with open arms.

"We get competitors from all over the country - Galway, Donegal, Down, Wicklow. They're always well looked after whether it's a sandwich or a friendly smile. It's a great day out for locals and visitors. We're grateful for the support."

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