Freda Kinnarney will be a familiar face to most people in the agricultural sector due to her Trojan work with Tullamore Show over the past 27 years, playing a key part in making the show the pinnacle of the year for many.

As of earlier this month, she has retired from her roles.

Having grown up on a family farm in east Clare, a move for work and love led to a permanent relocation to Tullamore, where she has become the face of the town.

The Irish Farmers Journal spoke with Freda about her time at the helm.

How did you get started with the show?

Tullamore Show was revived in 1991, but other than leaving my husband PJ out to the show site, I had no other involvement. However, that was the only show I have missed, as the following year, I was persuaded by a friend to attend a cookery section planning meeting and that was the start of my volunteering life.

What positions have you held through the years?

1992 saw me helping out in the cookery section and the following summer I was entrusted with running the cookery section. Little did I know that that move was going to be the first progression of many others.

These included assistant secretary and sponsors co-ordinator, before taking on the role as event secretary and company secretary in 1997. With the ever-increasing professionalism and work demands of the show, my voluntary capacity had to be reviewed and, while still holding the secretarial roles, I was appointed operations manager three years ago.

What were the main changes at the show over the years?

There has been huge development and progression to secure its present position as Ireland’s premier show, including moves to three different sites, from Collins Lane to Charleville and now our current Butterfield Estate.

A major breakthrough came in 1994 when we took on the National Livestock Show, which had been staged in the RDS until 1992.

For a country which prided itself on its livestock and was fighting to build an international reputation for its beef and dairy produce, the ongoing absence of a national showcase would have been an unforgivable blunder. Incorporating the National Livestock Show into our event was a huge step, but the show has not looked back since.

The success bred its own success, but the huge prize fund (currently at €175,000) certainly helped with the development and interest.

What was your biggest show highlight?

Without doubt, the biggest highlight for me is seeing the thousands of happy people on Butterfield Estate on show day enjoying the fruits of our labours for the previous 12 months. Of course, if the sun is shining it is all the better.

It is truly wonderful to see the results of all the hard work and planning by so many people, including the 30 executive members and the 500 stewards and key personnel, coming to fruition.

Lowest point involved with the show?

There are always ups and downs with being involved with such a huge event, but the show cancellations on the eve of the events in 2007 and 2008 were certainly very low points for me. I know 2020 has been a very difficult year for everyone, but we knew in March that there could be no show, so it was somewhat different compared with when all plans collapsed just a few hours before the great day.

What you will miss the most?

It has been a pleasure and an honour to be involved with such a tremendous team, whose expertise has contributed to the success in staging Ireland’s premier one-day event.

I’m obviously very happy that the show is well respected and acknowledged as well run, but really my satisfaction is working with the people who are involved. I suppose the year out last year was a taste of a less pressurised lifestyle and maybe sowed the seed of a possible retirement.

Will you have any involvement in the future?

While I am retiring from my official roles, I hope to stay involved with the committee, but in a much lesser capacity … no ideas yet! A new committee was appointed at our recent AGM. I wish Joe Molloy, new chair, and Chelsey Cox, new secretary, every success in their new roles, as we move forward.

Finally, will the 2021 show go ahead?

We have to be positive regarding 2021 show, but we will have to make our decisions in the next few weeks. We’re planning to be able to run a show on 8 August, but we will be taking all the advice from the relevant bodies to see what form the show will take. It may be just a livestock show as opposed to a full show, but we will be abiding by the restrictions, whatever they may be.

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