Anticipation is building for the 2016 All-Ireland and All Nations Sheep Shearing and Wool Handling Championships, which will be held on the June bank holiday weekend, Saturday and Sunday, 4 and 5 June. The event, being organised by Townspark Vintage Club and held in the picturesque Tullynally Castle, Castlepollard, Westmeath, has higher stakes than previous years with the competition shearing also contributing to the selection of the team to represent Ireland in the World Championships in New Zealand in 2017.

Two shearers will be selected to represent Ireland on the Irish Open Machine team and two hand shearers for the Irish Open Blade Shearing team. This will add to an already exciting lineup of competitions taking place over the two days, a summary of which are outlined in Table 1.

Ivan Scott will be hoping to repeat the speed and skill he showed only a few weeks ago in Castlepollard when he set a new Guinness World Record by shearing a sheep in 37.9 seconds, an impressive 1.41 seconds faster than the record set in 2010 by Australian shearer Hilton Barrett. The Donegal man has dominated All-Ireland open competitions since bursting on to the scene a decade ago and will be keen to reclaim the accolade after relinquishing the title to Derry man Jack Robinson in 2015, having won the previous eight titles.

The international competition on Sunday will also be a tense affair with the likes of top-quality shearers such as Tom Kennedy from Galway, Welsh shearer Richard Jones who won last year’s international open and his fellow countryman Gareth Daniels, Scotland’s Hamish Mitchell is potentially in the mix, as well as up-and-coming open shearers such as Jack Robinson from Derry and Mark McGeown from Louth.

Many of these shearers will also have the task of representing their country in the six nations shearing competition where top shearers from Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales will compete on their country’s team for the top prize.

Local support will be cheering on the Bonham brothers. Richard is the Westmeath shearing champion and his younger brother Andrew, is rapidly developing into a competent competition shearer, winning the All-Ireland Junior Championship in Burt, Donegal, in 2015.

Sourcing sheep

Their father, John Bonham, is also involved in the shearing committee and has the task of sourcing sheep for shearing. In the region of 2,200 hoggets will be shorn by nearly 200 competitors in 19 competitions over the two days. In addition to organising collection and delivery of hoggets to and from the event, every hogget also has to be crutched around the belly and tail head and receive treatment for flystrike to ensure wool is not damaged for the events.

“Farmers have been better than we could have ever expected. They are willing to go the extra mile to ensure sheep are in prime condition and the competition wouldn’t be possible without their generosity. We are still looking to source the final numbers so if anyone is interested in providing hoggets for the day we would appreciate them contacting us,” John said.

Other attractions

There are plenty of attractions for non-shearing enthusiasts who want to get a glimpse of the shearing in action but also want other aspects to cater to their interests. For those with a keen interest in farming, there will be a pedigree sheep display containing a mixture of the most commonly used breeds and also some of the country’s rare sheep breeds that would normally be seen in spring and summer shows.

Tullynally will also host sheepdog demonstrations described as ‘‘one man and his dog’’ displays, while there will also be an extensive range of machinery and commercial trade stands in attendance. Given that the event is organised by the Townspark Vintage Club, the vintage farm machinery displays will not disappoint with the club promising a broad showcase of equipment.

Non-farming visitors will also have plenty to see and do. A large food hall will display local artisan food products while the arts and crafts section will showcase items from local craftsmen and women. For younger family members, a pet’s corner will include hens, lambs, goats and calves, while a children’s play area and dog show including displays of working and pedigree dogs will cater to the tastes of dog enthusiasts. Visitors will also have access to Tullynally Castle gardens and after the day’s shearing has finished, a strong lineup will entertain in a specially built entertainment barn.

The committee

Table 2 details a list of committee members and their contact details. There is still time for interested parties to book trade stands and those interested are encouraged to contact the relevant committee members without delay.

Event sponsorship

The event is co-sponsored by a number of organisations with the main sponsorship provided by New Holland, CLiK Pour-On from Elanco Animal Health, Bridgestone Tyres and FBD. There is also very strong local support with the committee also keen to thank volunteers and Thomas and Valerie Packenham, owners of Tullynally Castle Gardens.