The National Ploughing Championships has been a moving event ever since the first ‘Ploughing’ was held in Athy in 1931. Naturally, an event with the emphasis on ploughing has been held in counties with a tillage farming tradition. There needs to be ample acres for stubble and grass/lea ploughing to test the skills of the ploughmen and women.
Over the 83 years, Leinster locations have dominated the ploughing locations. The National Ploughing Championships have been held in Leinster counties 54 times, with next year’s event billed for Carlow to make that 55. Wexford has hosted the Ploughing on 10 separate occasions, more times than any other county in Ireland.
The huge national farming event has been held in Munster counties 24 times. Tipperary is second to Wexford, having hosted the National Ploughing Championships nine times. Counties Carlow, Cork and Kilkenny each hosted the event eight times.
The National Ploughing Championships was only ever staged in Connacht on five occasions, the last time being in Athenry in 1963. It has never been held in an Ulster county even though Donegal was hinted at one stage.
I’ve had the pleasure of being at 37 of the 83 National Ploughing Championships and each one was memorable in its own right. My first one was in Rockwell College in Tipperary as a student and I’ve never missed one since.
While many will consider the Ploughing to be a place that’s dominated by poor ground conditions and muddy trackways, in my time that’s not been the case. Looking back, almost half of the Ploughing events that I’ve attended were held in good weather, making them all the more enjoyable. September is a month for an Indian summer; we’ve been lucky over many years, and we all hope that this year will be the same.
The integral part of the event down through those years is the way that it’s been managed by Anna May McHugh and her team at the National Ploughing Association. They have a practical approach to getting things done; Anna leads by giving responsibility to trusted team members. The result is an event that grows with team pride, in importance both nationally and internationally.
Next year, the Ploughing moves to the farm of Chris Nolan from outside Tullow, Co Carlow, bringing Carlow neck and neck with Tipperary in hosting the National Ploughing Championships.