If you’ve been to the National Ploughing Championships or the Tullamore Show over the years, then you’ve definitely heard this woman’s distinguished tones over the speakers. From results to lost children and mis-parked cars, she has covered it all. But who exactly is the woman behind this voice? We caught up with Carrie Acheson recently to find out.
“I was bred, born and reared in Tipperary.
I was born in Tipp Town and we lived in Clonmel then. Dad worked in Ardnacrusha. Mick Mackey [the famous Limerick hurler] worked there too and I believe he used to bring my eldest brother Seán to school on his bicycle.
Dad then became the engineer in the sugar factory in Thurles. My mum died Christmas week when we were young, that was a long time ago.
Dad left the sugar company and started up Barlo Farm Machinery in Clonmel. My maiden name is Carrie Barlow. My nephews are in the business now, but they’re gone into motorcars.
Barlo Farm Machinery of Clonmel had branches in Kilkenny and Thurles too. We’ve two car garages now in Clonmel, as well as garages in Kilkenny and Thurles. But I’m not car person, I am an agricultural machinery person.
In my day we were selling Claas combines, which I adored. I knew every part of them, that was my job. If I saw a Claas in a field today, I’d stop to look at it.
We were selling milking machines and we were selling David Brown tractors as well from about 1949. So, it was in my blood to know all the farmers, and I still know them. I’ve been dealing with farmers all my life.
Farm machinery is all automated now. In my time they were working and breaking, and working and breaking. So I had to supply the spare part.
Years ago this man wouldn’t pay us for the milking machine he bought. I went up with the salesman to see could I encourage him to pay for the machine. He said, “‘Twas wrong, ‘twas wrong.”
So I asked him, what time does he milk at in the morning. And he said, “Between six o’clock and seven o’clock.” I decided I’d get up the next morning and I’d go see the milking machine working.
Anyway, I arrived and he didn’t realise it was I that was in the milking parlour with him. It was a herringbone parlour. He said, “What are you doing here?” I said, “You said you’ve a problem and I’m coming to see it.”
In actual fact, whoever set-in the herringbone, it was a little off and it was causing friction to some of the cows when they were milking. So the man was right. I gave him £150 off his bill, he gave me a cheque, a lovely breakfast and we ended up good friends.
I farmed with my husband, he died 13 years ago. We had Salers and invariably when they calved down he’d send me under the bushes, to see was there a calf hiding in there.
I’ve done the public address at the Ploughing for 30 something years and I’ve done the public address at Tullamore Show for years too.
I was also in politics.
I was a councillor for 12 years and in that time I was the Mayor of Clonmel. Then I was a TD. I was chair of the Irish Red Cross. You name it, I was it.
The Dáil, I didn’t enjoy. Whereas local politics was lovely, helping people. To see somebody getting a house in my time, it was something else.
I remember the women waiting outside the town hall for their husbands to come from work to collect keys of houses. I put down a motion that it should be joint tenancy, because the wife was the one that ran everything, but the husband was “the boss”, essentially.
There were a few women involved in politics then and I never had a problem being a woman. I remember I was on the board of Irish Shipping one time and the chair used to say: “Lady and gentleman.” I was the only woman.
I have a beautiful son. I only had one and I worked nearly every day until he was born and I went back to work immediately after. I was able to go back to work because the family owned the company. Whereas the post office, civil service and county council workers all had to give up work if they became pregnant.
But I had no problem at all. I did the work and I worked like a Trojan.
Ireland is a great country. Never let anyone say that we aren’t a great little country.”