Northern Ireland Competitors Get Ready To Take On Europe In European Vintage Ploughing Championships
Four Northern Ireland ploughmen are set to compete against seven visiting countries at the forthcoming European Vintage Ploughing Championships this week.
Dai Kennedy, Mercer Ward, Mark Taggart and Ian Simms will test their skills against 29 other ploughmen from Wales, England, the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands, the Isle of Man, Belgium, Denmark, and Scotland at Shakelton Barracks in Ballykelly on Friday September 2 and Saturday September 3.
Adrian Jamison, chair of hosts the Northern Ireland Ploughing Association said he was delighted to see such a strong representation from Northern Ireland competing.
He added, "After competing in 18 European competitions myself, it is exciting to welcome everyone to Northern Ireland. This will be the first time everyone has been together after Covid and we are looking forward to welcoming our international guests to Ballykelly.”
Taking to the ploughs for Northern Ireland are Listooder farmer Dai Kennedy, 71, who will be competing on a MF135 tractor & Ransome TS86 plough.
Dai said: “Ploughing was always something I did with my Father, he was heavily involved in the Listooder & District Ploughing Society. He passed away when I was 13 but his interest and enjoyment of it has always stuck with me.
“I think I was about 10 years old in the first match I ploughed in, but even then I was only steering the tractor. It really is something you fall in love with and it really stays with you.
“I last took part in the championships in 2019, just before the world was put on hold. It meant I drifted away from it a little bit. It makes me very proud to represent Northern Ireland in any way I can. It gives me a lift, no matter how well it goes. I enjoy it immensely and I’m looking forward to getting back to it after a long three years.”
Competing on a Fordson Dexta Tractor & Ransome TS81 plough will be 69 year old Hillsborough building contractor Mercer Ward who said he was looking forward to representing Northern Ireland at the match.
He added: “Ploughing is a difficult task that needs a lot of practice, seeing as I’m not a farmer I try to better my skills by helping my three brothers on their farm with the silage and harvest. I’ll be trying to win, although it will be great to see everyone come to Northern Ireland.”
Cogry based mechanical engineer Mark Taggart, 56, is set to take to the ploughs on an International B250 tractor & Ransome RSLD N.12.
Mark said: “When I was younger, I would always join my uncle in ploughing matches, vintage ploughing matches in particular, and the atmosphere was always great fun. Experiencing that upclose from such a young age is really what got me interested in taking part myself.
“My uncle's encouragement, coaching and passing on of his skills has had a big impact on my own ploughing experiences. I’m just looking forward to producing the best plot of the day, keeping the conditions in mind. It’s all about making the best of it.”
Also competing is Carrickfergus based farmer and agricultural contractor Ian Simms, 40, with an International B275 tractor & RansomeTS59 plough.
Set to be a family friendly fun-packed event, trade stands, horse ploughing exhibitions, children’s entertainment, crafts stalls and a vintage display are among a range of attractions that will be available onsite.
The Young Farmers Clubs of Ulster will also be in attendance as they compete in fencing and soil assessment competitions; alongside a range of entertainment traders, including bouncy castles, slides, and a rodeo bull.
The event is hosted by the Northern Ireland Ploughing Association, the governing body of competition ploughing across Northern Ireland uniting 21 affiliated ploughing societies across the country with approximately 500 members.
Chair Adrian Jamison added: “We are indebted to this year's sponsors and supporters of the event including Fane Valley, Ulster Farmers Union and Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs as well as McKelvey Bros in Ballynahinch. We are grateful for their support during these difficult times.”
With the key mission of bridging the gap between the older and younger generations, the affiliated societies run ploughing matches across the country each year for ploughmen to qualify for the opportunity to compete in the Northern Ireland International Ploughing Championships. The ploughmen at this event have the opportunity to represent Northern Ireland at the World, European Reversible and European Vintage Ploughing Championships.
The European Ploughing Championships take place at Shakleton Barracks in Ballykelly, Co Derry/Londonderry, on Friday and Saturday, September 2-3, 2022.