THE early indications weren’t too sunny on approach to Ballygagin on Thursday last for the 102nd staging of the Dungarvan Show, the only annual agricultural event of its kind staged in Waterford. In fact, for a time, there was no sign of the sun at all.
Sheets of rain greeted those driving from east and mid-Waterford as the oil-skinned volunteers directed the equine contestants into one entrance and the general public into another.
Utterly unperturbed by the conditions, typical of anyone who assists on agricultural show day, one such kindly soul directed motorists into their parking slot with his right hand, while clutching a brace of triangular ham sandwiches in his left mitt.
The familiar, clipped tones of Hal Chavasse, who has manned the show’s public address for over two decades, was letting the early arrivers know where they needed to go as the equestrian events got proceedings underway.
“Sure it’s just fantastic to keep something like this going,” said Kieran O’Connor, presenter of WLR’s ‘Farmview’.
“This is the 102nd show to be held here in Dungarvan and that’s a testament to the goodwill of farmers who’ve set aside land for the show year after year, the various committees that have kept it going, the farmers who’ve brought their livestock and horses here to compete, along with sponsors and exhibitors.”
Standing alongside the competition area cordoned off for the show’s youngest showjumpers, Kieran added:
“You see the kids on their ponies there and how much they enjoy it and how much their parents and grandparents get out of it. Some traditions are worth holding onto and as rural Waterford traditions go, the Dungarvan Show is right up there so long may it continue.”
Among those enjoying the festivities were BBC radio presenter Vanessa Feltz, partner Ben Ofeudo (former lead singer of Phats & Small) and their family, who were holidaying locally last week.
“It’s just a perfect event for everyone in the family,” Ms Feltz told WLR’s Andy McCloskey, before she and her family took to the outdoor dance floor to enjoy the tunes being played by fellow broadcaster John O’Shea.
“We’ve had such a lovely time here; we’ve heard all about the Greenway which we’re going to visit before the end of our holiday and we’re going to travel to the Hook Lighthouse too – we’ve heard all about the phrase ‘By Hook or By Crook’, and it’s just been a lovely way to recharge the batteries before I fill in for Jeremy Vine (on BBC Radio 2) for the next two weeks. We’ve really enjoyed ourselves here today.”
For his part, Ben managed to share a few lyrics on air from Phats & Small’s best known-hit, ‘Turn Around (Hey what’s wrong with you?)’ and there’s little doubt that the couple must have enjoyed the relative anonymity they enjoyed during their day in West Waterford.
Happy and relieved
Dungarvan Show Chairperson Pat Cunningham, grabbing a water from the sponsor’s tent adjacent to the livestock section, cut a happy and relieved figure when talking to the Waterford News & Star.
“It was actually fine earlier when we got to the field but at around seven o’clock it started to rain, But by half ten, the sky had cleared, the sun was after coming out a bit and the day is after going very well for us.”
While the ground beneath our feet was far from churned up, the conditions were greatly improved from the searing heat of 12 months ago, as Pat explained.
“Last year, the ground was like the road with all the dry weather and it cost us a lot of money drawing in water so this year the ground conditions are ideal for jumping; the day cleared up well after the rain this morning, the crowds are after coming in well there and the day has gone along very well for us.”
From a location perspective, Pat Cunningham feels the show (on lands provided by Billy Quealy, Shanley’s, Tom Broderick and Liam Whelan) is ideally located.
“It’s brilliant. We’re only five minutes out from the town centre, it’s a lovely site and it’s easily accessed. In fairness, the town people of Dungarvan give us a lot of support, be it through businesses or through locals who come out here, bring out their families and maybe the dog too. And the thing is, it’s the only show in the county, it’s something we’re happy to put on but if people don’t come out and see what’s going on and don’t put the few bob in the kitty, then the show couldn’t go on and the fact that people keep coming out every year means we can keep running the show, and that’s great from our point of view.”
Jason Ryan, who was among the team manning the Waterford and Wexford Education Training Board (WWETB) tent, recalled the demise of the Waterford Show, once a fixture on a site now occupied by the UPMC Whitfield Clinic in Butlerstown.
“It used to draw a lot of people from the city and the east of the county and it was a pity when it went,” said Jason, a De La Salle clubman who is well-known in wider GAA circles through his time as senior football manager in Wexford and Kildare.
‘A credit to the town’
“It’s great to come out here every year and see the effort that’s put in by the committee to make it happen. It’s a credit to the town and the surrounding area.” Jason, who is Deputy Principal of Dungarvan College, is readily familiar with the significance of not only building a team but sustaining it and he made for great company on Thursday last.
Pat Cunningham, a South Kilkenny native who is intimately familiar with the great agricultural show tradition maintained by his Iverk colleagues in Piltown, agreed that the Dungarvan Show is a traditional event worthy of both retention and public support.
“It’s fierce important to keep it going. We have a small committee but everyone is willing and able to do the job across all the different sections, be it cattle, sheep, horses, ridden hunters, showjumpers from ‘baby sharks’ up to Grand Prix. And then we have Monica (Dwane) and Dina (Walshe) in the Home Industries tent doing great work year in, year out to promote that end of the show. It wouldn’t be a show unless we had all those people willing to make it happen across all the different sections.”
And the Home Industries tent made for quite the visit, much to the delight of section secretary Dina Walshe. “We were delighted with how the show itself went along with the level of entries that we attracted again this year,” she said. “We judged the art and craft on the Tuesday and then turned our attention to the floral, fruit and vegetable entries on show day itself, and the variety on display was fantastic.”
Dina has now been involved at committee level for 30 years, somewhat to her own disbelief. “My goodness, the way the time goes by,” she reflected.
Dear friends missed
“I was a member of the Dungarvan Flower Club and my initial involvement with the show was, in my youth, as an entrant before I became part of the committee. Sadly, we’ve recently lost two lovely people who did great work for the Home Industries tent for years, Alice Holohan and Bernie Hobbs, dear friends to so many of us, whom we miss so much. There were a few sad moments last Thursday, that realisation about neither of them being there with us, because they played such an important role in bringing everything together for us over the years.
“A perpetual cup in Bernie’s memory was presented by her family this year, which is a fitting way of honouring all that she did for the show. Her husband John has been a sponsor of our jam-making competition for many years and we’re very grateful for the ongoing support of the Hobbs family and all who support our show annually.”
Pat Cunningham, who has worked in Dungarvan since 1993, was equally thrilled to see such a healthy cattle entry on Thursday last.
“Only two months ago, the old cattle committee retired and at one stage it looked like we might have no cattle at all but today we have more cattle than we ever had previously, which is great for us. If the cattle went, the next thing the sheep would go and before too long we’d end up just running a gymkhana and that’s not what we want. It’s very important to keep all the key elements of an agricultural show running and rolling.”
From dairy making farming systems, to blow-dying machines for the displayed show cattle, to meal silos, farm finance, food tents and bouncy castles, the requisite staples for a successful show were all in place at Ballygagin last Thursday. Roll on number 103 a year from now!
The Dungarvan Show floral wellie competition again attracted a sizeable entry, with Odhran Walsh (Wood Road, 1st) and Amelia Hickey (Ballyneety, 3rd) picking up rosettes for excellent contributions.