It’s a week on since we packed the mála shop back into the van and left Ratheniska. The Carnival of life that is the National Ploughing Championships is over for another year and we look forward to the next. This year saw us in the Dolmen tent at stand number 470. To say that the ploughing is a buzz is an understatement, those who have been, will know what I mean. The only way I can describe it is that it’s 3 x 12 hour days of intense interaction. From 7 in the morning until 7 in the evening the place comes alive. Politicians, cultchies, townies. oldies, school children, lgbt, Legion of Mary, Franciscans, Priests, Dodgy Singers, Healers, Supermarket Chains, National Media, Local Media and whom ever else you care to mention turn up in a field and start the National 3 Days of “Howya”.
Everywhere you turn there is a conversation going on. It could be between an auld fella from Kerry and and a young one from Mayo standing in the queue for the Zip Fire Lighters Stand waiting eagerly to get their free Fire Log, or it could be a Franciscan Monk talking to someone from the LGBT stand while they queue up for the free Aldi goody bag.
Queueing for free stuff at the ploughing is obligatory. This must be done in a go big or go home kind of fashion. My auld fella is a demon at this. I noticed him coming back to the mála stand twice on the first morning, each time he asked me to hold on to his bag. In the two bags there was each a single little sapling tree. The third time he came with a single tree in a bag I had to ask what the story was and he filled me in that coillte were giving out free trees. Then he dropped it!! Without a single hint of irony in the man’s voice he asked me would I go and que up for one and that he would stand in on the stand for me. He was worried that his cover was blown and that if he went again he would be noticed.
The Ploughing is the biggest 3 days in the agri/food and general business calender of the year. Every one gets their pitch and i mean everyone. It has to be bar none the most inclusive event in the country. This hasn’t happened by some sort of accident. It goes to the core of the ethos of the National Ploughing Association Culture. It’s a grass routes organisation which caters to the needs of the grass routes of Ireland. Over the years it has grown to be one of the biggest most professionally run outdoor exhibitions in Europe. If you really want to know the state of the nation in any given year get yourself down there and mix with the best and worst of your own. I guarantee you will come away prouder of what your little island can achieve when ordinary people of all walks of life get together in a field and just start by saying “Howya”.