City Culchie off to the Ploughing Championships


As a farmer’s daughter, I have attended the ‘National Ploughing Championships’ almost every year since I can remember.

This year’s nomadic festival is located a few miles from the site of Electric Picnic in Laois on 24 – 26 September.

Like many children who grew up surrounded by sheep and cows, with acres of space and an all too familiar relationship with muck, I have migrated to the urban areas and I am no longer a farmer.

I am a part of a hybrid generation called ‘City culchies’.

I grew up feeding calves and driving tractors and I now live in an apartment, above a Chinese takeaway, lulled to sleep by sirens and drunken louts singing on the street.

Far from electric fences, silage and the fresh smell of slurry, my culchie ways remain dormant.

I do not drink ‘tae’, I do not carry blue twine in my pocket in case I need to tie something and I do not wear wellies to work.

These habitual elements of the country lifestyle are hidden under a thin veneer of takeaway coffees and instagram food photos.

As the farmer festival comes closer however, I look forward to embracing my cultural heritage with unabashed enthusiasm.

Getting up at the crack of dawn to ‘get there early’ is the first ritual of the ploughin’.

You can never be too early and there is great respect to be earned for those who put in the effort.

Someone who says “Shur I left at 3am this morning,” will be lauded for their strong commitment.

Before heading in, a quick meal of tae and sandwiches is had in the parking field, while men in florescent jackets signal wildly to long car queues and yell things like: “Pull her in there.”

While ‘suppin the tae’ and donning the attractive attire of wellies, peaked caps and many  waterproof layers, it is customary to converse with the people sitting in the car boot next to you.

“Where are you from?” is a completely acceptable question at the ploughing and “How long did it take you to come?” is another conversation starter.

Inside the gates, everyone is immediately overcome with an insatiable desire for free pens and the competition to see who can collect the most begins.

It is a ruthless quest, from political stands to milking machine exhibitions; if there are free pens, I will feign interest.

“So how does it work then?” I ask the dogged sales assistant who launches into her pitch while I edge towards the box of pens.

Looking at very big tractors is another thing that must be done. Tapping shiny parts of the engine with a few grunts is customary.

Saying: ‘Jasus that’s a fine contraption’ or even a basic question of ‘What’s the horse power on her?’ further adds to the city culchie façade that you may actually purchase a tractor to park on the street outside your flat.

The pedigree bulls lined up in tents is also a must see.

Aberdeen Angus is one breed that I always visit. There is very good burger stand out front selling Aberdeen Angus meat in a bun and it really is a better burger than most.

Eating in the tent, I always wonder if my meal is related to the animals lined up in front of me.

My favourite thing to see is the dog trials, just like in Babe the movie. This is where farmers use a whistle to command sheep dogs to move sheep around a field.

It is fascinating, some dog are faultless, but the golden moments are really when the dog gets completely confused, the sheep escape and the farmer forgets about the whistle and starts yelling.

As a city culchie, the ploughing is a great way to reconnect with all things country. The deeper I delve into the concrete jungle, the more unique and exciting the ploughing championships become.

It is great to see aunts and uncles, old neighbours and familiar farmers and there is no better time to catch up because everyone is in top form thanks to the free pens.

It is not just an agricultural show, it is a museum.  It is not just a celebration, it is a commemoration and it is not just a day out, but a world revisited.


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