‘Miracle’ quad calves make Ploughing debut as Jesuit priests mingle amid celebrities

The celebrities who strutted their stuff on the opening day of the national ploughing championships in Screggan, Tullamore, yesterday had plenty of competition from unexpected sources.

‘Miracle’ quad calves make Ploughing debut as Jesuit priests mingle amid celebrities

Visitors to the Jesuits in Ireland marquee availed of the opportunity to take a selfie with a life-size cut-out of Pope Francis.

But there was much more to Stand 762 than Papal photo ops, a plethora of pens, and free copies of The Sacred Heart Messenger monthly magazine, which will mark its 130th year of publication next year.

The Cross of Blessed John Sullivan SJ, who was beatified in May this year, was on display in an oratory in the marquee where visitors prayed, reflected and received a blessing from one of the Jesuit priests present.

Blessed John, born in Dublin in 1861 into the privileged world of the Protestant Ascendancy, was called to the bar in London, converted to Catholicism, entered the Jesuit order and lived an ascetic, spiritual life especially in his ministry at Clongowes Wood College, Co Kildare.

It was his work here, especially with the poor and the sick, which led to his beatification by Pope Francis. He was never without his crucifix, which had been his mother’s, and he blessed countless people with it.

Away from the peace and quiet of the oratory in the Jesuit Marquee, visitors were invited to meet the billion-to-one quad calves: Jenny, Rosie, Mia, and Fluffy. Owned by Tom, Mary, and Enda Clair of Maghera, Lahinch, Co Clare, they were the focus of much attention on the stand of J Grennan and Sons, a family involved in agri trading since 1878.

The calves were born unaided — some would say miraculously — on February 19 to Bawny, a nine-year-old Hereford cross by a Charolais stock bull sired by Cottage Devon. Although he had not scanned the cow, Tom suspected she was carrying twins.

It is said the chances of quads being born alive are one in 180m. The chances of all four calves being heifers are reckoned to be one in a billion. The only other recorded instances of identical quad calves being born occurred in 2004 and in Texas in 2015.

“We are determined that all four of them will have long and happy lives in Maghera and hopefully they will be lucky enough to be mothers themselves someday,” said Tom.

Trócaire, meanwhile, brought along a lifelike replica of a dead camel which previously drew massive attention at Electric Picnic as it highlighted the food crisis in East Africa. It was part of a larger activation that depicted an African landscape, complete with a small house with working rainwater harvesting systems.

Johnny Lynch from Kilnamartyra, Macroom, Co Cork, the country’s only buffalo farmer and star of Aldi’s current television advert, went one better — he brought along one of his buffalo. He supplies award-winning specially selected Macroom Buffalo Mozzarella cheese to all of Aldi’s 129 stores in Ireland.

Huge crowds attended the championships which President Michael D Higgins officially opened in Indian summer weather.

President Higgins revealed that, during his upcoming State visit to Australia, he will be meeting descendants of his great-uncle Patrick Higgins.

He said Patrick went to Australia in 1862 as a ploughman and won local draught horse competitions and ploughing championships in the Darling Downs on a number of occasions in the 1860s.

Tánaiste Francis Fitzgerald, ministers Eoghan Murphy and Charlie Flanagan, minister of state Pat Breen, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, and diplomats from the US, Britain, France, and New Zealand attended yesterday’s event.

The official attendance yesterday was put at 112,500, about 12,500 up on last year. The weather for the next few days is forecast to be wet.

And there is so much to see at the ploughing — it is not possible to visit all of the 1,700 exhibits. Indeed, a man with a calculator did the maths to prove it at Screggan — he established that a person spending a mere five minutes at each stand would need six full days.

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