Opening Lines: That Wednesday of the Ploughing that year with all the rain

Ploughing 2017: Or as it will forever be known, That Wednesday of the Ploughing That Year With All The Rain. 

Opening Lines: That Wednesday of the Ploughing that year with all the rain

If it had been filmed in black and white with a few horses desperately pulling Krupp field guns thrown in, it would be a ready-made filming location for the Western Front. You’d just need to digitally edit out the Aldi hats.

I was there. I’ve only dried out now. I brought our nearly two-year old. She was bone dry because I dressed her in better gear than I was.

They make better gear for toddlers than adults anyway. That’s a universal truth. How many mothers have you heard point out their child’s outfit and ask “Why can’t they make these for adults?

And they’re right. Why can’t I wear a top with a stegosaurus on it without having to pay some ironic shop stupid money for it? C’mon Penneys! Let’s have dinosaur tops for the discerning gentleman.

But back to the Ploughing. The abiding impression while walking/wading around the site last week, is it’s the biggest gathering people who are handy. Not in fights (they might also be good at that), just in fixing things.

They walked with the quiet confidence of those who would not be fazed by whatever practical logistical issue presented itself next. As it turns out the main one was getting their vehicle out of the Passchendaele mud of the car park but even then, if I were to be stuck in a field, these are the people I’d rather be stuck in a field with.

Good people to know if you were stuck in any way. If you needed a tow, a chainsaw, candles in a powercut, a shotgun for crows, poitin for rubbing on calves’ throats, a kestrel.

I brought our toddler so she can meet some proper farmers, not just people who talk about it in columns, so she can see proper farming faces.

I wonder will we see their likes again. There was a time when washing your hands in waste oil was the limits of skin care. Swarfega was an affectation. But outdoor people generally look after their skin a bit more now, and are less exposed than before.

Tractors have cabs and pull machines that have replaced some of the reasons to spend lots of time out of the tractor cab.But above a certain age, there are still some vestiges of visages that are so heroically weather-beaten, they could be in one of those ads showing all the types of people who need Health Insurance.

Decades sitting up on a Massey 135, face set grimly to the wind, picking stones, fracking turnips or wincing beetroot or some other obsolete manual task had created crags like a puffin-friendly cliff-face.

Once my daughter had seen proper farmers, she wanted to see cows. Cows with names. Our cows in Dripsey had numbers. The cows and bulls at the Ploughing were all prizewinning. Not for them the dehumanising - or rather debovinising - anonymity of a number.

These animals had names so ornate and ludicrous, a showjumping horse might as well be called Gary in comparison. They sheltered from the rain on luxurious straw, their poo cleared away as soon as they ordured.

This last thing did not surprise my daughter. She’s had this treatment her whole life.

And then it was time for her main wish - a toy tractor. If you want to find out about farm machinery in a safe space, go to the toy shop at the Ploughing.

You’ll see miniatures of machines you didn’t even know existed in big-ature form. Yokes for digging spuds, for worrying carrots, for turning silage into protein bars all perfectly rendered.

With all the exposure to the land, hopefully my daughter might turn out to be handy. And teach me.

More in this section

Lunchtime News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up

Discover the

Install our free app today

Available on


Our Covid-free newsletter brings together some of the best bits from, as chosen by our editor, direct to your inbox every Monday.

Sign up