Wednesday 16 October 2019

More Sahara than South Wexford

David Medcalf

Heavy traffic is not the norm in the greater Rathangan area - except on the second Thursday in July. After the washout of 2012, the tailbacks returned to the roads approaching the windmills of Killag last week.

The Bannow Show, 64th in the annual series, was well and truly back in action. Any motorist knew it had to be show time when stuck outside Baldwinstown behind a horse-box, a low-loader hauling a vintage tractor and Chesters mobile burger van.

Normal meteorological service was resumed after the rain which played such rotten spoilsport last year, with a fierce glare off the hi-viz vests of the teams of stewards in charge of parking cars in strictly regimented lines. Prudent punters reached first for the sun cream before venturing into the show fields. This was more Sahara than soggy South Wexford.

Where else would you see high heels tottering across the grass, carefully avoiding the cow pats? Where else would you be able to buy anything from a combine harvester to tub of acne cream? Where else this side of the Garvaghy Road would you go to see bowler hats being worn in earnest?

The bowlers were the stubbornly traditional headgear of choice for many of the judges and stewards in the myriad range of horse classes which took over many of the fields in Killag on show day.

Circus supremos Barnum and Bailey used to boast of three rings. Well bully for you, B & B, but the Bannow Rathangan Show had no fewer than nine rings for the showing of horses (and the occasional donkey) last Thursday. This in addition to a selection of showjumping arenas.

Sage observers reckoned that the recession may have dented the number of young horses entered in competition but brood mares were to be seen in abundance. The mobile horse village comprising lorries with stables on wheels took up a considerable area of one meadow.

Owners could be seen putting the finishing touches to their steeds, bandaging a tail or brushing a chestnut coloured coat until it shone.

Many of the paying customers who arrived in their thousands never actually went near the gee-gees at all. There were plenty of alternatives to catch the eye. The show provided a bewildering choice of stalls, offering ear-rings, lawn mowers, pink horse bridles, walking sticks, spotty knickers, fudge and so on ad infinitum. Just about everything, except the daily newspaper was up for sale.

Cattle were banned from the line-up this time but the sheep were back in their corner. The usual woolly suspects, the Suffolks and Texels, were joined by some more unfamiliar breeds, such as the Dorset horns and Zwartbles, with some charming little Soay thrown in for good measure. And Bannow yet again attracted goats, most of them provided by the Moore family from Ashfield in Carlow.

The craft marquee was doing great business though it did not do exactly what it said on the tin. Since when do Tupperware or remedies for snoring qualify as crafts? It was left to the ICA to keep the flag flying, with Monica Connick and Eileen Creevey of the association's Kilmore Quay guild inviting passers by to join them in hand-weaving.

Over in the home industry shed, contenders for perfection in brack making exhibited their wares. In the nearby farm produce shed, turnips the size of torpedoes were lined up beside enormous cabbages and sticks of rhubarb so luxuriant that they might have come from a tropical jungle rather than some Duncormick dung heap.

The chef from the Silver Fox made the most of the dry day to cook in the open, spilling the beans (probably not the correct phrase) on how to make the best stir-fried noodles with monkfish. It appeared that culinary ambition remains more feminine than masculine. Of the eleven people in the front row following the recipe, just one was a man.

The cock-a-doodle-doo call came from the poultry tent calling the public to enjoy some very handsome hens. Red rosettes decorated the winners' cages. In one was a hefty black bird with bright red trim, as big as an ostrich, from the hen coop of Graham Grothier in Clonegal.

Then along the line was Joseph Foxton's pretty champion bantam from Bunclody, with scarcely enough meat on its tiny bones to make a decent chicken sandwich.

Show secretary Anne White was relieved and delighted to see Killag hopping once more after the non-event twelve months previously. The tradition which stuttered briefly in the monsoons of 2012 was revived in all its glory, complete with vintage parade led by the rumbling magnificence of the 1889 steam tractor belonging to the Rochford brothers of Cleariestown - capable of accelerating from nought to 10 mph in about three minutes. Parp! Parp!

Wexford People

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