BYGONE DAYS: Ploughmen press ahead with match despite wet sodden soil

The annual ploughing match of the Killead Farming Society was held at Crumlin this week in 1861 in a field belonging to “the lord of the soil”, the Reverend Arthur Hercules Pakenham, reported the News Letter.

The paper’s correspondent noted: “The day was most unfavourable, rain having fallen throughout; but so great was the interest created in the match that nearly thirty ploughs were entered.”

The correspondent added: “The land was divided into lots for the different classes, each lot being somewhat over a rood, statute measure. The ploughs were in the field at about ten o’clock, and presented a very pleasing appearance, the horses, ploughs, and harness being of a very superior description.”


Pictured is Mr Samuel Archer McBride from Tanvally. He is ploughing for Annaclone Ploughing Society at the farm of Joe Russell, Cascum which now forms part of the Boulevard shopping centre. At this match, in the late 1940s, Samuel won the style and appearance class. This old photo was provided by James McBride (son of Samuel). Mr McBride Senior is also the grandfather of Farming Life editor Ruth Rodgers. Picture courtesy of the McBride family. Do you have old farming related photographs that you would like to share with Farming Life readers? Email them to [email protected]

There were three classes at the ploughing match, Class A - “The farmer, his son, or relative residing with him, not in the capacity of a hired servant, who shall plough the land allotted to him in the best manner, and within the given time.” Class B - “The farmer whose servant shall plough the land allotted to him in the best manner, and within the given time.” And Class C - “Open to all members and all competitors from any other district not within the limits of the Killead Society.” Seven ploughs started in Class A, thirteen in Class B, and five in Class C, making in all twenty-five.

Of the match itself the News Letter’s correspondent at Crumlin in February 1861 noted: “The ploughing was all executed within the given time. Eighteen prizes were awarded by the honourable secretary, Mr Moore.”

Meanwhile, the second annual dinner and prize giving held in connection with the Killead Farming Society ploughing match was held in the upper room of the court-house in Crumlin, and “was supplied in a first-class manner” by Mr Byrne, proprietors of the Pakenham Arms Hotel.

The News Letter’s correspondent reported: “The large room was tastefully decorated with evergreens and military flags – two of which belonged to the 43rd Regiment, of which the late Sir Hercules Pakenham was colonel, and one of the old Uister Regiment, all of which gave evidence of having been carried in well-fought fields.”

Mrs Elsie Breadon from Donaghadee, Co Down, at the Balmoral spring show and sale in February 1982, with her supreme champion Welsh boar. Mrs Breadon also won the reserve supreme championships with a gilt. Picture: Farming Life archives

They added: “About one hundred gentlemen sat down to the dinner at seven o’clock. The chair was occupied by the Reverend Arthur H Pakenham. At the head of the table with the chairman were, The Reverend Mr Bickerstaff, Mr Arthur Molyneux, Largy, Mr Whitfield, Crumlin, Mr Montgarrett, Dr Hume, Mr John McNeilly, Belfast, Mr David Morton, Belfast, Mr Robert Gray, Belfast, &c, &c. The remaining gentlemen present were, for the most part, farmers of the neighbourhood.”


Addressing those gathered in the court-house the Rev Arthur H Pakenham said: “It cannot fail to have struck you how many meetings connected with objects similar to this have lately taken place – meetings I mean connected with the social advancement and industrial employment of the people. This in itself is a great testimony to their advantage. Two or three times in the last month the noble viscount at the head of the government [Prime Minister, Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston] has set us an example in this matter.”

The Rev Pakenham added: “I think, however, from our own experience of such gatherings, we may judge of their good effects; for, setting aside the direct advantages such meetings produce, they have the indirect ones, of making the different classes of our society better known to each other, and showing each one how mutually dependent he is, and must be, upon all the rest.

Mr Hubert Gabbie from Crossgar, Co Down, with one of his Large White prize winners at the Balmoral spring show and sale in February 1982. Picture: Farming Life archives


“What lessons history teaches us with regard to the estrangement of class from class, I need not recall to you, while in the generally happy and contented state of our own land we may see the effect, in different classes of our own people knowing, understanding, and respecting each other.”

The Rev Pakenham continued: “Quiet amid so many storms; steady among so many signs of change, well may we be proud and thankful of our common country; and, as far as we are able, each to foster that element of our country’s greatness – the mutual reliance and self-control of its people.”

Turning his focus to the work of the Killead Farming Society, the Rev Pakenham said: “I cannot, however, pass on without congratulating the Killead Farming Society upon the direct and actual good likely to result from its operations. I believe Killead has, up to the present, not been considered actually in the agricultural van. The scientific part of our employment is pretty well done for us – by societies or individual chemists – the art must be learned and practised by ourselves.

“One of the principal agricultural artists is the ploughman. Upon the way in which he does his work much of the success of the crop depends.

“Any thing to interest him in his work will have a triple effect.

“First, of raising the main himself; next, of improving his work, and so adding to the wealth of society; and, lastly, of benefitting his employers. I cannot, therefore, but wish such societies every success, feeling, as I do, how beneficial an influence they tend to exert upon all classes amongst us.”

The Rev Pakenham concluded: “We are all in the same boat, you and I in our different position therein. We are all equally interest in getting that boat into safe harbour.”