Tributes paid to outstanding ambassador for ploughing in Northern Ireland

Wilson Holden.Wilson Holden.
Wilson Holden.
Members of the Northern Ireland Ploughing Association provided a guard of honour at the funeral of their chairman Wilson Holden in Larne.

Representatives from associations in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland joined Ulster members to pay tribute to the Northern Ireland Ploughing Association chairman.

Mr. Holden, who lived at Killyglen outside Larne, had been chairman of the group over the past number of years, and had been an active ploughman at events in Northern Ireland as well as representing as a judge internationally.

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He passed away suddenly at the Royal Victoria Hospital on November 16.

The Northern Ireland Ploughing Association secretary Alison Armstrong said that Mr. Holden had been a fantastic ambassador for ploughing in Northern Ireland and would be sadly missed.

Mr. Holden, one of four children of Wilby and Jean Holden, was born at Killyglen in October 1957 and took over the farm from his father when he retired.

Educated at Killyglen Primary, Linn Primary, Greenland Secondary School and Larne Technical College, his working passion was on the family farm and his chosen career as a farmer. It was on the farm that he also learned to develop his skills as a ploughman, entering competitions in his early teens, his first competition success coming at the age of 16 years.

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In later years he became an active member of the Northern Ireland Ploughing Association and rose to become chairman and play an important role in the day to day running of the body.

Rev. Gary Glasgow, officiating at the funeral service in Gardenmore Presbyterian Church, noted the respect and esteem which Mr. Holden had gained among the ploughing fraternity across the province and how he had travelled widely to watch and judge at ploughing events, including visits to France and Austria to judge in recent years.

He described the Killyglen man as a dedicated and hard-working farmer who embraced mechanisation and new technologies and who was also careful not to damage his land or jeopardise his livestock.

The farm prospered and expanded under his dedication and hard work with a new generation of the Holden family now involved, he said. He had also possessed a wealth of knowledge which meant he was the go-to farmer when it came to advice and information.

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“Wilson was a big, strong and robust farmer, massive hands, with a more than healthy handshake. And a personality to match his physical size,” Rev. Glasgow said.

Mr. Holden and his wife Alison were the parents of Simon, Kathy, Emma, Ryan and the late Nigel.

As a mark of respect for the Association chairman, Hillsborough Ploughing Society ploughing match was cancelled on Saturday, November 18.

Among those who paid tribute to Mr. Holden were the members of Glengormley Ambulance & Rescue Unit, who posted on facebook their appreciation of the kindness and charity which he displayed towards the unit and other good causes.

The funeral service was from Gardenmore Presbyterian Church with interment in Larne cemetery. Donations in lieu of flowers were accepted for the Chest, Heart and Stroke charity.