Va­lerie de­tails the place of the plough

Bray People - - PICTURES - BY DEB­O­RAH COLE­MAN

RU­RAL life in Ire­land has al­ways held a spe­cial place in the heart of re­tired jour­nal­ist Va­lerie Cox so when the op­por­tu­nity arose to write a book about the coun­try’s rich plough­ing tra­di­tion, she grabbed it with both hands.

‘I have cov­ered lots of plough­ing events over the years and my main in­ter­est is in ru­ral Ire­land. The plough­ing fam­i­lies of the coun­try wel­comed me into their homes and shared their sto­ries. There is such de­cency out there and the sense of com­mu­nity spirit is won­der­ful to this day,’ Va­lerie said.

Va­lerie’s home county of Wick­low, in par­tic­u­lar features strongly in the book, ‘A Plough­ing Peo­ple’, and, as part of her re­search, she met with some of the stal­warts of the plough­ing tra­di­tion.

‘Wick­low is such a plough­ing hub. We had our first world cham­pion back in 1964 and that was Char­lie Kee­gan. It was like him win­ning the World Cup, such was the cel­e­bra­tion. Thou­sands of peo­ple gath­ered at the air­port to meet him and up in En­niskerry, they burned three lorry loads of tyres, the scorch marks of which are still vis­i­ble on the rocks up there,’ she said.

Va­lerie de­tails how Wick­low is ‘punch­ing above its weight’ with an abun­dance of ti­tles to its credit, in­clud­ing four for Queen of the Plough, thanks to Muriel Sut­ton, Betty Wil­liams, Greta O’Toole and Pauline O’Toole. There have been two world cham­pi­ons in Char­lie Kee­gan and Ron­ald Sheane and Hugh Pearse won a horse plough­ing ti­tle in 1935.

Of course, one could not write a book about plough­ing with­out try­ing the skill out and Va­lerie was stuck be­hind a plough be­fore she could think twice.

‘ The lo­cal com­pe­ti­tions to choose the Wick­low fi­nal­ists for the plough­ing cham­pi­onships took place in Round­wood and I went along and they said I had to try it out so I ploughed a lit­tle my­self. The horses knew what to do and I re­ally en­joyed it,’ Va­lerie said.

Speak­ing of horses, she also looks at their role. Some, Va­lerie found out, lead dou­ble lives pulling tourist car­a­vans in the sum­mer months. While there are many ti­tle-hold­ers re­sid­ing in Wick­low, there are also many fans of the plough­ing tra­di­tion and Va­lerie had the plea­sure of in­ter­view­ing one such man in John Hur­ley from Clon­paddin.

A man with a love of plough­ing, John also rears ‘movie star’ cat­tle who have fea­tured in a num­ber of tele­vi­sion com­mer­i­cals, in­clud­ing the fa­mous Ker­ry­gold ad where the cows walk un­der um­brel­las. And it was none other than Gerry Cott, a Boom­town Rat in a pre­vi­ous life, who trained the cows for their per­for­mance.

Va­lerie will be sign­ing copies at the Na­tional Plough­ing Cham­pi­onships from Septem­ber 19 to 21. The book is on sale in lo­cal book­shops for €19.99.

Va­lerie Cox with her new book, which is on sale now and which she will be sign­ing at the Na­tional Plough­ing Cham­pi­onships.

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