Valerie details the place of the plough
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.