‘My role here with the show has now be­come my ca­reer’

Irish Examiner - Farming - - COVER STORY - De­nis Le­hane

Freda Kin­nar­ney is grounded in farm­ing.

The Sec­re­tary of Tul­lam­ore Show and the FBD Na­tional Live­stock Show was born on the land and has spent a life­time in­volved in ev­ery as­pect of farm­ing and agri­cul­tural life.

“I grew up on a mixed dairy farm in Clon­lara, Co Clare, just six miles out­side Lim­er­ick city, on the banks of the river Shan­non.”

One of seven chil­dren, she worked at jobs like thin­ning turnips as a young­ster, like many more at the time. “We would have been a close fam­ily, we all helped out on the farm, we all had our jobs to do, it was very much the typ­i­cal up­bring­ing.” To­day the farm is full on dairy farm­ing, run by Freda’s brother Pat Mescall, with the farm in re­cov­ery mode like so many more, af­ter a sum­mer of drought.

“Up to re­cently, it was a case of the ra­tion lorry com­ing once ev­ery week, in­stead of one ev­ery three,” says Freda.

“Af­ter fin­ish­ing her ed­u­ca­tion, Freda went to work with the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, end­ing her time with the Depart­ment on the staff of Bal­ly­haise Agri­cul­tural Col­lege, Co Ca­van. Freda mar­ried PJ Kin­nar­ney in 1977, they have three chil­dren who all now work in dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try, while at the same time still with a strong con­nec­tion to the land.

PJ and Freda farm five miles from Tul­lam­ore. Ear­lier this year, they sold their dairy herd af­ter 40 years in milk pro­duc­tion.

“At the time we got mar­ried, we would have had a tillage farm with beet grown also. But, as you know your­self, with the clo­sure of the beet fac­to­ries, a change was needed, and so we went down the dairy farm­ing path.” “I sup­pose when you are start­ing a fam­ily you need a more reg­u­lar in­come, which does ex­ist in dairy farm­ing. “And we would have been dairy farm­ing back at home, so it wasn’t a huge change to go dairy farm­ing at the time.” Freda’s first ex­pe­ri­ence of Tul­lam­ore Show was back in 1991, but as she ex­plains, it was a very tentative start. “The first Tul­lam­ore Show, the re­vival show af­ter 52 years, was held in 1991. “At that show, I dropped off my hus­band PJ at the en­trance gate, he was in­volved with the com­mer­cial cat­tle sec­tion.

I then headed off to Lim­er­ick. So I wasn’t even at the first show.”

She laughs as she re­calls it. But all was to change for Freda Kin­nar­ney, the show would yet play a key role in her life.

The fol­low­ing year, Freda helped with stew­ard­ing in the cook­ery sec­tion. And on the third year she was drafted in to run the cook­ery sec­tion. Freda’s in­volve­ment with Tul­lam­ore Show has con­tin­ued ever since.

She has cov­ered al­most ev­ery role over the past 25 years. “It got to the stage that my work with the show was get­ting more de­mand­ing, and I had to de­cide was I stay­ing with the show or con­tin­u­ing with my work life out­side the show.”

Freda would also have worked in pro­mo­tion, in mar­ket­ing for com­pa­nies like Dairy­gold and Glan­bia. “My role here with the show has now be­come my ca­reer. I’m em­ployed by the Show, and this is what I do.” “There is a huge chal­lenge in work­ing on de­liv­er­ing a show like this, and my at­ti­tude hasn’t changed since I worked here on a vol­un­tary ba­sis. Most of the peo­ple work­ing on this show do so on a vol­un­tary ba­sis and there is some at­mos­phere here, there is some re­turn for your time. There is a feel good fac­tor with be­ing in­volved in some­thing that is go­ing well, that there is great re­spect for.”

“My role on the day of the show would be a lot of meet­ing and greet­ing. We would have our of­fi­cial open­ing at 12 noon, we would have a lot of VIPs and guests in­vited. “Be­fore that, you are look­ing at the ad­min side of things, see­ing if it’s all run­ning to plan, en­sur­ing that judges and en­tries are where they should be.

“The fact that I first got in­volved in the cook­ery sec­tion means that the cook­ery sec­tion would al­ways have a spe­cial place in my life. “What I re­ally like to see are all the plans com­ing to­gether, and you can ram­ble around and meet the peo­ple. “Peo­ple are here from all cor­ners of the globe. They are all happy. The won­der­ful at­mos­phere that is here, to­tal strangers talk­ing to each other. It’s some­thing spe­cial, you just can’t put your fin­ger on it.

“And there is so much to the show, I mean it’s not just the live­stock, peo­ple get the idea that a live­stock show is all about hav­ing 1,000 bulls on dis­play.

“Yes, live­stock is a big part of it, but it’s only one el­e­ment also. From high fash­ion to want­ing to see how your brown bread is judged, the pro­gramme in­cludes some­thing for every­one.” With the show over, it’s all about plan­ning for the fol­low­ing year. Af­ter the show, our pat­tern is to have a meet­ing of the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee within days.

“We call this the pos­i­tive meet­ing. The pos­i­tive feed­back. If any­one has a neg­a­tive com­ment, it is not tol­er­ated or ap­pre­ci­ated,” Freda says with a smile. “Then, about two weeks af­ter that, we will have the real post-mortem. And it’s at this meet­ing that we re­ally fo­cus on all the dif­fer­ent el­e­ments that went into the show.

“Of whether the traf­fic plan worked, whether this thing worked, or that. This is how we form our plan go­ing for­ward, you ap­pre­ci­ate the feed­back, see where it takes you and see if it can be de­vel­oped fur­ther.

“That’s the sys­tem that has brought us to where we are, de­vel­op­ing all the time. It’s all about team work. “And while we would of­ten be asked about the pos­si­bil­ity of run­ning the show over two days, we would be con­scious that qual­ity is the key com­po­nent here, not quan­tity. “While it’s a case of never say never, the sin­gle day works very well right now.”

Pic­ture: Dan Line­han

Freda Kin­nar­ney in the field where the show team works from the sec­ond week in July to the end of Au­gust, cre­at­ing the mon­ster event, and then re­turn­ing it for sheep graz­ing af­ter the event.

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