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