Even in a crowd of thousands the chances are you will always meet someone with a Monaghan connection. So it was at the new-look Balmoral Show, transferred by the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society from its usual venue at the King’s Hall in Belfast to the Maze/Long Kesh development site near Lisburn. Amidst the rubble of the H-Blocks and with some of the watchtowers and remainder of the security wall from the former high security prison in the background I came across Charlie Barker from Derryvalley in Ballybay.
The former nurse at St Davnet’s hospital is a volunteer with the Riding for the Disabled Association Ireland, based at Geraldine Bellew’s Cloncaw Equestrian Centre in Glaslough. He was helping Tom Cloonan from Castleshane to take part in a riding display involving games in one of the outdoor arenas. It was organised by RDA groups from the North.The Monaghan group meets every Tuesday morning and helps a dozen or so people with learning difficulties to enjoy riding a pony, in this case “Major”, which Geraldine had transported to the show. Keeping them company was Mary Foley from Lemaculla, Ballinode.
Another Glaslough connection encountered at the new Balmoral Park was David Boyd from Mullaghduff, a Holstein cattle breeder and dairy farmer, who had a number of them entered in the show. He has been on the Irish judges’ panel for the past twenty years and has judged at shows throughout Ireland, England, Portugal and Italy. In March he was a judge at the European Holstein Championships in Switzerland. It was Holsteins that took the two top spots for the dairy interbreed section at Balmoral. David was among the visitors at the Town of Monaghan Co-op stand, where chairman Hugo Maguire from Clones was on hand to greet suppliers, their families and friends and provide them with a welcome cup of tea and delicious scones with cream and jam. The visitors included another Glaslough man, Trevor Keith, along with two brothers, Paddy Rafferty from Monaghan and Eddie from Sheetrim, Tydavnet. They were accompanied by Brendan Greenan from Ardaghy.
In another part of the 65 acre complex beside the main arena I met Ann Connolly from Tydavnet, who was with Joyce Blackburn from Monaghan, enjoying a break after a long day at the show. Their excursion might have brought them into contact with Liz McGuinness from Tydavnet, who brought her range of Kiwi Country Clothing to the shopping village. She told me that after one year in business she was now exporting her goods to a number of countries. In another part of the complex, Castle Leslie in Glaslough was promoting its leisure breaks.
But one of the most impressive displays from Monaghan was from McAree engineering of Ballinode, regular exhibitors at the trade stands. Eamonn McMeel and Noel Kiely were busy showing their range of V-Mac silos, hoppers and tote bins to prospective clients. The company used the show to test the water for its latest product, which immediately caught my attention when I visited the stand.
The V-Mac bag hopper with adjustable “legs” can be transported on a tractor with a buck rake or grab to collect a one ton bag of meal from the merchant and then bring it back to the farm and store it. The hopper has a chute at the bottom to dispense whatever amount of feed is required. Hopefully this design will prove to be another success for the company and we can expect to see more of them in use around the county.
The Balmoral show had something to attract all ages and when I saw a young lad in a Monaghan GAA top I immediately went over to his parents to discover it was Joe McCarey from Dundian, Carrickroe, enjoying a day out with his wife Pauline and three sons, one of them a baby, Páidí, named after the great Kerry footballer who died last year. Cathal (standing in the front of the picture) is becoming a media personality, having appeared in the Irish News and also on the RTÉ Sport coverage of the Monaghan v Meath division III final when the camera zoomed in for a close-up of him, apparently!
Over at the childrens’ farm, earth science expert Gretta McCarron from Monaghan had set up a stand for the Open University iSpot programme, encouraging people to identify and record wildlife and plants. All in all it was a very successful show at the new Balmoral Park, with a strong Monaghan presence.