BRITISH DAIRY GOLD CUP

TYRONE FARMERS IN FINAL FOR BRITISH DAIRY GOLD CUP

 Michael Fisher  Northern Standard Thursday 9th June 2016 p.9

Two Tyrone farmers will be in contention for the prestigious Gold Cup at this year’s British Dairy Farmers Livestock Event in Birmingham. It’s the premier UK national dairy herds competition, recognising efficiency in commercial milk production. Entry to the event on July 6th and 7th at the National Exhibition Centre outside Birmingham is free for all visitors.

David Irwin and his father Alan run a herd of 170 redhouse Holsteins at their farm near Benburb. The farm is located near the River Blackwater in the townland of Derrycreevy. The other family members involved in the enterprise are William Irwin, Ida, Sylvia, and Jayne.

Their land comprises approximately 240 acres of grassland and cereals. A lot of it is too steep or too wet for cutting silage or growing cereals. Most of the land is heavy soil over red clay.

Approximately 120 acres of silage is made in each of three cuts to supply the stock with forage all year round. Fifty acres of spring barley is grown each year to supply whole grain cereals and straw for feeding to stock.

The farm was initially a mixed dairy, beef and arable farm. The cows were lost to brucellosis in 1974. The present herd started in 1979 with bought in heifer calves in 1977. No stock has been purchased since 1979. The dairy herd was increased and beef gradually phased out, until the present day herd of cows and replacements.

The cows are milked three times a day and the milk is sold to Fane Valley Co-op. All the work is carried out on the farm by the Irwin family and two full-time employees. The work undertaken includes all silage making, slurry spreading and cereal making.

The second Tyrone farmer to compete in the Gold Cup final is Adrian McFarland from Omagh. The two Northern Ireland entrants will be up against two competitors from Scotland, one from Wales and one from England.

The annual event is organised by the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers and attracts more than 400 exhibitors covering thirteen unique product zones. Exhibitors are on hand during the two-day event to demonstrate all-new equipment, products and services to over 17,000 UK and International livestock farmers.

The Gold Cup is the top award in British dairy farming and is open to all dairy herds with official milk records and meeting the criteria of at least 100 cows in the herd,  an annual average cell count of 200,000/ml or less and a £PLI value which is breed specific. Entrants complete a detailed questionnaire giving herd performance data, including production, feed, health and fertility information.

Finalists are selected and visited by the team of judges, and each finalist is judged on factors such as physical and management performance, environmental schemes and their future plans for the dairy business. The winner will be announced and presented with the Gold Cup at the Livestock Event.

The main focus of the event is to share information, ideas and practical advice to help farm businesses survive the next eighteen months. The RABDF Chief Executive Nick Everington told journalists in Belfast: “Times are tough. We are conscious that falling incomes in the livestock sector are continuing to have a severe impact, particularly in dairying. Consequently as a charity representing farmers, the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers is attempting to support the future of farming businesses, where it can.”

“That’s why we have organised this year’s focus at the Livestock Event to be all about helping farmers drive resilience into their businesses. What’s more we have agreed to offer free entry to all visitors; they will have an opportunity to think outside the box and collect a day’s worth of ideas, information and advice to take home from under one roof, and all without charge.”

“Whilst the event has attracted over 350 trade stands, including some companies from Ireland, we are also proud to launch several new technical features, demonstrations and presentations and to have redeveloped new ones. Visitors will be able to find out about relevant products and concepts that will save money and keep on track, and investigate the latest new products and innovation – future investment, staying ahead of the game. We’re expecting over 100 new products to be available, including more than thirty to be launched at the event.”

British Agriculture Minister George Eustice MP will officially open the event on the first day, and will be responding to visitors’ queries on the outcome of the Brexit referendum and its implications for the industry’s future. The Association itself has adopted a neutral stand on the issue.

Mr Everington adds: “We are looking forward to welcoming farmers, stockmen, students, vets, consultants and suppliers, arriving with an open mind and being prepared to embrace change. The future is in their hands.” To pre-register for a free ticket see www.livestockevent.co.uk.

Flights from Belfast and Dublin to Birmingham arrive at the international airport, which is within walking distance of the National Exhibition Centre. TravelSolutions of Belfast (tel. 048-90455030) can provide a booking service for individuals or groups.

Among the key features of this year’s event are:

Forage Field: designed to help all livestock farmers learn more about how to exploit the massive potential of home grown forage, in particular grass, the most cost efficient feed. Forage Field is a hands on practical area that will be split in to two; making more from grass and forage options, and saving silage costs by reducing dry matter losses and improving clamp consolidation.

Calf rearing demonstrations: showcasing a variety of feeding and housing systems including live calves in igloos, conventional and specialist buildings, all of which are designed to improve rearing efficiency of both dairy and beef calves. The feature will be complemented by a series of knowledge sharing seminars delivered by leading youngstock specialists discussing the latest in nutrition and management.

Machinery Demonstration Arena: a new working demonstration featuring mixer wagons, loaders, bedders and straw choppers – essential kit for most intensive dairy and beef farms. Visitors will be able to observe and compare models and weigh up the cost saving opportunities as they are put through their paces.

Foot trimming / Healthy Feet: return of one of the most popular demonstrations. Foot trimming will feature the Dutch Five Step method using both a knife and grinder repeated four times each day, and supported with independent commentary and additional information on locomotion. Healthy Feet is a practical workshop, supported by AHDB, designed to help farmers understand more clearly what causes lameness, its impact and how to reduce incidences. Each session will focus on how to recognise lameness in the early stages, followed by prompt and effective treatment.

Livestock Learning: a new conference theatre designed to offer all dairy, beef and sheep farmers practical advice delivered by specialists and covering a comprehensive range of topics from health to grassland livestock systems. There will also be an opportunity to ‘ask the farmer’, with some of the UK’s award winning farmers taking to the platform.

RABDF Presentations Forum: an opportunity for livestock farmers to glean useful information on a wide range of subjects affecting their businesses including; Decisions4Dairy, tools for survival, how to sell milk at £2 per litre (a niche market for unpasteurised milk), controlling Johne’s and dealing with farm safety issues. It’s estimated that 60% of British dairy farmers do not know the rolling costs of their milk production.

 Beef Arena: another new feature focused on measuring and monitoring to help all rearers and finishers improve their management systems. The arena will feature live EID demonstrations of leading equipment; livestock specialist Miriam Parker will talk through handling systems whilst the central area will be dedicated to weigh crates, cells and accompanying software.

Livestock showing: dairy, beef and sheep will all feature in the show ring: six different breeds within the National Dairy Show including Ayrshire, Brown Swiss and British Friesian cattle societies each staging their national shows, along with British Charolais Cattle Society, the South Devon Herd Book Society will be holdings its second performance championship. The Lleyn Sheep Society will be highlighting what this commercial sheep breed has to offer. 

BALLYGAWLEY BUS BOMB

Ballygawley Bus Bomb Memorial

Ballygawley Bus Bomb Memorial Photo: © Michael Fisher

It was a simple and very dignified ceremony. As motorists were passing by on the main A5 Dublin to Derry road, they might have wondered what was going on at the side of the road at Curr, between Ballygawley and Omagh. People gathered there on Sunday morning to pay their respects to eight British soldiers who had been killed in what became known as the Ballygawley bus bomb, 25 years ago today on August 20th 1988.

Omagh Protestant Boys Flute Band Photo: © Michael Fisher

Omagh Protestant Boys Flute Band Photo: © Michael Fisher

The music by the Omagh Protestant Boys flute band set the mood. You can see my video on youtube here.

Ballygawley Bus Bomb Remembrance Photo © Michael Fisher

Ballygawley Bus Bomb Remembrance Photo © Michael Fisher

The soldiers were returning to their base in Omagh, having flown into RAF Aldergrove. They were being transported in an unmarked coach, driven by a soldier. Reports at the time suggested that although the A5 road was meant to be ‘out of bounds’ for military transport, diversion signs had been put in place and that was why the driver travelled that way from Ballygawley. But that claim was disputed at the inquest. A 200lbs roadside bomb consisting of Semtex and fertiliser exploded, killing eight members of the 1st Battalion, Light Infantry Regiment and injuring 28 of their colleagues.

Roll of Honour read out Photo: © Michael Fisher

Roll of Honour read out Photo: © Michael Fisher

In the brief commemoration at the scene of the blast, the Last Post was sounded and the Roll of Honour was read with the following names:-

Private Blair Bishop (19), Private Peter Bullock (21), Private Jayson Burfitt (19), Private Richard Greener (21), Private Alexander Lewis (18), Private Mark Norsworthy (18),  Private Stephen Wilkinson (18) and Private Jason Winter (19).

In addition, four UDR members killed in a landmine at Gort, Errigal Keerogue, near Ballygawley were also remembered. They died on July 13th 1983, 30 years ago. They were:- Private Ronald Alexander (19), Corporal Thomas Harron (25), Private John Roxborough (19) and Private Oswell Neely (20). 

A thirteenth name was added to the roll of honour, Lieutenant Andrew Somerville (20), a member of 15th/6th Lancers, killed in a landmine attack near Ballymacilroy, Ballygawley on March 27th 1973, 40 years ago.

Ballygawley Bus Bomb Commemoration Photo: © Michael Fisher

Ballygawley Bus Bomb Commemoration Photo: © Michael Fisher

OMAGH COURT

My journey yesterday was on the road to OMAGH in County Tyrone. This morning I was there for the court sitting……

Omagh Magistrates' Court

Omagh Magistrates’ Court

Four men and a juvenile, all from Omagh, have appeared at the town’s magistrates’ court charged in connection with the death of Jason McGovern, a student from Tydavnet in County Monaghan. One of them was also charged with assaulting a friend of the teenager after a night out in Omagh last weekend. All faced a charge of unlawfully fighting causing an affray in the early hours of New Year’s Eve. Mr McGovern from Knocknagrave was attacked on two separate occasions. He was found dead at a friend’s house at Mullan village near Emyvale in County Monaghan on New Year’s Eve. Appearing at Omagh Magistrates Court were James O’Brien from Rylagh Road, Mark Donnelly from Greencastle Road, both 21, Aaron Davis, aged 19, from Beattie Villas and 18 year-old Aaron Bradley, from Waterworks Road in Omagh. Mr Bradley was also charged with assaulting a friend of Mr McGovern’s.  The juvenile cannot be named for legal reasons. An investigating officer said the PSNI were objecting to bail because there were a large number of witnesses and it would take a few weeks to speak to them all. The district judge agreed to bail subject to a number of conditions. Suitable addresses for the defendants would have to be found at least three miles outside Omagh and approved by the PSNI. If this condition is met, they would be released on their own bail of £500 and two sureties of £750. They were ordered not to enter Omagh, except for court appearances, to be tagged, and to report to police three times a week. They also had a curfew imposed by the district judge and they are not allowed to enter licensed premises or to contact witnesses in the case.

UPDATE:  A 21 year-old woman arrested in connection with the murder of Jason McGovern has been charged with perverting the course of justice and is due to appear at Omagh Magistrates Court on Tuesday 29th January.

FROM SLANE TO OMAGH

Plaque at Ledwidge Cottage

Plaque at Ledwidge Cottage

My journey this evening took me along the N2 heading Northwards from Dublin and past a sign indicating “Ledwidge Country” outside Slane in Co. Meath. It’s a good staring point as I mentioned it at the end of yesterday’s blog about Maev Conway-Piskorski. Her mother Margaret (Maighréad Uí Chonmhidhe) had given a lecture at the folk school in Bettystown in 1966 about the poet-soldier Francis Ledwidge. I quote from the book “Seanchas na Midhe” (eds. Ní Chonmhidhe Piskorska & Brück 2009):

“Margaret Conway remembered meeting the poet when she was a young girl in Colga, when he visited her brothers and “fellow poets” at their home. Her painting of the Maiden Tower at Mornington, reproduced on the cover of this booklet, depicts a scene romantically associated with Francis Ledwidge and with Ellie, the young woman who inspired many of his poems” 

Meath Lore

Meath Lore

Ledwidge was born in Slane in 1888 and after joining the Volunteers in 1913 enlisted in the British Army the following year in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He was killed at the battle of Ypres (Ieper) in Flanders in July 1917.

In 1982 a museum was opened by the Omagh writer Benedict Kiely in the cottage where Ledwidge was born. There is a plaque in his memory attached to the front wall of the cottage. It states that it was erected by the Slane guild of Muintir na Tíre on September 9th 1962. A copy of the plaque is set in stone at the approach to the bridge over the River Boyne at Slane.

Ledwidge Cottage & Museum

Ledwidge Cottage & Museum

Continuing past Slane I stopped in County Louth close to the county boundary with Monaghan, where the province of Ulster begins. I watched another Tyrone writer and journalist Martina Devlin being interviewed on the RTÉ Nationwide programme about her home town of Omagh. Talking about the education she received at Loreto primary school, she mentioned the influence of the local poet, novelist and writer, Alice Milligan, whose background is very interesting. From a Protestant family and educated at Methodist College, Belfast, she went on to become an Irish nationalist and a leading figure in the Irish literary revival, who mixed with people like Yeats, Casement and James Connolly. She edited a magazine produced in Belfast at the end of the 19thC, Shan Van Vocht and was an organiser for the Gaelic League. Born at Gortmore, outside Omagh in September 1866, she died in April 1953 and is buried in the Church of Ireland cemetery at Drumragh.

Grave of Alice Milligan

Grave of Alice Milligan

DJ O'Donoghue & George Sigersondiscussing memorial

DJ O’Donoghue & George Sigerson
discussing memorial

While researching William Carleton in the UCD Archive I found a number of letters from Alice Milligan then living at University Road Belfast (near Queen’s University) written to the biographer DJ O’Donoghue (librarian at University College). One of the letters enclosed five poems (LA15/1149). She also agrees to contribute to the Mangan memorial fund, a project which O’Donoghue was working on with George Sigerson to provide a memorial to the poet at St Stephen’s Green. The photo of the two men chatting about the Mangan project is copyright © IVRLA  (Irish Virtual Research Library and Archive)  and is reproduced with the kind permission of Professor Helen Solterer  from an original in  UCD Library Special Collections. The bust of James Clarence Mangan can be seen if you are walking through St Stephen’s Green not far from Newman House and near the middle of the park.

James Clarence Mangan

James Clarence Mangan

UPDATE: Thanks to Charles Fitzgerald for having read the above and sending in the following quotation from a Ledwidge poem (Ceol Sidhe):

“And many a little whispering thing
Is calling the Shee.
The dewy bells of evening ring,
And all is melody”.

The poem and other works by Ledwidge can be found here.