Single and triple furrows in Athy

Published: 12:43PM Dec 13th, 2011
By: Web Editor

More classes of ploughing over in Athy, Co Kildare, included the single-furrow, three-furrow and Macra classes at the recent NPA All Ireland Ploughing Championships.

Single and triple furrows in Athy

Plenty of weight on both front and rear wheels.

We see the odd single-furrow plough at a match in England, usually a Ransomes TS-42 in the horticultural class, but in Ireland there is a separate class dedicated to the single-furrow plough, mainly International and the majority of tractors used are Farmall Cubs.

The ploughs are usually lifted and lowered via hand, but some owners have made their own adaptations to make life a bit easier.

Unusual sight

The sight of an almost complete line-up of Cubs and IH ploughs makes an unusual but pleasant one. Most have a single rear wheel weight to either side to aid traction, but as some of the entrants told me, you only have about 9hp (drawbar) from the IH-C60 one-litre engine. One set of rear weights would take one horsepower for the added weight, which doesn’t leave many for ploughing in wet or difficult ground. The cub was built from 1947 (s/n 501) until s/n 224703 in 1964 (the only model built with an ‘L’ head engine) and the engine was offset to the left with the driver and steering wheel on the right. This concept was called ‘Culti-Vision’ in reference to the ability of the driver to have a perfect view of a belly-mounted cultivator.

It was the most popular small tractor, with sales of over 220,000 covering its almost 20-year production run. IH also built Cubs for Europe at a factory in St. Dizier, France. These were dubbed the French Cub. The French version became the Super Cub with a more powerful engine in 1958 until production ended in 1964.

With a full set of wheel weights (front and rear) was Longford’s John King on his French-built Cub. John uses a hydraulic cylinder to lift the plough and has constructed various parts in order to adjust and move his plough sideways as well as up and down.

In the next plot was Galway’s Danny Glynn, who had won the class in 1996 and again in 1998 aboard his 1953 Cub. He said: “My father Patrick Glynn bought it new from Moylough, Galway, and it came complete with a plough and mid-mounted mower for £320. I’ve always been interested in the vintage scene; then after seeing a video of vintage ploughing around 1984, some of us decided to start a club in Moylough. I started ploughing in 1990 and have only missed one All Ireland in 2001 because of the foot and mouth.”

Three-furrow

Another class of ploughing in Ireland is the three-furrow class. Two separate conventional classes here, the 3F match class and the 3F standard class. Whereas the standard class is just that, with no gadgets on the plough, the ploughs are just as they came out of the factory. The match class allows more technical components, such as extra rams and packers. Both classes raise the rear (third) furrow when ploughing the opening, lowering so all three furrows are used for the rest of the plot.

There were 14 competitors in the match plough class, all using Kverneland ploughs apart from Donegal’s Donal Deeney and Cavan’s Cecil McCullagh who were using Fiskars. Kverneland ploughs were used in every plot in the standard class, both matches were held on the first day of the Nationals.

In the standard class Cork East’s Niall Twomey took the top spot in his John Deere while Cork West’s Daniel O’Riordan drew with Kilkenny’s Edward Forrestal for 2nd place.

Across the plots in the 3F match class Richard Keegan (Carlow) and Pat Furlong (Wexford) were both after another win here, watched by Wexford’s Billy Donnelly who won the class in 2004 (Tullow). Pat won the class last year in Athy while Richard has several wins under his belt stretching back to 1992.

It was a busy three days for Billy; as well as keeping his eye on these classes he was also watching both his sons Tom and Dan compete in the following day’s Senior Reversible class. Today Richard added to his tally on his Landini, 10 points clear of Pat with James Prendergast in third place.

As for the Donnellys? Dan finished in fourth place, three points ahead of his brother Tom to gain a place in the 2012 European Reversible Contest. A month later Dan was to finish in overall third place in Northern Ireland at the 2011 European Reversible Contest.

Thursday action

Thursday saw the three-furrow reversible class match with 11 entrants all using Kverneland ploughs. Geoff Wycherley from Bandon, Cork West, had been up day and night since breaking his plough on September 11, less than two weeks before competing.

Geoffrey, who started ploughing at match level back in 1985 and then took 10 years out before switching to reversible ploughing two years ago, said: “I had been ploughing at a charity match in aid of Carmel Hospital, Clonakilty, where all the West Cork ploughing team were invited. On the road home I pressed the ‘lift control’ down button by mistake and the plough dropped on to the Tarmac road. The wear slides for the front furrow were damaged and out of line.”

Geoffrey was unable to get new parts in such a short time but a local firm, John Hourihane Engineering in Bandon, came to the rescue, re-machining the damaged parts.

He continued: “I reassembled the plough, finishing it on September 16, and hoped all would be well for my match the following Thursday in Athy. I gave my brother Michael a hand on Wednesday in the Senior Rev class.”

The hard work and late nights in the workshop paid off and Geoffrey finished in top spot nine points clear of Cork East’s Jamie O’Sullivan to lift the John McHugh Memorial Perpetual Cup.

I asked Geoffrey why he ploughs three- and not two-furrow reversible? “The three-furrow class was introduced by the NPA five years ago. We have to do the same plots as the two-furrow class (e.g. butts) with one big difference. The ploughs have to be completely standard with no modifications allowed; this gives a very level playing field and is also a class that a person can get started in without the big expense.”

Macra

As well as introducing a new class for 2011 (Intermediate Reversible) the NPA has revived the MACRA two-furrow conventional class.

Macra na Feirme is an organisation for young people between the ages of 17 and 35 who are interested in meeting new people and getting involved in not just farming but also sports, travel, drama, debating, or just want to meet new people and have some fun. One of Macra’s main aims is to help young farmers get established in farming and assist them through learning and skills development, similar to the Young Farmers clubs in England.

Dave Mulcahy from Leamlara, Cork, was involved in getting the Macra class running for the 80th ‘All Ireland’.

Fifteen ploughmen and one ploughlady were entered in the inaugural Macra class. Wicklow’s Jayne Stephens kept the lads on their toes and finished in sixth place. The top spot was taken by Jerry O’Driscoll from Cork West, beating Cork East’s James Linehan by just one point. The surname O’Driscoll and Cork West go together well in ploughing and Jerry is a first cousin of Senior reversible ploughman Liam O’Driscoll.

The 80th ‘All Ireland’ ploughing championships was a huge success. For the third time in succession the town of Athy (pronounced At-eye) was host to three days of crowded streets and swarms of spectators heading to the ploughing, and 2012 will see Wexford host the event. Will we get Wexford-style rain? Will we need the sun cream? Well one thing’s for sure, this has grown since 1931 into probably the largest agricultural event in Europe (if not the world) and Ireland’s top ploughmen will once again see huge crowds and success whatever the weather. A quote from two of the mud-soaked teenagers I spoke to in Mogeely, Cork, in 2005 always rings a bell for me: “It’s Ireland, we know it’s going to rain but we come here for the craic,” and craic we had, plenty of it in very good company!

Cause for celebration

The 80th ‘All Ireland’ was a 60th celebration too for Anna-May McHugh. Her first job was in 1951 alongside J J Bergin in the office of the National Ploughing Competition, and three years later when the NPA of Ireland was established, she was appointed as its secretary. She soon became a central part of the organisation and in 1973 she was the natural choice for the position of managing director. Since then, under her stewardship, the organisation and the event itself have seen unparalleled growth. In 2006, the same year as Ireland hosted the World Ploughing Contest in Tullow, Co. Carlow, Anna-May received an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy from Dublin Institute of Technology. Teamwork from the top of the ladder to the 500 or so staff, many of who are volunteers, make for the continued success of the NPA.

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