Big Phil steps stoically through the muck and madding crowds
PHIL HOGAN has a few things in common with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth. She famously had her annus horribilis and he’s having his, thanks to bothersome issues such as the household charge, septic tanks and now accusations of anti-Traveller bias. Adding to his woes is an unflattering scarecrow masquerading as the Minister in nearby Adamstown.
People keep pressing gifts into Big Phil’s hands as he does his walkabouts. The Minister for the Environment arrived at the Leader Village at the Ploughing Championships to visit crafts people and food producers.
They all wanted to give him things but, like the queen, he doesn’t carry a handbag, so he flapped around looking for a pair of hands into which he could thrust the gifts.
Limerick woman Kathleen Gunning was a beneficiary of his largesse when he presented her with a little chocolate lamb. She was delighted with her good fortune.
The next gift was more ornate. Jeremiah Dennehy from Brogeen Crafts had spent “a good week” carving Phil Hogan’s face out of bog oak, even going to the trouble of including his glasses. The Minister looked slightly stunned at the remarkable likeness. “He couldn’t believe we were able to carve his face out of a piece of oak like that,” Dennehy said. “We get a lot of auld timber out of the bog.” He must be a big Hogan fan, then? “Oh, we’re a fan of everybody, really,” he said diplomatically. “We fall out with nobody.”
Big Phil beetled around the stands, acquiring brochures, candles and a clock along the way. He tried on a woolly hat on the Mad4Hats stand but it was a little snug, sitting like a tea cosy on his expansive crown. Then he escaped behind a door for tea and a man in a high-vis vest stood guard in case reporters charged at him to question the Minister on his attitude to Travellers.
Refreshed, Big Phil made his way out to the madding crowds and was accosted by a man giving out leaflets encouraging non-payment of the septic tank charge. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself,” the man shouted. “And racist into the bargain. Disgusting, how dare you show your face?” But Big Phil continued marching stoically through the muck.
It was all about the muck yesterday morning as people exchanged horror stories about their exits from the site on the previous night. “You spent two hours queuing to get out of a field? I’ll see your two hours and raise you my car being towed through two fields and being misdirected by gardaí around the by-roads of Wexford.”
One forgetful farming hack spent an hour and a half looking for his jeep in the “blue sheep” car park when it was waiting patiently in the “yellow elephant” car park. Sure where else would it be?
An IFA man locked his keys in the car and had to wait for the rescue van to make its way through miles of cars travelling in the one-way system. And then locate the car among the coloured animal car parks.
But things looked much brighter in the afternoon when the sun made its debut. Also making a debut was debonair septuagenarian Clive Holmes from Co Waterford, who came to his first Ploughing Championships and bagged the most appropriately dressed man award. As soon as he set foot on the catwalk he discovered his inner model. He sauntered, struck a pose or two and swung his coat over his shoulder, much to the delight of the whooping audience. “I thought it would be nice to ham it up a bit,” he said afterwards. “I feel I might take up residence in Paris.”
It was a poignant moment for Gillian Kelleher from Millstreet when she won the most appropriately dressed woman award. Both she and her mother made it to the final of the competition last year but her mother died six weeks later. “I didn’t know whether I’d come or not this year because of my mum,” she said. “So I’m delighted I did, a little bit emotional but I’m very proud.”
The fashion shows drew strong crowds yesterday while other attractions included welly throwing, pole climbing and an intriguing ICA talk about fifty shades of fascinators.
Fifty shades of indignation may be on the cards when Taoiseach Enda Kenny visits today, just before the ploughing finishes and people make their last exit from Ballinaboola.