In praise of: “The Ploughing”

Everyone wanted to be photographed with Anna May McHugh

Thousands  at the National Ploughing Championships in Ratheniska, Stradbally, Co Laois,  on Wednesday Photograph: Barbara Lindberg

Thousands at the National Ploughing Championships in Ratheniska, Stradbally, Co Laois, on Wednesday Photograph: Barbara Lindberg

Sat, Sep 28, 2013, 01:00

Is there no end to the success of the National Ploughing Championships ? It filled the equivalent of three Croke Parks this year. It attracted more than 300 members of the media, mainly from here but also from Finland, China, New Zealand and the UK. And it seemed that half the Dáil, and all of RTÉ, had decamped to the fields of Laois.

It’s all down to the force of nature that is the chief organiser Anna May McHugh. Everyone wanted to be photographed with her, from President Michael D Higgins to Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Her first championships were in 1956 and she shows no sign of retiring any time soon.

Since August she has been overseeing the building of the site at Ratheniska with almost 1,400 stands. It will take a month to pack it all up, lift the 22.5 km of metal roadways and give the fields back to the Carter family. Then planning will begin almost immediately on next year’s event.

The Chinese visitors were in awe at the event, saying they have nothing similar and would like to learn from it. But they would have to get the Chinese version of Anna May McHugh first.