Bonny babies, brack and budget the hot topics at Tullamore Show

Some 61,000 people attend show opened by Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney


There were 1,000 classes at the Tullamore Show yesterday but none were more hotly contested than the bonny baby show. It was like a Rose of Tralee for very small people except the Roses don’t usually try to crawl off the stage or take a bite out of the microphone. And their mothers don’t regale the audience with their weight and sleeping habits.

Deirdre Healy, who won a bonny baby title 31 years ago, stepped into the lioness’ den when she took on the job of picking the bonniest babe. All but one pair of mothers’ eyes narrowed into slits when she named Offaly baby Demi Kirwan as the finest of them all. Her mother Amy Quinn proclaimed herself to be over the moon and was sure 11-month -old Demi would say the same, if she could speak. The other mothers looked glum at the news that their babies’ bonniness was found to be lacking and Ms Healy wisely did not hang around to ask the other mothers for feedback.

Some 61,000 people attended yesterday’s show which was opened by Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, who observed that it was “by far” the biggest one-day show in Ireland and was continuing to grow. “We may well see it become more than a one-day event in the future,” he said.

A fun-size version of the National Ploughing Championships, although gaining on its bigger rival every year, the show has everything from national livestock competitions to showjumping to sheep-dog trials as well as the mandatory announcements for missing parents. Children never go missing – their parents do, explained the announcer Carrie Acheson.

Visitors could move from the glamorous granny competition to the sheep-shearing or look in at the home-baking tent where rivalry was intense among bakers of cold tea brack.

Enthusiastic inventors were also showing off their latest gadgets. They included Sam Watchorn from New Ross who had fashioned a rainfall meter that played Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head at key moments in rainfall activity.

“He’s been doing this all his life,” explained his wife Ruth who enjoys using his invention of a kitchen bin that emerges from a press at the touch of a foot. “He’s fascinated by electronics.”

Binning the cutbacks was on the mind of IFA president John Bryan, who called on Mr Coveney to introduce a strong suckler payment in the Budget to encourage farmers to grow the suckler herd. Mr Coveney said he “got the message” about suckler farmers “and of course it’s my job to support vulnerable sectors but also to ensure to spend every single cent that we have to spend and get value for money for that”.

But his mind was also on Croke Park and he was pleased to note that show secretary Freda Kinnarney was wearing Cork’s colours. Mr Coveney left Tullamore with a smile on his face as the Cork hurlers delivered the goods. If he can do the same to farmers’ faces after the Budget he will certainly make history.