Field of dreams for plough entries

editorial image

It is well known in local farming circles that 2014 has been the centenary year of the Newtown St Boswells and District Farmers Club.

As part of a year of events to mark this milestone, it was decided that a ploughing match was in order, this having been one of the main club events way back in 1914.

Of course it is easier to talk about staging a ploughing match than to actually stage one, because the ploughing match calendar is already well subscribed and involves a great deal of planning.

A clever person came up with the idea that having the match at the same time as the Borders Vintage Agricultural Association annual vintage ploughing match would make the job a lot easier, and so it was to be.

The Newtown St Boswells and District Farmers Club match would take place in fields at Whitehouse Farm on Mertoun Estate, on Saturday, November 1, with the BVAA match the following day in an adjoining field, thanks to the kind permission of the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland.

With the BVAA well-practised in the art of running ploughing matches, this arrangement worked very well on the match days, attracting some of the south of Scotland’s best ploughmen – though regrettably no ploughladies!

There is little doubt that both organisations put in some long days before the matches, but this paid off on the day.

Saturday turned out to be a day made for ploughing, and with an entry of 66 contestants in seven classes, plus a demonstration class, there was plenty for spectators to see if they had the legs to walk round a very large field.

Some ploughmen found the gentle side slope and tramlines testing at times, but in such circumstances experience and perseverance will always win through.

The excellent team of ploughing judges were at great pains to give good verdicts on all ploughing, and it was good to note judge Andrew Mitchell snr, of Forfar, a many-times champion ploughman himself, taking time to offer some sound advice to some of the junior ploughmen, which will stand them in good stead in their future efforts. The demonstration ploughing class was judged by the main body of ploughing entrants – it’s a little like a referendum, but without the politics, so a fair result soon decided the winner.

As is the usual practice at ploughing matches, a substantial raffle was drawn while the result scores were tallied up, followed by the presentation of awards to winners and runners-up by the Duke of Sutherland. A replica of the silver medal originally presented to the 1914 winner was presented to the overall match champion, Stuart Bathgate, of Dunbar – a worthy winner of a unique prize.

Many of the spectators and competitors came away from this match with a strong belief that holding two back-to-back ploughing matches at the same venue is a good plan as many ploughmen stayed on for the BVAA match the following day, thus making a saving on some considerable travelling costs.

Could it be this will become an annual fixture in the Borders? I sincerely hope so.

To name specific people who worked very hard to make this two-day event possible would do a disservice to many who pitched in and did their bit without credit. But everyone who played their part can be satisfied with a job well done.