Entering the wrong show class an age-old problem

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IN this modern age we don’t hear too much about ‘clerical errors,’ defined in the dictionary as ‘mistakes made in copying or writing out documents’. Nowadays when things go ‘belly-up’ or ‘pear-shaped’ in an administrative sense, the causes of said occurrences can be attributed to ‘computer glitches’ or ‘software malfunctions’.

Well this week we are winding the old Memories From The Farmyard clock back to the mid 1940s to refocus the spotlight on a clerical error involving an Ayrshire heifer. Are you sitting comfortably reader of the newspaper which is ‘on the farmers’ side’? Then let us begin.

In the mid-1940s we had approximately two hundred dairy farmers from Northern Ireland registering cattle in the Herd Book of the Ayrshire Cattle Herd Book Society which was then, as it is now, based at No.1, Racecourse Road, Ayr.

These farmers, alongside their pedigree breeding counterparts from England, Scotland and Wales, would send Mr Hugh Bone (Society Secretary, Treasurer and Herd Book Editor) details relating to calves born on their farms. The information was all collated and published in rather stout hardbacked books!

Take the 68th Herd Book published in the year of 1945. It was about five inches thick and contained the pedigree information on over twenty-seven thousand calves, one of which was called Ballyvalley Peggy.

According to the information contained within this 68th HB, the heifer that went by the name of Ballyvalley Peggy was registered by Mrs JC Willis, The Lodge, Newry Road, Banbridge, County Down. Turning to page 255 we read that Peggy’s dam was Umery Orange Blossom 45104, bred by Mr Thomas McCann, Parkmount, Doagh, County Antrim.

On the other side of her pedigree we also read that Peggy’s father or sire was Knockvarre Cascade 48339, bred in that successful herd owned by the well-known Webb family (Old Bleach Linen Co) and based in Randalstown, County Antrim. Studying Ballyvalley Peggy’s pedigree entry a little further we are also informed that she was born on Wednesday, December 8, 1943. Now this date, esteemed reader, is very important in this week’s feature.

Before expanding on this, we should state that as a young animal Ballyvalley Peggy was purchased by Mr Robert Wilson of the Parkenham Hotel in Crumlin, County Antrim. In addition to owning the ‘hotel’ and conducting work as an undertaker, Mr Wilson, assisted by his young son Roy, ran a pedigree herd of Ayrshires.

These were war years and during these uncertain times when farmers were making every effort to raise productivity from the land, at times, the important job of maintaining our showtime tradition was left to the younger generation.

On Saturday, June 2, 1945, Crumlin Young Farmer’s staged its annual show. There were 567 entries and although rain fell in many other parts of the Province on that day, Crumlin was spared and according to one commentator there were spells of brilliant sunshine throughout the day.

Watching over 4,000 people enter the showground on that day would have gladdened the hearts of the organisers. Show President was Mr Hugh Suffern (grand-father of John Suffern of Ravenhill fame), Honorary-Secretary was leading dairy farmer Mr Wilford McFarlane, Club Leader was Mr Jas Duncan and Club Secretary was Miss WT McCord. No show can run without stewards and stepping into this role at our 1945 Crumlin event were Messrs C Hill, A Park, C Mairs, J Palmer, S McKinstry, K Porter and Mrs Willis.

One of the roles of agricultural show stewards is to serve as ‘hand-maidens’ to the judges. When it came to selecting the judges the organisers of that wartime Crumlin Show had done their job well: Mr JC Drennan, who was our biggest name in Clydesdales, was one of the judges as was Mr JK McIderry of Ballymoney and Mr DJ Campbell of Purdysburn.

The former was a well-known Shorthorn breeder and the latter the manager of the Belfast Mental Institute’s extensive farm at Purdysburn.

When it came to selecting an Ayrshire judge, those young organisers really did ‘pull out all the stops’ by choosing Mr George Templeton of Hurlford, Kilmarnock. This was the man behind the famous Carnell Herd – most, if not all, of our leading herds at that time had got there ‘fuelled by’ Carnell blood. Carnell cattle had, according to the Farmers’ Yearbook, ‘stylish heads, good top lines, good vessels and good legs’.

This description well-fitted the sort of beast George Templeton would have been on the look-out for when he judged the Ayrshire classes at Crumlin on Saturday, June 2, 1945. In the class for Ayrshire Heifer born on or after 1st January 1944 he choose the aforementioned Ballyvalley heifer for a third place in the open class and then gave her a first in the class for Irish Bred Ayrshire Heifer born on or after 1st January 1944.

But this should not have happened because, as the more astute FarmWeek readers will have noticed Ballyvalley Peggy, having been born on 8th December 1943, was not eligible for either class. The wrongful class entry of Ballyvalley Peggy was repeated at several other shows during that 1945 season, including Ballymena, Glarryford, Lisnamurrican, Portadown, Rathkenny, Saintfield, Spa and Straid.

We can only imagine Mr Robert Wilson’s dismay when this mistake came to light. He did, however, do the honourable thing in such circumstances and using provincial newspapers issued a public apology.

This notice is republished alongside as today – over seventy years on – we remember Ballyvalley Peggy and her involvement in what turned out to be … a clerical error!


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