RTÉ didn't want to know about the Ploughing Championships, says Anna May at talk in Carlow

She also spoke about the impact of Storm Ali on this year's event

Darren Hassett


Darren Hassett



Carlow Carlow Carlow

Anna May McHugh presented with a gift at the Ballon Community Centre and pictured with Cathaoirleach of Carlow County Council, Brian O'Donoghue

Anna May McHugh - managing director of the National Ploughing Association - gave a talk in the Ballon Community Centre on Wednesday night as part of R-Innovate Rural Network Events.

In a jovial and candid speech to those gathered, Anna May did not once mention whether the ploughing would be coming to Carlow in 2019 but began by addressing this year's event and the impact of Storm Ali on the second day. 

The high winds from the storm led to a decision late on Wednesday morning to cancel the show for that day. 

"I want to refer very briefly to Storm Ali and I never want to hear about it again. We had a perfect venue in Screggan in Tullamore. Absolutely, the place never looked so well," she said. 

On Tuesday night organisers were told that Storm Ali "might not hit it [the Ploughing] but it could".  

"Immediately all the services got together, the health and safety, the Gardaí and two from Met Éireann who sat late into that evening with us looking at the big screen," Anna May added. 

She said they were told that the storm would have eased by the time the Ploughing Championships got up and running on the Wednesday morning after the opening of the gates was pushed back to 11am over health and safety concerns.

"In actual fact the storm had abated at 7am on Wednesday morning but at 9am and 11am and 12pm it was literally blowing off the field.

"So, we had no option only to cancel the Wednesday, which was a major disappointment, not only for us but for the many people who had come. There was nothing we could've done. But talk about cohesion and effort.

"That evening [Wednesday] any marquees that did get blown away, I have to say the ones that were put up properly remained up, a team of people got together and got rid of the debris and we opened again on the Thursday and the Friday. 

"We didn't please everyone, you'll never please everyone and if you try you're very foolish," she said. 

Anna praised the decision in 1956 to make the National Ploughing Championships a limited liability company which would see no financial impact on those involved if it went into liquidation in the morning and Anna added: "And I thought it would after Storm Ali," to laughs from those gathered. 

She addressed the success of the Ploughing Championships and during the talk on her journey from a rural domain on to a national and international platform, she took swipes at the State broadcaster RTÉ and journalists. 

Anna May said: "RTÉ didn't want to hear about us I'd say up until about ten years ago and then they started coming and they expanded and now they're doing live shows each year.

"It was very difficult to get RTÉ interested or even any paper for that matter up to ten or twelve years ago. Once the president of the country came to visit us, it was a big thing for us." 

In response to a question on what's next for the Ploughing, she said there would be journalists asking, "What's new this year? And sometimes the person asking would know nothing whatsoever about what we already have, that is true."

Later, she added: "I wouldn't like to see it getting any bigger. It's manageable at the moment." 

The Ballylinan woman did give advice to local and rural businesses on how to become a success as she timelined the growth of the Ploughing Championships. 

Anna May revealed it cost just over nine pounds in 1931 to run the event and today it costs about €6m.

She said: "A lot can be done in rural areas. If they want you bad enough, they'll find you. You must incorporate everyone if you're going to run a big event like ours.

"If you're not passionate about what you're doing, get out of it. Believe in yourself. 

"I'm not the perfect person, I've been criticised. The [exhibitors] at the ploughing are not coming to support us, they're coming to market their products and that's what you have to do. 

"You also need help and advice. You make mistakes but you won't make it a second time and sometimes you can cover up the first time.

"I would never, ever fall out with anyone. And if I have it's not my fault, it's theirs."

One of those in attendance told Anna May that it is "somebody like you we should have for president". 

R-Innovate launched in February of this year and is a new programme designed based on the needs of rural enterprises to introduce innovation into their business.

Carlow County Council and Carlow IT will host another R-Innovate Network Event in Bagenalstown on October 23.

The Council and Carlow IT are running the events with support from Bank of Ireland, County Carlow Chamber, Carlow County Development Partnership, Carlow Tourism and Carlow Local Community Development Committee.