Written in 1997 by P.D. Brickley on the eve of the 50th Anniversary. Photos are scans taken from a copy of the 50th Annual Show booklet, printed in 1997.
How did it start?
We need to go back a little further to understand how it originated. In the local Vocation School which opened in 1937, night classes in Woodwork and VBuilding Constructin, Cookery, Needlework Crafts and Irish Classes including the cupla focal, plus Irish Drama and Irish Dancing, were important features of the school’s activities. In 1943 a night Discussion Group was formed. Similar groups started in Athy, Mooncoin and Kilmallock. Soon these three groups formed the Young Farmers Clubs organisation. In due course Clonaslee joined the Young Farmers Club movement. The early catalogues of Clonaslee Show state that the main aim of the Clubs was “To promote Agricultural Education with a view to greater effieciency and increased production”. Club activites included lectures, debates, discussions, competitions, experiments, film shows, socials and excursions. The local club literally travelled to the four corners of Ireland to see what was happening in other places in the farming scene.
Very soon the local ladies began to organise and in 1945 they formed the Clonaslee Guild of The Irish Countrywoman’s Association. The I.C.A. is a democratic institution, non-sectarian and non-political. Its aims were: (a) to brighten and make more interesting the lives of women in rural Ireland; (b) to foster and encourage Handcraft, ancient and modern; (c) to seek to improve health and general conditions in rural life; (d) to foster the love of the Irish language and culture. Both organisations down through the years were lucky to have available a succession of suitable, capable, committed leaders anxious to put their shoulders to the wheel to advance the common good of the community. They were not prepared to accept the status quo. It is surprising in view of the aims of the two groups that they were anxious to achieve some modicum of control over things that were happening around them. They knew that a belief in themselves was essential to success and this gradually attracted others who wished to make a contribution.
William James once wrote: “Most people live, whether physically, intellectually or morally, in a very restricted circle of their potential being”. He also wrote: “Great emergencies or crisis show us how much greater our vital resources are than we had supposed”.
So the Y.F.C. and I.C.A., in an effort to go some way to achieving their potential decided on a joint effort. The sean-fhocal says: ‘Ní neart go cur le ceile’, unity is strength.
At a meeting of Clonaslee Y.F.C. held in the Vocational School on May 14, 1948 on the proposition of Mr. T. Brady, seconded by Mr. M. Fitzpatrick it was unanimously decided to hold a Produce Show on November 1, 1948.The Schedule of classes for Roots, Cereals, Vegetables, Flowers and Fruit were drawn up. The choice of classes in Dairy, Poultry, Cookery, Needlework and Crafts was left to the I.C.A. who had already readily agreed to cooperate in the running of the show.
The idea of a Produce Show was influenced by the fact that one member was familiar with a similar event which had been running for some years in Lissavard in West Cork. This is the home of one of West Cork’s four successful small co-operative societies. Unlike Avonmore – Waterford they voted against amalgamation five years ago. They still believe small is beautiful down there. We were also encouraged by our good friend, the late Steve Cullinan of Athy and his Y.F.C. members who started a Produce Show in 1944.
The members of the first Show Committee were:
Young Farmers’ Club
President: T.F. Brady
Vice Presidents: J. Casey & J. Foynes
Chairman: T. Conroy
Vice Chairman: M. Lawlor
Hon. Treasurer: J. Costello
Hon. Secretary: P.D. Brickley
Committee:P. Delaney, P. Fitzpatrick, D Troy, J. Hennessy, D. Hogan, J. Malone, J. Quinn, M Hogan.
President: Mrs. J.J. Daly
Vice President: Mrs. E.W.P.Webster
Hon. Secretary: Mrs. J Brophy
Hon. Treasurer: Mrs. J. Bates
Committee: Mrs. W. Furlong, Mrs. D. Foynes, Misses J. Tynan, G. Casey, P.Delaney, M.M. Lyons, K. Daly, M. Lawlor
Show Day 1953 - 1959 last Wednesday in October
Show Day 1960 - 1963 3rd Wednesday in October
Show Day 1964 - 1965 2nd Wednesday in October
Show Day 1966 - 1977 1st Wednesday in October
Show Day 1978 - 1984 4th Wednesday in September
Show Day 1985 - 1989 3rd Saturday in September
Show Day 1990 - 1991 4th Sunday in September
Show Day 1992 - 1996 2nd Sunday in September
Show Day 1997 - 1st Sunday in September
This last change fitted in with the change of dates for the Hurling and Football finals.
The Show remained a Produce Show up to 1957. On the occasion of the 11th Show on October 29, 1958 we took the bull by the horns and included Cattle Classes for the first time: Store bullock, non-pedigree heifer and Hereford bull calf. In 1960 pigs, including laege White and Landrace, made their appearance. In 1961 sheep entered the arena. We went to the dogs in 1967 when four classes for canines attracted 15 entries In 1968 we had our first Equine venture when generous prizes of £1.10s; £1 and ten bob drew six entries for the Best Brood Mare.
Over the years all these section have expanded considerably with the exception of pigs. This may seem strange in an area of very high pig population but producers are reluctant to remove their pigs from their modern, comfortable housing conditions to the less cosy environment of the Show Grounds. In 1948 we had 9 sections, 54 classes, 413 entries. In 1996 the catalogue included 17 sections, 189 classes and over 2,000 entries.
The catchment area from which entries were received expanded dramatically over the years. In 1945 entries came from five Leinster Counties; Laois, Offaly, Dublin, Kildare and Kilkenney. In 1996 we had exhibitors from 32 counties.
Over the first ten years the event was accommodated totally in the local Vocational School, thanks to Laois Vocational Educational Committee, apart from Irish dancing Competitions, the venue for which was the adjoining Creamery area. When livestock classes were added to the Schedule in 1958m outdoor space was needed. In this regard we engaged the generous support of local landowners, first in the adjacent land of the late Mr. William Furlong. In the early sixties we crossed the road to Mrs. M. Poole’s property. In the early eighties, when more space was required, the venue was in Mr. William Conroy’s land at Graigue, from where we transferred next door to the Clonaslee Co-Op farm.
In 1989 the show moved to its present location, the new and splendid Clonaslee Community Centre on its 15 acre site. This move was a great boost to the show, providing excellent facilities indoor for better and more attractive display of exhibits, office and press rooms, catering rooms plus adequated hsow grounds for livestock, grade stands and other activities. Our thanks to Clonaslee Community Council, in which many show people, are involved, for their cooperation and support.
Finance is a very vital aspect of running a show of this nature and some shows have ceased to exist because of problems in balancing the books. Inflation also plays a part. So far we have managed to keep money matters under control, thanks to a succession of capable Treasurers, general sponsors and many staunch friends of Clonaslee Show.
An important fund raising event in the early years was the Show Dance on Show night. In 1960 we went a bit crazy and launched into a Festival of Dancing, large Marquee, top Show Bands, the lot. After four years of this new type of Show business, we decided it wasn’t worth the effort. Also lady luck was not on our side. On one occasion the death of a prominent and popular parishioner coincided with Dance Week, on another the Pope died on Festival Week. In a third incident a severe storm levelled the Marquee, when the Savoy Showband from Waterford was on its way. The Show Dance on Show night was also discontinued as members having had a few weeks of constant endeavour and late nights were suffering the effects of show lag and were not in the humour for tripping the light fantastic. The figures for 1948 were total cost of prizes, printing, advertising, insurance, etc. came to £70.5s, in 1996 it was in excess of £12,000.
The Clonaslee show people believe that the Annual Show has played an important part in the general raising of standards in many aspects of farming and rural living. It has also created a confidence in the local Community that it can organise events of this nature very successfully and compete successfully with exhibitors for elsewhere. It is further evidence of a community that believes in itself and puts its best foot forward to preserve our valuable rural lifestyle and all that is best in Rural Ireland. The demise of Rural Ireland so much highlighted in the media in recent times is something “up with which we will not put”. For further eveidence of what can be accomplished by ahealthy Community spirit of togetherness is here around you in this splendid Community Centre on its 15 acre site.
The Show Society are extremely grateful to all who have made a contribution to the success of Clonaslee Show over the last half centrury, to officers and members, to exhibitors, judges, sponsors, caterers, the press, to the man y non-members who came along to lend a hand on Show Day. To all friends of Clonaslee Show we say sincerely – Go raibh mile maith agaibh.
Times Have Changed
1948 – The First Show
Catalogue price - 6p
1972 – The 25th Show
Catalogue price - 10p
1997 – The 50th Show
Catalogue price - £2
Total cost of running the Show in 1948 - £70
Total cost of running the Show in 1996 - £12,000