Aughrim sheep breeders revive show memories with book launch

It was a night of nostalgia as a book about Wicklow’s Aughrim Sheep Show, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017, was launched earlier this month.

‘‘The Show’ – A Celebration of 50 Years of Aughrim Sheep Show’ is a collection of memories, photographs, press cuttings, catalogues, and articles.

Aughrim Sheep Show is a nationally renowned event, attracting buyers from all over Leinster and further afield. It is recognised for the quality of breeding stock on offer, particularly from the Suffolk Cross and Cheviot breeds.

The inaugural show was held in 1968 and has taken place every year since then.

It was first located in the centre of the town, adjacent to Lawless’s Hotel, then moved to a number of locations, including Baltinglass mart, before it settled in its current home in Carnew mart.

“The low point and greatest challenge  came when the mart in Aughrim was sold for development in 1996,” said PRO, Padraig Healy.

“The determination of a new committee kept the show alive at that time and it was held in local fields until the foot and mouth outbreak forced a move to Baltinglass mart in 2001. It moved back to Carnew mart in 2014, a mart with one of the biggest throughputs of sheep in Ireland.”

The high point, Padraig said, has been the resilience of the committee to keep the event going for the last 21 of its 50 years without a sales yard in the village.

“This is due in no small part to the generations of families who have been involved. In some cases, committee members are now the third generation involved with Aughrim Show,” he said.

“The generational involvement also extends to judging, with many sons having followed their fathers as judges, and the show is renowned for the excellence of the judging and the quality of both the prize-winners and the general entry. Over 2,000 quality sheep take part in the show and sale on an annual basis.”

Chairman of Aughrim Sheep Breeders, Sean O’ Neill, said the committee was determined to mark this significant anniversary. “Aughrim Sheep Show has made, and continues to make, a lasting contribution to the local community,” he said.

“Our book gives us the opportunity to record in print our gratitude to previous committees which fought to keep the show going. It also gives us the chance to highlight the vital role that a huge number of exhibitors, buyers, judges and sponsors have played in the event going from strength to strength,” he said.

The show and sale day is a happy, hectic and exciting one, though at times tinged with sadness as those who were once the heart beat of it are remembered. The committee pays tribute to them every year at an after-show presentation night where exhibitors, judges, sponsors and well-wishers come together to raise funds for local charities.

‘‘The Show’ – A Celebration of 50 Years of Aughrim Sheep Show’ retails for €15 and is available from all committee members, and in many local businesses including: Byrnes’s Daybreak; Byrne’s Londis; Joe O’ Tooles; and Rednagh Stores.