‘Queen of the Plough’ to be honoured at Harper Adams graduation

Ireland’s ‘Queen of the Plough’ is among four stalwarts of British and Irish agriculture to be recognised by one of the UK’s top agricultural universities for their influence on the industry.

The four – Anna May McHugh, Owen Brennan OBE, David Fursdon, and Prof. Han Lujia – will be awarded honorary degrees at Harper Adams graduation ceremonies on September 20.

Anna May McHugh, often known as the ‘Queen of the Plough’, has worked for the National Ploughing Association (NPA) for 67 years, serving as the association’s secretary for 17 years until 1973 when she was appointed as the managing director.

During the time of her leadership, the National Ploughing Championships, which take place each September in Ireland, has grown to be Europe’s largest outdoor agricultural trade exhibition, hosting nearly 250,000 visitors over three days.

McHugh was 17 when, in 1951, she started working for the NPA and its late co-founder J.J. Bergin. It has often been recognised that McHugh was working as a lone woman in what was very much a man’s world in the early days. Today, all the staff in the NPA office are female.

She earned her reputation for being tough but fair in business; an outlook that would lead to her winning multiple awards, including the Businesswoman of the Year 2013 in the Veuve Clicquot Awards.

There are now ploughing associations in every county in the country of Ireland and the NPA claims to host the biggest National Ploughing Championships in the world, where over 320 competitors compete in the National Finals.

Owen Brennan OBE

Also to be honoured is Northern Ireland man Owen Brennan, the group executive chairman of Devenish, a global agri-technology company which carries out ground-breaking work optimising animal and human nutrition through innovative science and technology.

Under Brennan’s leadership since 1997, Devenish has evolved from a trading company focused primarily on the Northern Ireland market to a research, development and innovation business trading in over 40 countries today.

From a family business background, Brennan’s passion and determination to champion the role of nutritious food in promoting human health and farming in protecting the environment has had a key impact on the growth and success of Devenish.

The company was awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for International Trade in 2016 in recognition of the growth and commercial success achieved by Devenish Nutrition International.

Outside of Devenish, Brennan has been heavily involved in championing the agri-food industry. He has served as president of the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association, chairman of the Livestock and Meat Commission and on the Agri-Food Strategy Board.

Earlier this year, Brennan received an OBE for services to the Northern Ireland agricultural-food industry.

Brennan has also recently been appointed the president of Harper Adams in Ireland, the university’s alumni network in the island of Ireland.