Last Saturday saw 44 pairs of horses take to the field at Mullahead Ploughing Match in north Co Armagh
In so doing, they gave this unique rural event a very special centenary present – its very own place in the Guinness Book of Records.
“Our aim was to break the world record for the largest numbers of horses taking part in a field event at the same time,” said Mullahead Ploughing Society chairman Kenny Gracey.
“The record previously stood at 29 horses involved in one form of field work or another. So we pretty much smashed that figure. Adjudicating at the event was a host of time keepers, stewards, independent judges and veterinary surgeons. We also made a video of the entire proceedings.
“But what made this year’s centenary event so special was the fact that we had plough men and their horses from all over the UK and Ireland taking part. Adding to the very special atmosphere created on the day was the support that we received from the general public. It was nothing short of amazing: they turned out in their droves for our special day.”
Terry Mills, owner of Mills Cottage Clydesdales in Newtownstewart, took part in the event with his pair of geldings: Bill and Ben.
“We have been practising with the horses for the past number of weeks, just to have them in tip-top condition for Mullahead,” he said.
“It has been a wonderful day. I couldn’t miss the opportunity of meting up with other horse owners and ploughmen from other parts of Ireland and beyond. The ploughing conditions were excellent and the fact that the organisers secured the new world record really is the icing on the cake. Everyone is a winner.”
But horse ploughing was only one of the attractions scheduled for last Saturday’s event. Mullahead is a mecca for vintage tractor and machinery enthusiasts. One of the most eye catching combinations of the day was a converted 1925 Austin 12 car pulling a 2 furrow Cockshot plough. The man at the wheel was Mervyn Marshall from Newtownards.
“The conversion work was carried out during the war,” he said.
“I have had the pleasure of owning the vehicle for the past forty years. She has a petrol engine and is working as well today as would have be the case 70 years ago. I enjoy coming to Mullahead. The ploughing conditions are always excellent and the general public are provided with a tremendous opportunity to get a real feel for our farming heritage.”
Another feature of Mullahead is the tremendous turnout of visitors from the Republic of Ireland.
“I wouldn’t miss the event for the world,” confirmed Peter Fleming, from Ashbourne in Co Meath.
“We grow 30 acres of spring barley at home each year. I have always had an interest in ploughing. Mullahead is unique in reflecting the heritage of ploughing and the rural way of life, going back generations. It really is a tremendous day out.”