BYGONE DAYS: Looking back at the Cairncastle Sheep Trials

Cairncastle Sheepdog Society secretary, Shaw Beggs and Jackie Atcheson presenting a £1,000 cheque to NI Children’s Hospice fundraiser, Anne McVeigh at the final dinner in January 2018. Picture: Larne Times archiveCairncastle Sheepdog Society secretary, Shaw Beggs and Jackie Atcheson presenting a £1,000 cheque to NI Children’s Hospice fundraiser, Anne McVeigh at the final dinner in January 2018. Picture: Larne Times archive
Cairncastle Sheepdog Society secretary, Shaw Beggs and Jackie Atcheson presenting a £1,000 cheque to NI Children’s Hospice fundraiser, Anne McVeigh at the final dinner in January 2018. Picture: Larne Times archive
Earlier this week I spent a little time looking through the old Farming Life photo archives with the plan on putting together an online picture story for readers to look through.

It was while I was doing that I came across photographs from the Cairncastle Sheep Society’s sheepdog trials from September 2007 (you can view the picture page at www.farminglife.com/country-and-farming/pictures-bygone-days-faces-cairncastle-sheepdog-trials-september-2007-3029918).

Afterwards I found an archived piece from the Larne Times from January 2018 which told how the society had been wrapped up that year.

So many old farming traditions have been sadly lost over the last number of centuries. Earlier this year I came across references in the old newspapers to the ploughing matches of the Bangor Ploughing Society which dated back to the earlier 1800s. Who would have known that the large town of Bangor, where I was born, raised and lived in until my mid 30s, held such a notable farming heritage ? The ploughing society was one of the first in Ireland. Alas, it has, so they say, been confined to history.

Ben Stewart and Cairncastle Sheepdog Society treasurer, Robert Stewart present Lorraine Harper of Kidney Research NI with a £1,000 cheque from the Cairncastle Sheepdog Society at the final dinner in January 2018. Picture: Larne Times archiveBen Stewart and Cairncastle Sheepdog Society treasurer, Robert Stewart present Lorraine Harper of Kidney Research NI with a £1,000 cheque from the Cairncastle Sheepdog Society at the final dinner in January 2018. Picture: Larne Times archive
Ben Stewart and Cairncastle Sheepdog Society treasurer, Robert Stewart present Lorraine Harper of Kidney Research NI with a £1,000 cheque from the Cairncastle Sheepdog Society at the final dinner in January 2018. Picture: Larne Times archive

So I thought it was timely that I should take look back through the old newspapers to see what I could find out about the Cairncastle Sheep Society and it’s trials.

SUCCESS DESPITE WEATHER

It wasn’t long before I came across my first reference from the Larne Times of October 31, 1936.

The Times reported: “Unfavourable though the weather was on Saturday afternoon, the sheep-dog trials held under the auspices of the recently-formed Cairncastle Sheep Dog Society proved very successful.”

Robert Crawford, James Brady with Danny and Mike Field with Dice at the Cairncastle Sheepdog Trials in September 2010. Picture: Larne Times archiveRobert Crawford, James Brady with Danny and Mike Field with Dice at the Cairncastle Sheepdog Trials in September 2010. Picture: Larne Times archive
Robert Crawford, James Brady with Danny and Mike Field with Dice at the Cairncastle Sheepdog Trials in September 2010. Picture: Larne Times archive

The venue was a field which had been kindly lent by Mr William Brown of Corkermaine and the Times notes that “there was a large attendance of spectators despite almost continuous rain”.

The Times added: “The various performances were watched with the closest interest, and the sagacity and clever work of the dogs were generously commended.

“For the three events on the card entries had been received. These were widely representative, coming from Counties Tyrone, Londonderry, Armagh, Down and Antrim, while four were from Scotland.

“Naturally the performances occupied considerable time, and owing to failing light one of the classes on the programme, that confined to County Antrim, had to be excluded.”

The judges that day in September 1936 were Mr W R Flinn, The Spa, Ballynahinch; Mr F McNeill, Kircubbin, and Mr J G Young, Maddybenny, Coleraine, while Mr W H Esler acted as director of the course, and Mr Hugh McKay as timekeeper.

The results of the two classes decided were as follow:

Novice event (12 entries) - 1, John McKay, Ballygawn. Cairncastle, Mike; 2, John McFaul, Dromaine, Larne, Lynn; 3, Joseph McClure. Ballyboley, Mollie; 4, F Morton. Ballygilbert, Floss. Open event (18 entries) - 1, H Craig, Mark of Lochronald. Scotland, Dick; 2, John McKay, Ballygawn. Cairncastle Fly; 3, H Craig, Mark of Lochronald, Scotland, Whin; 4, W S Dunn, Aughalane. Plumbridge, Jed.

The sheep for the trials were kindly lent by Mr C W Tweed.

Thanks to the enthusiastic work of the honorary secretary, Mr Robert Crawford, who was ably assisted the honorary treasurer, Mr Samuel Moore, and a strong committee, of which Mr C W Tweed was the chairman, the arrangements left nothing to be desired, said the Times, “and all concerned are to be congratulated upon the success of their initial venture”.

BEST PERFORMANCES SCOTTISH ANIMALS

The next reference to the society that I came across was published by the Northern Whig on Monday, September 1938.

The Whig reported: “Cairncastle (Larne) sheep dog trials were held on Saturday, when dogs from Scotland, Tipperary, and many parts of Ulster competed. In the open stake, however, Scottish dogs again took first and second places. The Irish entrants gave improved performances, but in the opinion of the judges they are still well behind Scottish dogs for all round ability.”

The results from the trials held in 1938 were as follows: Open stake entries, 1, A G Hyslop, Kirkcowan, Scotland (120 points); 2, D Johnstone, Lamlash, Scotland (114½ points); 3, J McKay, Cairncastle (113 points); 4, W S Dunn, Plumbridge, Co Tyrone 109 points); 5, G M Hyslop, Kirkcowan (108 points).

The Perpetual Cup, presented Major H C Robinson, MP, for best performance by an Irish dog, was won by J McKay. The runners-up were W S Dunn, J McFaul. Cairncastle, and A P Wilson, Armagh. Mr McKay also won the Silver Tankard, confined to Ulster entrants.

Novice stake (16 entries) - 1, J McFaul, Cairncastle (126 points); 2, H Kane, Carnlough (110 points); 3, J McFaul (94½ points); 4, J Craig, Carnlough (85 points).

The judges that day were Messrs W R Flynn, JP, Ballynahinch; F McNeill, Kircubbin, and J G Young, Maddybenny, Coleraine. Mr W H Esler was clerk of the course and Mr J McKay was the timekeeper. The honorary secretary to the committee was Mr S H Moore.

RECORD NUMBERS AT TRIALS

After the Second World War the trials carried on and the Larne Times of Thursday, September 25, 1947 that that year’s trials had seen record crowds.

The Times reported: “There was a record crowd at the annual sheep-dog trials at Cairncastle on Saturday, and although a start was made at ten o’clock in the morning there were few, if any, who did not remain until the finish late in the evening.”

The Times continued: “Perhaps the most gratifying aspect of the day, however, was the pleasure expressed by Mr J E C Stuart, Scotland, a judge, at the much improved standard work . . . Mr Stuart also pointed out that the improvement was increased all over, and in one event alone only four points separated the first from the eighth dog.”

Credit for the smooth working of the event, noted the Times, went to Mr S H Moore, “an efficient honorary secretary. The other judges were Messrs A Wilson, Armagh, and J L Pennyfather, Greenisland, the timekeeper was Mr J McKay and the clerk of course was Mr K Morton.

A special prize to the youngest competitor, presented by Mr S J Foster, Loughbrickland, was won by 14-year-old Stewart Morton from Cairncastle, and the Robinson Perpetual Challenge Cup, presented by the late Major H C Robinson, for the best Irish dog was won by J L Pennyfather with Sweep.

The prizes were handed over to the winners by Mrs C Ewing.

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