BYGONE DAYS: Prime Minister in attendance at society’s annual farming show

The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland declared at the annual show held by Cushendall Agricultural Association that he was hopeful that within a reasonable time it might be possible by some form of protection to give the farmers of Ulster a “fair crack of the whip”.

Saturday, 25th July 2020, 12:00 pm
Harvester in operation with Scrabo Hill in the distance in September 1980. Picture: Farming Life archives
Harvester in operation with Scrabo Hill in the distance in September 1980. Picture: Farming Life archives

Mr Joseph Maguire, president of the association and a member of Belfast City Council, presided, and was accompanied on the platform by Sir Edward Archdale, Bart, Minister of Agriculture, and Sir Thomas Dixon, HML.

“I might say that Cushendall Agricultural Association is strictly non-political,” declared the president in welcoming the Prime Minister to the show.

Mr Maguire noted that: “An examination of the agricultural statistics in Northern Ireland is discouraging, and pointed to a decline in nearly all branches of farming. Ulster is eminently suitable for a system of arable farming, yet there has been a reduction of 2,275 acres in ploughed land in 1929 compared with 1928. In addition, the decline in arable farming in the province still proceeds.

Bob Esler presents the Ulster Bank Limousin champion prize at the Antrim Show in 2002 to Liam Campbell. Picture: Kevin McAuley

“One would come to the conclusion that, when the area under the plough was decreasing there would be a corresponding increase in grazing, and, therefore, that more cattle were being reared on the farms. The statistics, however, show that this is not taking place, as there was a decrease of 38,087 cattle in Ulster in 1929 as compared with the previous year.

“From this it is evident that not only is the land going out of cultivation, but the agricultural community has been so hard hit that not sufficient capital was available to stock the increased acreage of grazing.”


The Prime Minister agreed that agriculture was an acute problem in Northern Ireland.

John Devine who won the North Country Cheviot class at the Antrim Show in 2002 is pictured with judge Tom McKean. Picture: Kevin McAuley

He remarked: “No man devoted himself more whole-heartedly to the welfare of the agricultural community than the Minister of Agriculture, Sir Edward to Archdale. He lives, he moves, and has his being in everything to do with helping the Ulster farmer.”

The Ulster PM continued: “As I had explained over and over again, now that we are getting down to real work, Sir Edward could count on my full assistance during the next number of years to help him in every possible way to lighten the burden on those on whom we depend for our primary industry.

“In Australia and New Zealand I was present at some of the wool sales, and there has been such a slump that both countries found themselves in considerable financial difficulties. There the number of primary industries was rather limited.

“Here in Ulster, at any rate, we have mixed farming, we are not dependent on crops in order to carry on.”

Trevor and Jim Bell with their champion Charollais sheep at the Antrim Show in 2002. Picture: Kevin McAuley

Craigavon continued: “The government is unable to do very much. It is the self-reliance of the people themselves that will bring back prosperity, but I am hopeful, my colleagues are hopeful, that within a reasonable time it be possible by some form of protection - and I have always been madly in favour of keeping out the foreign staff - to give the farmers of Ulster a fair crack of the whip.”


The Ulster PM added: “I see no other policy on the horizon at the moment that will give aid to the agricultural industry or any of our activities. Nothing less, in my opinion, will do any good.

“The rest is really only fiddling with the matter, and, therefore, it is up to everybody to do what they can to bring pressure on the British government to give us a chance by putting duties on potatoes, oats, and other articles that will put up the price to the farmers, and at any rate help them to earn an honest living and not be dependent upon doles or any other artificial assistance from the government.”

He said that he was very strongly against short-term or long-term loans.

He said: “The policy of the Northern government for years has been to free the farmers from indebtedness, either in the form of rent or in the form of rates upon their agricultural holdings.

“It seems to me a false policy to move towards the end of the removing of debts and fear of financial difficulties only to turn around and tempt you to borrow in a different manner and place around your necks a burden which might take years to get rid of.”

In conclusion Craigavon declared: “Don’t expect too much of us. Expect more of your own labour. In that way all of us will get on well together.”

In moving a vote of thanks, Mr James McIlheron said that, “while, perhaps, the president has shown the blackest side, the Prime Minister’s remarks should certainly give hope for the farmers”. Mr J O’Kane seconded, and the vote of thanks was cordially given.


The judges for the show in 1930 were as follows: Horses, Mr J Milling, Comber; Galloway cattle, Mr R Biggar, Dalbeattie; Shorthorns, Mr J Wallace, Anticur, Dunloy; sheep, Mr W Sandlilands, Fauldhouse, West Lothian; poultry, Miss A Mahony, Antrim; swine, Mr J B Douglas, Ministry of Agriculture; horticultural section, Mr G Horscroft, Superintendent of Parks, Belfast; Mr W R Sanderson, Ballymena; Mr R H Clarke, Belfast; Miss Mahony and Mr R D McClay, Antrim.


Foals, first, Alex Murray, Waterfoot, Glenarriffe; second, James McAlister, Laney, Cushendall; third, John McLoughlin, Tavnadrissagh, Cushendall. Two-year-olds, first, John Kenny, Foriff, Glenariffe; second, Daniel McGarry, Ballytaggart, Kilsaught; third, John McAuley, Glennanne, Glenariffe. Mares or geldings other than pure-bred, used for farm work; three years or over, first, Hugh Ewart, Ballyreagh, Clough; second, R F Crawford, Ashfield, Cloughmills; third, Frank O’Boyle, Foriff, Glenariffe.