In 2002 Athlone Show was held for the last time at the old Show Grounds, Deerpark Road and it never stopped raining from 9.30am until late afternoon. Two cattle judges, Gerry Mulligan from Dromod, Co. Leitrim and Michael Hannon from Kilfinny, Adare, Co. Limerick braved the elements and completed their adjudication in record time.
I suggested to the two elder statesmen, both in their late seventies, that we should acknowledge their talents, and that of their colleagues, for their dedication and commitment to improve Irish livestock, both pedigree and commercial, before the Lord called them upstairs to the departure lounge to which both gentlemen replied “There’s Life in the Auld Dog’s Yet”. I am glad to report that in 2016 they are both hail and hearty and still going to shows and sales.
Later that year I wrote to the cattle breed Societies and requested them to nominate a person from their respective Societies, who in their opinion, had given outstanding service and commitment for the betterment of the breed.
As you can see from the “Pedigree News Section “ of the Irish Farmers Journal, we had eleven nominees and the then Junior Minister for Finance, Mr Tom Parlon TD presented the recipients with their awards at a banquet in the Shamrock Lodge Hotel, Athlone.
Soon the word spread that this was a great way of acknowledging people that had given so much of their lifetime breeding, showing, adjudicating and promoting their particular breed.
We had requests from the Equine and Ovine people to be included and to day we have awards being presented to Nominees from twenty different breed Societies.
Brendan Crowe from Univet Irl. Ltd. Co Cavan was the first sponsor and Kepak Group sponsored the Certified Irish Angus Beef for the dinner.
In later years Tesco Ireland has been the main sponsor, supported by the ABP Food Group, the Irish Angus Producer Group and Kepak Group who sponsor the Ovine Section.
Some years ago we introduced a “Lifetime Achievement Award in Agriculture” and Ray Mc Sharry, ex European Commissioner for Agriculture, Anna May Mc Hugh, MD of the National Ploughing Association, Matt Dempsey, ex Editor of the Irish Farmers Journal and Michael Hughes Secretary of the Irish Shows Association were some of the recipients to date.
In 2016 we are introducing another special award “The Farmers Oscar Award” for a person or persons who has contributed to making life on the farm a much safer and pleasant place to work and live.