There is a popular saying in politics sometimes attributed to Ronald Reagan ‘When you’re explaining,…
The Tullamore and County Offaly Agricultural Show may be described as a unique cross urban/rural community undertaking and a traditional family day out attracting up to 60,000 people to the show. The Tullamore show was rekindled in 1991 by a small group of local people representing urban and rural communities. The Tullamore and Co. Offaly Agricultural Show Society Ltd was founded in 1990 and since its inception the Tullamore Show has grown to become one of Ireland’s largest and finest one day shows with entries from the 32 counties. In the early years of the 1990s the Tullamore Show was held in the grounds of Charleville demesne and castle in the month of August.
A 2018 show launch courtesy of the Show Gallery
The year 1840 saw the first ever agricultural show to be held in Tullamore. It lapsed in 1843 and was revamped in the early 1900s. It then ceased in 1938 for 53 years until 1991. It should be noted that the show was originally established under the patronage of the second earl of Charleville and with the strong support of the local landowners. It was successful until destroyed by the events of the Famine years of 1845–49.
A winner at the 2022 event. Courtesy of the show gallery
Agricultural shows saw a revival in the 1900s with increasing prosperity in the country and the end of the 30-year struggle to get ownership of the land culminating in the land acts of 1881 to 1903. By the end of the 19th century the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction had been established. So also had the dairy co-operative movement and steps were taken in 1905 to establish a bacon factory at Roscrea. Locally a county committee for technical instruction had been established in 1901 which was eventually to develop as the Offaly Vocational Education Committee in 1930 with a separate county committee for agricultural education (later Teagasc). Shows were held in Tullamore, Birr, Kilcormac, Croghan, Philipstown/Daingean in the early 1900s.
The committee for the revived show of 1925 which continued until 1938
An attempt to revive the Tullamore Show in 1950 did not excite sufficient interest. In Birr, the annual Show was revived after the war and here shows were held almost every year from 1946 until the mid-1960s. The Tullamore Show Secretary, John J. Clavin, told a Birr audience at the meeting called to revive the Birr Show in September 1945 that the approximate cost of running a show was £628, with receipts of £547, leaving a debit balance of £171. It was this balance which was raised from dances and whist drives and lotteries. The first revived Birr Show was a great success, showing a credit balance of almost £500.
D.E. Williams trade stand at the 1925 show
P.K. Pilkington was a leading light in the Birr Show and his tragic death in 1958 (attacked by one of his own prize Shorthorn bulls) was a great loss to the Birr Agricultural Society. The late C.B. Corcoran took over as secretary until his resignation in 1962. A deteriorating financial situation saw the demise of the Birr Show in the mid-1960s.
The Tullamore Show was revived in 1991, largely due to the enthusiasm of Christy Maye, Tom Meagher and many others. It took its inspiration from the Mullingar Show as the old shows in Tullamore had been long forgotten. It is now in its 32nd year and has a dedicated committee and a big number of supporters. Attendance is said to number about 60,000 at the shows in 2015 and 2016. All a long way from the tentative steps taken by Thomas Bewley and the second earl of Charleville back in 1840.
An early 1990s Tullamore Show Committee
The 2023 Show will take place on Sunday 13th August 2023 at the Butterfield Estate and will feature over 1,000 classes with a prize fund of €175,000 along with a range of highly sought-after Gold and Silver Medals for the Livestock competitors. The Tullamore Show and FBD National Livestock Show (FBD being the sponsor) will showcase classes in Dairy, Pedigree, Commercial and Sheep. The Pedigree section will host the National Show for Simmental, Charolais, Limousin and Hereford. There are over 12 breeds of Pedigree Cattle competing for the ever sough after Gold and Silver Medals. The Commercial Cattle section is delighted to host the Commercial Blonde d’Aquitaine Sired Calf extravaganza for its first year, with a prize fund of €2000. The Sheep programme will be expanding this year with introduction of the Lanark Sheep Breed All Ireland Classes.The show Programme also offers competitions in Equine, Cookery, Poultry, Art, and Inventions and many more and there are 700 trade spaces. Enjoy the day.
Prizewinners at the 2019 show Honey Section.A Famine History stand at the 1997 show
Offaly Archives has material on the shows of the 1920s. Offaly History Centre has collected material on the shows since 1991.