It’s always a pleasure to go over to the Emerald Isle to Judge the Tullamore Show in Co Offaly. This must have been my sixteenth year over there and the standard of the exhibits seems to be improving year on year. This has to be the biggest one day show anywhere, both in Ireland and the UK with an attendance figure of just over 60,000. It’s the little touches at the show that emphasises the commitment of all the volunteers, for example all the classes around the marquee are fenced off from the public with wooden uprights and timber rails which makes it ideal for the visitors to have a lean on for viewing the exhibits. Another nice touch are the vases of potato flowers here and there along the potato benches.
There are two main competitions in the vegetable section the first is for the Bridge House All Ireland Championship for a Collection of Five Kinds of vegetables which was won by Michael Walton from Strandhill Co Sligo.
There were seven entries of good standard with a total prize fund of 480 Euros to be shared between the first six collections. Michael has won this class seven times before and this time he staged Panorama parsnip, Sherine Potato, Own Selection Long Carrot, Zenith Tomato, and Aviso Cauliflowers. Michael, like a lot of other growers has experienced some slow growth, particularly during July, with the vegetables not achieving their optimum when sown to normal diary dates. He grows around 80 different varieties of cauliflowers at different times to try and ensure that he can cover most of his showing dates.
Raymond Higgins was fourth. There’s no doubt that Raymond’s commitment to the show is total as he works in London during the week and has to depend on his family to help him out, I believe via Skype, to show him how his stuff is progressing – the wonder of technology.
The Second main competition is the Bord Bia All Ireland Quality Potato Championship Final. The exhibitors have to qualify for this competition by winning at other shows first throughout Ireland. The requirement is for an exhibit consisting of 6 potatoes of any variety with the variety being correctly named, free from any skin blemishes, true to type and each potato weighing 6 ozs (170g) Different to our competitions here the judge will cut one potato in each dish and rub the cut surfaces together vigorously. The purpose of this is to ascertain how dry or otherwise the potato is as the judge will favour floury potatoes with a high dry matter content which are popular with the Irish consumers. The winner was David Curran from Fethard who qualified for the Final at Clonmel show with a basket of evenly matched Rooster.
The Best Exhibit in the Show went to Harold Lawlor from Durrow Portlaois with 3 excellent Kelsae onions that were grown from pips from last year’s onions. They were under lights from January and 14 plants were eventually grown in his polytunnel and lifted just two weeks before the show. For a sprightly 92 year old man to win the best exhibit at Irelands most prestigious show says a lot about this gentleman.