ONE hundred and thirty members of Wigtown Agricultural Society and invited guests attending a special anniversary luncheon last Saturday in Wigtown County Buildings were thrilled to hear society chairman, Iain MacFadzean, announce that Princess Anne would attend Wigtown Show in August to mark their 200th anniversary.
The presence of Royalty at the famous show is recognition of the society’s tremendous achievement in reaching its 200th birthday.
To the skirl of the pipes, played by Craig Johnstone, the members gathered in their finery and after an excellent meal provided by Caroline’s Catering and the cutting of the cake by former secretary Elaine Ramsay, the company sat back to enjoy informative and witty speeches from the top table.
Chairman Iain reminisced about what a highlight Wigtown Show was in his young life. He recalled going to the show in it’s heyday during the seventies and eighties, when the sun did seem to always shine on the show, then held in Wigtown’s Southfield Park. He remembers the thrill of seeing the television or sporting personality engaged by the committee to bring a bit of stardust to this most pastoral corner of Wigtownshire. He sincerely hoped that The Princess Royal was up to filling the shoes of the redoubtable Vera Duckworth from Coronation Street!
The chairman said that the survival of the Society had been in part down to the characteristics of the people of the area who, he joked, gossiped far too much, but when a helping hand was needed they were, without fail, on the doorstep to help whatever the circumstances.
Iain then introduced Jack Hunter, Wigtown born and bred, and asked him to propose the toast to Wigtown Agricultural Society. Iain explained that Jack’s family and a long and proud association with Wigtown Show as his father had been secretary from 1943 to 1950, his mother then served in the role from 1951 to 1970, ably assisted by Jack.
In a fascinating speech, Jack pondered how the show had now become ‘an institution’.
To find the answer he took the company back in time. He said the show was already 70 years old before it found a permanent home at Southfield Park having been sited at Port William, Whithorn and Newton Stewart previously.
The halcyon years for the show were in the 1940’s when agriculture was booming and again in the 1970s and 80s when the committee used the growing popularity of the TV to increase takings at the gate by hiring ‘personalities’ to present the prizes.
There had been bad days as well as good days for the Society. The curse of foot and mouth had forced the cancellation of some shows and when bad weather struck takings at the gate - the Society’s main source of income - were hit, leaving the committee facing financial difficulties. But, he remarked, the Society had two great assets - the loyalty of the exhibitors and the foresight of the members to introduce new ideas and innovations down the years.
Another important point was the role that the society played in the area. The move to Bladnoch Park in 1992 had been a step forward as the site was used by the whole community.
Jack Hunter remarked that Wigtown Show was, and had been for decades, the main social event for the community of the Machars. Outstanding office bearers, right up to the present day, had shown sound judgement, strong character, integrity and commitment to the Society. This firm bedrock was why Wigtown Agricultural Society was now celebration 200 years in existence.
The company stood to toast Wigtown Agricultural Society.
In his speech Donald Bigger spoke of the benefit to the farming community of agricultural societies in guiding those working to land during the past two hundred years.
Mr Biggar said that there was now a glimmer of hope for the future of a notoriously difficult profession.
He said: “Agriculture continues to feed our increasingly urbanised society and profits are difficult to come by.
“With the emergence of countries like China and India as consumers food security is on the political agenda for the first time in years.”
He added: “Communicating with the general public is where the agricultural society is an ideal medium for getting the message over.”
He finished by saying he hoped The Society would continue to encourage the next generation into farming, before asking the company to stand to toast agriculture.
The company were entertained during the afternoon by vocalist Lauren McQuistin and flautist Rebekah Donn, both accompanied by pianist Christine Job.