Laddies at the Islay Show 2016

It rained almost solidly through this year’s Islay Show, but that didn’t stand in the way of members of the Bruichladdich team.

Chrissie Angus, export manager, was stewarding the native beef cattle, ‘Yeah, it was a good day all in all. You know, considering it was so wet. But then sometimes if it's so wet you might be busier because folk don't want to go to the beach, which probably worked out well.’

Chrissie describes the stewards’ role, ‘You've got your actual classes and then you've got trophies. So sometimes you have to take, for example, maybe the first in every class in to get your champion, and then there's special prizes for like best pair of females. There’s so many different prizes, you have to then pull them back into the ring and make sure that you've got all the cups.’  

She has shown livestock herself, ‘When I had the dairy we used to show dairy cattle. That was years and years ago. And then we showed sheep, we've had prizes for sheep. But I just had my old tractor up yesterday - a Massey Ferguson 135. I got third prize’.

vintage tractors take the rain

Kevin Wiggins, of the bottling hall, breeds blackface sheep on his croft at Lorgbaw, between Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte. He was ably assisted in bringing the strong creatures into the ring by Daniel Roy from our IT & Design department. This year, his sheep brought home five third places, one first and one second in the crofters’ group, which as ever for Blackface sheep, was hotly contested. He says of the rosettes, ‘I like Reds and Blues, so these were not quite the colour I am used to!’ Indeed, at this year’s show it was a blackface sheep from Port Ellen that was the champion of champions, beating all the other livestock class winners to the show’s overall prize.

Kevin and Daniel in the ring

Also in the champion of champions competition was donkey Titch, belonging to Duncan MacFadyen (Budgie) stillman, and wife Arlene bottling hall supervisor, who won his class unchallenged for the third successive year. Titch is an Irish-style donkey, acquired originally as a companion for Arlene’s Highland pony, who’s become a well-loved attraction in his own right welcoming people into the show field. There was some hilarity this year when Sir John MacTaggart of Ardtalla, adjudicating the champion of champions, nearly didn’t recognise him without his winter coat, which he loses only for about a month of the year.  Budgie and Arlene also run the show’s popular Pets’ Corner which they started five years ago; the top pet as voted for by the crowds was a rabbit from Bowmore called Ellie.

Retail and office manager Ailsa Hayes and mashman Graham’s eldest daughter won the shield for best riding horse, while the eldest son of Academy housekeeper Fiona Glover had a first place for his home-bred Belted Galloway Calf. It had taken four weeks of patient work to prepare the semi-wild hill cows from Fiona’s exposed farm to wear a halter and walk around the ring. She describes them kicking and jumping in the yard, being very good but very protective mothers so, ‘you can never quite trust them,’ then shampooing them, and brushing them ‘up the way to get the fluff going’. 

So was the work worth it?  'Zack got a silver dish and it was nice because on that silver dish, for belted Galloways, when you turn it over, the first list of names goes back about forty years. It even went back to Sharon Logan, who works here, her grandfather from Gearach, he was on it. So you recognise all the names, all the farms, so that was lovely…'

Zack Glover and his winning calf

Fiona continues, ‘It was about the boys taking part, it was about them wanting to do something, and I think that's quite important with the show, having young people doing things and keeping the show going because that's what it's all about, the next generation. And it was lovely there because all their friends were there, you know, even Ailsa's daughters won the horse competition, and all their friends were showing sheep and cows. And that's what it's all about, that sense of community and sense of belonging. So it's more than just showing cows.

‘And, you know, it's so easy not to do it, or think it's too much effort, or, 'it's raining, I can't go.' But the moment you stop doing that, you lose so much. Don't you? Because it's all about, everyone likes to have roots and a sense of belonging.’

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