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Hay ready for saving at the Porchfields!

Story by John Donohoe

Wednesday, 11th June, 2014 1:14pm

Hay ready for saving at the Porchfields!

Seamus Farrelly's images from last year's Scurlogstown Olympaid Trim Haymaking Festival.

In the late 1960s, when the Scurlogstown Olympiad Festival began at the old Scurlogstown Mill on the outskirts of Trim, it was celebrating what was then times past, and the tradition of harvest celebrations and the traditional way of Irish life.
A generation on, and four decades later, the festival is still going strong in Trim, and as times have moved on, even farm practices that were new in the heyday of the festival are now being remembered.
But with the theme of the traditional haymaking festival, the life and cultural history of rural Ireland is celebrated once again this Sunday by the Scurlogstown Olympiad Group, lucky to have such a location as the Porchfields in Trim, close to the town but a big enough rural landscape to accommodate the meadows and all the side shows and activities associated with the annual festival.
For one day a year in the heritage town, bygone days are recalled as working horses, vintage horses, and the skills, pasttimes and work methods of the past are re-enacted in a fun-filled day out for all the family.
As well as providing a day out, the organisers wish to stir in all our hearts a love for the virtues and simplicity of our ancestors. The vast majority of Irish people are either involved in farming or are one or two generations removed from the land. Many of us hanker for the simple rural life of days gone by. Life was simpler then, but it was also tougher. This festival reminds us of our culture and our past - both important facets in our own make-up.
Dan O’Hare’s working farm will be one of the highlights of this year’s event, where Dan milks cows, shears sheep, feeds pigs and collects eggs from his hen house.
The sheaf tossing competition will offer a chance to challenge a world record of 62 feet currently held by Michael O’Brien, while the Porchfields will also host the National Scythe Cutting Competition.
A traditional village will be set up on the banks of the river Boyne, where all the old crafts from butter making to spinning and making súgáns (straw ropes), will be displayed, while Mal Cowan will bring along his complete working model farm featuring silage and threshing operations.
A supervised children’s fun park features maize tunnels, spooky hay tunnels and ‘Bounce the Barrel’, while there is a pets corner and a collection of rare animal breeds, a goat and donkey show, dog show and arts and crafts and home industries areas. There is a ‘roll in the hay’ with a prize from the Knightsbrook Hotel, and an obstacle course.
A highlight is the Donkey Derby with all jockeys lined out in their county colours  - always guaranteed to provide a spill or two and a bit of drama! There will also be a high kick competition.
Trim Drama Group produce a pageant, while there will be music on the field by Mary O’Connor, and Matt Leavy, and for set dancers, the Tara Ceili Band.
The Scurlogstown Olympiad Festival got off to a flying start last Friday week as over 360 cyclists in period dress took to the road for the 16th annual High Nellie Cycle at Scurlogstown.
The Haymaking Festival was launched prior to the Rás by Seán Boylan and Colm O’Rourke, who, with Mattie Kerrigan, had gone through the crowd to find best dressed of the cycle -  Mickey ‘Stoney’ Burke was selected.  There were a number of Royal greats on the saddle that evening including Paddy Christie, former Meath footballer and hurler and father of the famous Dublin full-back of the same name. A number of families took part together and it was wonderful to see parents, children, grandparents, neighbours and friends enjoy the sights on the roads around Trim, Freffans, Laracor, Newtown and back to Scurlogstown in the twilight.
The group stopped to lay a wreath at the grave of FR Higgins at Laracor by Josie Marry with poems read by Willie Hodgins and Frank Marry.  There was a further stop at Trim Heritage Centre at the Fairgreen before a visit to the residents of St Joseph’s Nursing Home. A specially erected marquee on the night at Jack Quinns provided the resting place for the many bicycles.
The Haymaking Festival takes place this Sunday, 15th June, at the Porchfields, Trim.  Entrance €10, children under-12 free, and local charities benefit from the proceeds. 

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