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Packed programme for Scurlogstown Olympiad on Sunday

Story by Noelle Finegan

Wednesday, 17th June, 2009 9:52am

Scurlogstown Olympiad"s Traditional Haymaking Festival will take place in Trim"s Porchfields this Sunday 21st June, featuring a packed programme of events, including the National Scythe-Cutting competition.

Taking place along the banks of the Boyne, the Olympiad is a highlight of the Meath summer events calendar and attracts thousands to Trim each year to experience the culture and skills of yesteryear.

A new feature on this year"s programme is the 'Roll Me Over In The Clover" contest. The clover meadow has been mowed and is all set for the competition before the hay is removed. Organiser Pat Farrelly was not giving to much away about the competition but said it would need compatiblity, could involve rolling uphill or downhill and that the matchmaker would have a 'field day". The prize is a two-night stay and dinner in the local Knightsbrook Hotel for the winner.

Another new addition to the line-up is the demonstration of 'corn standing", an ancient technique to keep vermin out of the corn. This is the first time that corn standing will be in operation in Ireland in over 250 years, though the technique is still carried out in Harrios in northern Spain today.

There will be displays of working horses and vintage machinery showing the techniques of bygone days.

Paul Cotter from Clare will be back to defend his title in the National Scythe-Cutting Competition and world champion sheaf-tosser Michael O"Brien, also from Clare, will also be defending his world title.

Dan O"Hara"s working farm will feature sheep, cattle, hens and pigs. Dan will be hand-milking a cow, building a stone wall, collecting freshly laid eggs, cocking the hay, pitting the spuds, thatching his cottage and stacking the turf. Watch out for his daughter, Nancy, who falls in love with a journeyman in scenes being acted out by Trim Drama Group that are scripted and directed by Paddy Smith.

Trim Drama Group will also perform the 'The Plough And The Stars" by Sean O"Casey following their successful runs in Trim and Navan.

Look out for a visit from l"autre 'James Herriot" of 'All Creatures Great and Small" as a vet visits Dan"s farm and gives advice on old farm cures.

Queen Boinne will be coming down the Boyne and will be joined by other figures associated with the River Boyne. She will be met by the runner with torch from Teltown, which is where the ancient Tailteann Games were held and the young hurlers will also be performing hurling skills to mark the 125th anniversary of the GAA. Queen Boinne will light the torch for the Olympiad at 2pm, when events get underway.

Trim Canoe Club will also have activities on the Boyne including canoe polo. There will be butter-making, arts and crafts, wood-turning, a hedge school and the hay-cocking machine will be in action. Other events include the dog show, goat show, donkey show and a donkey derby.

The semi-final of the Macra na Feirme FBD National Farm Skills Semi-Final will also take place and competitors will have to impress judges with their skills in fence-erecting, tractor-driving and more.

There is plenty to keep the children entertained including the 'play in the hay maize" which features tunnels and loose hay, thanks to Pat Reynolds, and there will be fun rides and a pet corner.

The Tara Ceili Band will provide set dancing and music will also be provided by local traditional group Coscan, Trim Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, and Cois Tine from Galway.

For those who are hungry, Martina"s kitchen will provide lamb stew at the traditional Irish village.

Each year, thousands flock to Trim for the traditional haymaking festival and organisers are hoping for a sunny day to bring out the crowds. There is plenty of free parking available and admission is €10 for adults, while children are free.

This year marks the 41st anniversary of the first Scurlogstown Olympiad which was held in Scurlogstown itself in 1968. The idea for the Olympiad, a celebration of Irish heritage and culture, was born out of the passing of another local club - the Scurlogstown Gaelic Football Club, which was formed around 1954.

However, emigration in the 1950s and early "60s meant that the 40 families or so living around Scurlogstown, on the borders of Trim and Kilmessan parishes, weren"t able to keep a football club going and the club disbanded.

The club account was still there, and Tom Duffy, Bill Connor, Pat Farrelly and others came up with the idea of running pony races in aid of the Meath Association for Handicapped Children, as it was known at the time. The idea of entertainment in the Mill Yard came about at the same time, and Scurlogstown Olympiad was established.

Mary Lavin, the short-story writer then living at Bective, her neighbour JP Donleavy, Gay Byrne and Kathleen Watkins were among the celebrities that took part in the early Olympiads at Scurlogstown, and Pat Reynolds, then a member of Meath"s All-Ireland winning team of 1967, carried the flame from Teltown, site of the ancient Tailteann games, to Scurlogstown, supported by members of Bohermeen Athletic and Cycling clubs, a tradition carried on to this day.

The event has now evolved into a traditional haymaking festival on the banks of the Boyne, though those who began the first Olympiad in 1968 could hardly have thought they would be later celebrating haymaking as a thing of the past.

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