Four decades to keep the show on the road

  • Four decades to keep the show on the road
    FarmIreland.t. E.
    For more than four decades, working with agricultural shows was a labor of love for Michael Hughes, who “enjoyed every minute” lifetime of interaction with rural communities across the country.

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For more than four decades, working with agricultural shows was a labor of love for Michael Hughes, who “enjoyed every minute” lifetime of interaction with rural communities across the country.

“I regard it as a privilege and consider myself very lucky to have the opportunity to meet so many good people who were so committed to establishing a local show for many years,” says Michael.

“Most of the people who are giving their time for the organization and conduct of local agricultural shows all over the country are really the salt of the earth, the real people who want to make life better for their communities.”

Within a few months, Mountbellew, County Galway man will call time on 41 years of service when he resigns as Executive Secretary of the Irish shows Association to coincide with its 75th anniversary.

He takes the role of Jim garrison from Castleblaney, Co Monaghan in November.

“Sure, I’ll miss the engagement and interaction with the committees, but there comes a time for retirement for all,” says Michael.

UIA President David Sheehan, Rockbarton Stud, Braff, County Limerick is halfway through his two-year term that influenced Michael’s decision.

“It will be a great President,” says Michael. “I don’t think it would be good to change the President and Secretary at the same time, this means that if I’m not retired this year, I would stay for another two years.

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“I loved every second and couldn’t, for more pleasant work and a lot of memories of friends I made over the years, because I met the most wonderful people.”

Michael became the Western Regional Vice-Chairman of the ISA in 1977, already involved in running their own local show for many years, and was elected to the Council in 1987.

He served as national President in 1996-97, and served two periods as Treasurer, 1990-96 and 2001-06, when he became national Executive Secretary.


There are 110 agricultural fairs included in ISAS; the key factor behind so many getting on Board to ensure insurance coverage.

“Local shows getting insurance coverage separately has become very difficult and very expensive, but they could not risk being without it,” explains Michael.

“ABI agreed a package with FBD insurance to provide cover in General policy, and this means that a child show now can make a case for about €850, which is more affordable.”

Coordination in accordance with ISA had a beneficial impact on local concerts with the ability to run qualifying rounds for a number of national competitions that were adopted by the Association, with the national finals annually allocated places.

For many years, while the show appeared in new places, others were on the sidelines.

Michael feels that many of the problems that shows you need to overcome today, “not the best” with increased administration and higher costs.

“Without the sponsorship support of agriculture shows could not survive, and many shows are difficult to keep their sponsors or get new sponsors,” he says.

“Sponsors are also now expecting more in exchange for their participation.

“Last year, Minister Michael ring allocated €812,000 agriculture shows that around €7,000 each, and it was a great help.

“We met with the Minister on the issues that shows experienced and his response was very much appreciated.”

Michael warns that the country shows “will have to change if they want to survive” and to combat rising costs and falling attendance.

An equally big challenge will be “trying to get more young people involved in running events,” he believes that a shortage of volunteers brings us closer to a crisis point for a number of shows.

“Some shows will now have to pay for stewards, because the volunteers don’t exist,” he says.

“As the elderly who have given so much voluntary assistance, to transfer young people to replace them and I can see that becoming a very big problem for many shows.

“If young people cannot yet be recommended to help, the show can become dependent on each other to provide the necessary assistance to keep the show going.

“It has become much harder to get young people involved in most areas of the country.

“Some of the show becomes increasingly difficult to attract visitors, what they used, and the gate receipts are an important part of their income.

“And if they fall on a rainy day it can be a real challenge.

“With fewer involved in agriculture in the local show will have to be a good day, which will appeal to the whole family.”

As for his own future?

“I spent my whole life doing these shows and I still will be interesting and I look forward to visit many of them in the future and meeting my old friends up and down the country,” he concludes.

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