If you are visiting Islay during August, a visit to the Islay Show, the annual agricultural show of Islay, Jura and Colonsay, is an absolute must. A celebration of the islands’ agricultural heritage and Islay comes to a near standstill as lots of the islands’ businesses close their doors and everyone heads off to the Islay Show field to celebrate. There is a carnival atmosphere. So much to see and do, with fantastic food stalls, craft stalls, a flower show, and all of the island’s top quality beasts, sheep and horses there too, enjoying the festivities as they head to their classes to be judged in the show ring.
The Islay show has been going for over a hundred years and has a long history on the island. It is a time when the islanders come together and celebrate farming, and the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.
The Islay Show and the Yodelling Happy Farmer
and you know it has been a good show day when you catch one Happy Farmer, stood alone, yodelling his heart out i the moonlight. Singing away to the tents, camped in front of the pottery, in the darkness of starlit skies. ‘Mull of Kintyre’ the famous Wings track took on a whole new tune. Apparently in the stillness of night, the view from our little campsite, across the Sound of Islay to the Mull of Kintyre, in the shimmering moonlight, inspired this hearty rendition. A fabulous view is not always a good thing then, and the same could be said of the Happy Farmer’s singing voice.
The nights begin to draw in once the show arrives
It marks a turning in the seasons on Islay.
When our party of celebrating farmers had departed from the celebrations that had spilled on from the show field to the farmhouse, late in the evening, I headed across to the pottery to sort out the baking for the next day. The Happy Farmer had offered to accompany me across the road in the darkness, but worryingly I lost him somewhere between the farm and the pottery kitchen, not for long though, his yodelling could suddenly be heard filling those night skies. To my amazement the campers, in the assembled tents, suddenly began joining in the yodelling too, there was a whole chorus line singing into the darkness, with any peace and quiet being well and truly interrupted. Now the Happy Farmer prides himself on his good singing voice, if I had my phone I would have happily recorded the whole event for him, even the guests staying in our cottages and bed and breakfast accommodation had been treated to this moonlit serenade, as the camping contingent were led firmly astray by my singing Happy Farmer. Luckily everyone enjoyed the entertainment and it was the main source of conversation at breakfast the next morning.
On Show Day, the sun was splitting the skies
Eldest was up at the crack of dawn doing the final preparations to get Hansel the horse ready for his appearance in the ring. The Happy Farmer was busy cooking breakfasts. The ferry man and his wife had delivered their jeep to the farm the night before. With the horse box hitched up on the back, the Happy Farmer reversed into the yard, and the guests were able to enjoy watching Hansel getting his leg guards on, before walking calmly up the ramp and into the trailer, and then they were off.
It was much later in the day when I finally made it along to the show field. With youngest’s uni pals over for a week’s camping, farmers arriving later in the day for dinner, together with guests and campers staying in our farm accommodation and then our son heading out on the evening plane for a lengthy spell in distant climes, I did get slightly delayed. I took some time out of the mayhem to take the dogs in the warm sunshine along the track to their favourite watering hole, Lily Loch. A gentle quiet walk through the shade of the trees with our son, away from the madness and busyness of the farm and the show field. The dogs love wallowing in the cool waters of the Loch and usually as Ruby bounces back out of the Loch, with a wag of her tail and a good shake and shimmy of her coat, I also get treated to a cool shower. No matter how fast I try to run away from her, that dog always manages to soak me.
By the time we reached the show Hansel had already headed for home
Eldest was chuffed, her horse won two seconds and a fourth in his classes, and considering his 27 years, he did very well indeed. He may be getting old, but that horse loves going to the show. The first inkling that he has an audience and he bows his head and daintily prances and parades around proudly.
The show field itself was buzzing
with lots of happy people celebrating the very best of farming and produce on Islay. Cows, sheep and goats had been shampooed, clipped and trimmed. Dogs were walking beautifully to heel. Drinks were being poured. Burgers were sizzling away and there was a fabulous array of old tractors and cars waiting to join the parade in the show ring. It is always a lovely time to catch up with everyone and enjoy fantastic hospitality and good craic.
Much later in the farmhouse the trusty old Aga
was being loaded with trays of roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings, vegetables were on boiling and a huge joint of beef had been quietly roasting away in the simmering oven. A delayed departure of the plane at the airport meant I missed most of the celebrations back at the farm but arriving home to a huge crowd of farmers heartily tucking into a good roast dinner in the candlelight and I knew it had been a good one.
The Happy Farmer assures me his ‘Mull of Kintyre’ yodelling was just practice, tuning up his singing voice in preparation for his cousin’s stag party on the mainland…
Until next time…