Carsphairn Pastoral and Horticultural Society was founded in Carsphairn in 1875 to promote the agricultural produce of the Parish, and to encourage competition within the growers and the livestock breeders.
Sheep breeding is the main agricultural activity of the area and an annual show is held every year in the village on the first Saturday in June.
In Scotland, Carsphairn Show is considered one of the most prestigious Shows at which to win a red ticket in the Blackface Sheep Breed.
Schedules are available from April onwards, and there are classes for Sheep, Dogs, Handcrafts and Horticultural exhibits.
There is also an all day Open Sheep Dog Trial, with usually about 70 dogs taking part.
With the exception of the Dog Trial, entries for everything are accepted on the day of the show.
Other events on the day are a Children's Pet Class, Children's Races and a Hill Race for the fittest. Baking, handcraft and horticultural entries are judged and displayed in Lagwyne Hall.
The Show is run by the Society and with the help of many local Patrons, visitor entry costs are kept to a minimum. There is a small entry fee on the day for adults, but children under 12 are allowed in free.
President - James Wallace
Vice-Presidents - Andy Sinclair, Rory Clark Kennedy
Show Ground Convenor - Neil Sinclair
Committee - R Brown, P Cole, E Craig, J Edgar, D Finlay, D Gibbon, A Hunter Blair, P Hunter Blair, I Lockhart, W McCreath, B McFegan, B McMorran, E McPherson, J Murdoch, N Parry, R Nixon, A Ramsay, J Ramsay, W Ramsay, Wm Ramsay, Wm Ramsay Jr, I Robertson, G Sinclair, J White, R Young
Honorary Presidents - William McMorran, Hugh Clark Kennedy, D Pringle
Honorary Secretary and Treasurer - Anne Finlay
Honorary Secretary - N White
Honorary Treasurer - H Curry
Committee - M Brown, Amy Clark Kennedy, Isabel Cuthbertson, D Faulds, Sheila Hey, Maggie Phillips, C Rhodes, M Wallace, C Whipp, Susie Seed
A few years back I overheard a comment in the village about Carsphairn Show: "Oh its The Show this weekend - isn't it amazing how it always just appears every year as if from nowhere". And, in a way it is like that. Over the years, hard working committees have got together to go through the usual procedures, and overnight a show field appears, a show happens, and then it all disappears again.
I have had the privilege of caring for the archives of the Show for the past 16 years, and this year have delved in to some of these old documents to learn more about Our Show. It was interesting to read of its precursors, the Carsphairn Fair, the Glenkens Society and the Carsphairn Shepherds Society.
The Fair was reputedly first held in 1689 as a celebration of the end of an army occupation of Dalmellington and Carsphairn by a brigade of Highlanders, and with a local murder happening on the same day, that particular Fair is well documented. So, in memory of Roger Dunne (who was sadly killed in a matter of mistaken identity), a fair was held every year on the first Friday of June.
The Glenkens Society, on the other hand, was a more genteel affair, and was founded by the Victorians of the Glenkens area in 1830 "for the improvement of the labouring classes". This Society included flower and vegetable growing competitions and a poultry show, amongst its' many other interests, and although originally intended to be held in various venues around the district, never quite made it to Carsphairn. Also, it was felt that transport difficulties to and from Dalry were too much of a hindrance for Carsphairn inhabitants to take part there.
Finally in Carsphairn parish, an organisation existed from the early 1800s by the name of the Carsphairn Shepherd's Society. This Society was formed to promote social contact between the sheep farmers in the parish and was also intended to be educational in the latest sheep husbandry matters. The highlight each year was the annual social evening, held in December, (it's recorded that upwards of 70 members attended on certain nights) when the matter of any straying sheep found in the parish was discussed. If the sheep (there was rarely more than one) was not claimed it was sold - generally to one of the members of the Society, and the money raised usually divided amongst nominated deserving poor in the parish. Following the business of the evening, the shepherds retired for a convivial social evening, or, in latter years, were 'entertained' to a talk by a visiting lecturer on subjects such as: "The Diseases of Sheep and Dog Distemper". There are minutes documenting this society written up to 1929.
When the first meeting was held in the School Room at Carsphairn in 1876 "for the purpose of making arrangements for a show of poultry, dogs and flowers", these three organisations all had played their part in the formulation of Carsphairn Pastoral and Horticultural Society. The Society took its date from the existing Carsphairn Fair, namely the first Friday in June, and there it stayed until the 1970s, when the day was changed to a Saturday to allow more spectators to attend. It was agreed that the members of the first committee would seek out 'subscribers' so that a prize fund could be established - again, as today, the Show relies heavily on its' Patrons list.
Afternoon Entertainments over the years at The Show:
Reading through the minutes of the Society, one can see that the Show has had a few changes, but really, not that many. Initially there were no sheep classes held at the Show, but some classes for 'cottars' cows'. One logged dispute in 1922 concerned an allegation that a 'pedigree Ayrshire stirk' was not as entered, and a protest lodged that 'the coo had been served with a bull fae The Holm, and they dinna have a pure Ayrshire bull'. An investigation was undertaken and the owner finally admitted he was in the wrong. .
Back in 1934, a protest was lodged in the Flower Classes where an Asparagus Fern was entered in the "Any Variety Fern" Class, and awarded third place. The protester maintained that Asparagus was not a fern, and had supplied a letter from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew to give credence to his claim. The Committee decided to ""withhold the prize of 1 shilling and 6 pence and ask for a cutting of the plant in dispute to allow the same to be submitted to an expert for examination". The outcome of this investigation is not, however, recorded.
Also minuted was a complaint from an exhibitor that the choosing of judges was 'a fix', something that just occasionally might be thought, but not usually put in writing! (As present Show Secretary, I can vouch that no judge 'fixing' happens!)
The poultry classes were the largest section of the show and in their heyday, 'conveyances' would bring hampers of poultry, which had been collected off the train at Dalmellington. In the Show archive is a sad little post card from an exhibitor in 1936 which reads: "Dear Secretary, owing to the pure damned stupidity of the Clerk at Drongan Station my exhibits for the Show were not put on the train yesterday morning. I left him as the train was approaching the station to put the hamper in the van. Imagine my surprise when he called at my house at 10.30 to say that he had forgotten all about it. . .. " etc., etc! Alas, by 1953, the poultry section was no more.
The poultry were exhibited in a building on the Crofts Showfield, known as The Show Hall, or more lately 'Pavilion'. This wooden structure, with corrugated tin roof also housed the flakes (wooden pens for show day for the sheep), and in the winter was used for the Carpet Bowling Club of Carsphairn. Gradually, this building fell into disrepair and was quite Violently blown down in a storm in January 1984. The site was cleared and the timber made available to the 'ladies of the Village' for firewood.
The cattle showing began in 1876 with classes for worker's cattle "from a cottager or working man" and eventually open classes for Galloway Cattle were introduced. However, the support for the showing of poultry, pigeons, rabbits and even cattle declined, and in 1969, the Show became a sheep only show. One section which has always been there from the start is the Dog Section and that flourishes to the present day.
The sheep classes did not begin until 1880, but with the background of the members of Carsphairn Shepherds' Society behind it, Carsphairn Show soon established a name for itself as one of the main exhibitions of Blackface Sheep in the country. And although other breeds have been introduced, it is still known as one of Scotland's premier Blackface Sheep 'shop windows'.
Since the 17th Century, the hill shepherds have regarded the Carsphairn Fair or Show the first chance to socialise with their counterparts from other farms since the winter snow melted, and the years' lambing over. Why not come along and Visit the Show yourself and have a look - it really does just appear by magic once a year!
Jean Gibbon, (With Acknowledgement to Carsphairn Heritage Group)