Show ‘close to my heart’ says NFU vice president Guy
Today’s 100th Tendring Show will be a double celebration for vice president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Guy Smith, who is launching a history of the event.
The St Osyth arable farmer’s book will be given free to all 600 to 700 Tendring Hundred Farmers Club members on show day.
The History of the Tendring Show – One Hundred Not Out traces the history of the show from its humble roots. It begins with a meeting called by sheep breeder John Eagle of Walton Hall and friend Herbert Wenden, who farmed at Morehams Hall in Frating, at the Corn Exchange in Colchester in the summer of 1898 as Mr Eagle was keen to show his sheep locally, and shows how the show developed from then on.
The 100th show will be a family occasion for the keen farming historian who previously wrote From Campbell to Kendall: A History of the NFU, as his son, Henry, will also be celebrating his 23rd birthday. On the day of his birth, Guy’s late father, Andrew, was show president.
“It’s all part of my family history and I was just intrigued, I suppose, and I just like to know what our roots are,” he said.
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One of the surprises for him during the course of his research was discovering how much the show moved around, and that it was even held close to his doorstep on the outskirts of Clacton-on-Sea.
Guy, who has been working on the book over the past couple of years and has never missed a show, revealed how in 2009 club members were making preparations to mark the 100th event in 2011 when he decided to research further and discovered that the 100th show would actually fall four years later. Ironically, Guy’s father was chairman during the 75th show celebrations and had invited Princess Alice, who duly attended.
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As it turned out, the calculation was four years out, explained Guy. This year’s Tendring Show marks “a striking achievement for what is widely regarded as one of the best one day shows in the country”, he said.
“Two World Wars, foot-and-mouth disease, rival shows and a lack of funds have all caused shows to be cancelled,” he explained.
“Of course, the fickle English summer weather has also done its bit to frustrate the best laid plans – not to mention marquee fires, swine fever, stolen takings and riderless horses. But somehow the farmers of the Tendring Hundred have persevered to make sure their show survived while others did not.”
The show can trace its roots to a cattle show and ploughing match behind Thorpe church in the 1830s and in its early years was held at different venues across the district, attracting royalty and leading politicians.
In the post-war era, it established itself as a major event attracting crowds of 25,000 and was a show which has stayed “true to its roots while not getting stuck in its ways”, he said.
“While the farmers of the Tendring Hundred have seen their farming transform out of all recognition, they have remained dedicated to the tradition of their show, recognising it as a vital opportunity to show off the best of local agriculture as well as a treasured occasion to celebrate a vibrant rural life.”
One notable event described in the book occurred in 1989 when the Tendring Hundred Farmers’ Club decided to establish the minimum time needed for turning a standing wheat crop into a loaf of bread ready to eat. Among those taking part was Jim Macaulay, this year’s president.
An array of harvesting and baking machinery and expertise was assembled at Wix in a wheat field farmed by Alan Davidson and the race began. They did it in 30 minutes and 45 seconds and the achievement was duly noted in The Guinness Book of Records.
Among the unusual historical facts about the show is that in 1914, it had a woman president, Lady Cowley,
Guy said he had written the book because history had always been a private passion of his.
“Both the show and local farming are close to my heart,” he added.
Those members who don’t pick up a copy on show day can contact Guy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Those left over will go to non-members.
For more on today’s event, go to www.tendringshow.co.uk