Orkney Sound Archive tape OSA/RO/B: interview. Sample containing about 2583 words speech recorded in leisure context

7 speakers recorded by respondent number C364

PS2VC Ag4 m (Marcus, age 50+, Interviewee. Organizer of ploughing match.) unspecified
PS2VD X f (No name, age unknown, radio presenter, Interviewer.) unspecified
PS2VE X m (William, age unknown, Interviewee) unspecified
PS2VF X m (No name, age unknown, radio reporter, Interviewer) unspecified
PS2VG X m (Jim, age unknown, Interviewee) unspecified
HEGPSUNK (respondent W0000) X u (Unknown speaker, age unknown) other
HEGPSUGP (respondent W000M) X u (Group of unknown speakers, age unknown) other

1 recordings

  1. Tape 103202 recorded on 1987-08-13. LocationOrkney: South Ronaldsay ( Radio broadcast ) Activity: Interview Interview/reminiscences

Undivided text

Marcus (PS2VC) [1] [...] give him.
Unknown speaker (HEGPSUNK) [2] Just take your pipe.
(PS2VD) [3] Can we go a little bit into the background of the boys' ploughing match, Marcus?
[4] How did it originate?
[5] Do you know?
[6] How how did it all begin?
Marcus (PS2VC) [7] Well there's been speculation about that, but no nobody can actually tell us how it began but it's it's easy enough to imagine how it began, I think.
[8] Because er if you look at little boys on farms today, they play with toy tractors and things don't they?
[9] And er they don't necessarily er er do things with these toy tractors er Well th they they tend to things with these toys to imitate the the real thing er so I th I think the same thing would have happened, maybe a hundred years ago or maybe less, in regard to ploughing with horses on the in the fields.
[10] And er they would maybe er devise or make or r find a piece of suitable wood or something to to scratch in the garden or in the sand or on a piece of nice soft soil, to make furrows and er imitate maybe what their Dad was doing out in the field and er they had no concept of doing anything else to play really, it was just pretending they were pretending they were grown up and working.
[11] And I I think that it it it would just grow out of that kind of activity and then eventually when ploughing matches er, as such, in the you know, in the adult farm, with horses, became the great thing er which was the second half of the last century, you know after the farming revolution.
[12] Er ploughmen and horsemen were the elite of farm workers and the sons would could only aspire to do what they did and And er eventually I suspect it got to be a little more organized and er they had these little games of of ploughing matches, maybe in a rudimentary farm to begin with, but it eventually came to be as we see it today, over a long period of time.
(PS2VD) [13] Is it possible then that perhaps there were boys' ploughing matches on all the other islands as well, and the tradition has only survived in South Ronaldsay?
Marcus (PS2VC) [14] Mm no it's er It was in Berry, it was in Berry.
[15] I've seen photographs of the ploughing match in Berry.
[16] Er pre-war.
[17] Er but in South Ronaldsay and Berry only, I'm pretty sure it wasn't anywhere else.
(PS2VD) [18] it used to be at a different time of the year, though, didn't it?
Marcus (PS2VC) [19] Well it fitted into the easter holidays, erm and in fact it followed the farming seasonal pattern.
[20] You see no nobody ploughs in the summer time, really, on a farm.
[21] You plough in the spring, you plough in the winter.
[22] And you get the seeds sown in the spring.
[23] So they er would have done the same thing in those days, the children, and erm it fitted in to the easter holiday time to have the actual ploughing match, you see?
(PS2VD) [24] No in in your memory, of course, you've been involved in it for a long time, haven't you?
Marcus (PS2VC) [25] Well off and on.
[26] I haven't been so much involved in it as perhaps some other people and I don't pretend to be an expert.
[27] But I I did take part in it when I was a a boy in school, and that's a that's a fair while ago, now right enough, but er er I used to attend the er Well a primary school, I went to the small Grimness school, in the north end of South Ronaldsay, which has now been closed for over twenty years.
[28] And er we had our own little ploughing match there you see?
[29] Maybe not more than half a dozen in in fact, I remember only four I think, the lat one I was at.
[30] Er on the sand at Grimness Now there's hardly any sand there then, you had difficulty finding a patch, not not like where you've the huge area now at the Barrier And so er I I I know that in the Hope they had a bigger one, and I believe in the Wyvell area they had one as well, you see?
[31] But I was never really involved in those ones at all.
(PS2VD) [32] How much has it changed in the costume and the ploughs, nowadays compared to when you were young?
Marcus (PS2VC) [33] Well it's become much more elaborate and sophisticated and er dare I say, expensive?
[34] You know [laugh] to do, er in regard to the so called horses costumes.
[35] Er as I remember it it was pretty rudimentary and er you didn't keep a costume or a suit for the job.
[36] People couldn't really afford to that then.
[37] Er on the day of the event you went either your mother or somebody else's mother Usually the custom was that the [clears throat] the boy who was to be the horse would be decorated either by his own mother, say, or or perhaps the person who he was s s he Who he was partnering as as as ploughman, you know, horseman.
[38] With the ploughmen and er in my own case I remember going to the house where I was er I was to be the ploughman for this so called horseman you see? []
[39] If you understand that.
[40] And had these things kind of pinned on, [...] wore First World War army badges.
[41] I remember one with the R G A, the Orkney R G A, Royal Garrison Artillery, I remember that badge being pinned on and er bits of braid, you know, sown round the bottom of your of your trousers, short trousers.
[42] And it wasn't a lot, and then as soon as the event was over it was all smartly taken off, you know.
(PS2VD) [43] What about the judging, is that really based on the the turnout or is there any ploughing skill involved in that as well?
Marcus (PS2VC) [44] Th th the ploughing?
(PS2VD) [45] Mhm.
Marcus (PS2VC) [46] Oh very much a very much a very much a skilled job you know?
[47] You won't get a prize unless you're up to it, The er the ploughing has to look professional.
[48] It has to resemble the real thing as done in the fields.
[49] Even today tractor ploughing is You know, there's a pride in doing a good job and er while the the single furrow plough, the techniques are a little different, the the end result is much the same.
(PS2VD) [50] What about the ploughs themselves, now, they of course are all handmade specially for the match ,
Marcus (PS2VC) [51] Mm.
[52] Mhm.
(PS2VD) [53] were they always made by the local blacksmiths, or did somebody sometimes construct one, as you said at Out of wood or other material?
Marcus (PS2VC) [54] Yes.
[55] The the blacksmiths made some and they were rather heavier and slightly different proportions, prewar after what they are today.
[56] Er they tend to be more sophisticated and slimmer and nice looking, but we have quite a few craftsmen around now, no blacksmiths as such, but even in the old days er you had rather cheaper versions made with wooden handles and just a nice piece of light Tinwooey bent over to form the board, the mould board and that.
[57] Erm now you're getting them much more er s ooh sophisticated you know?
[58] With nice hardwood and stainless steel boards and things er because people have access to these materials and you have chaps who are er good with their hands and can do it, make a plough for their son, that sort of thing.
(PS2VD) [59] Have the rules changed over the years, for example have the age groups or allowing girls to take part or anything like that?
Marcus (PS2VC) [60] Well the age group was always just school age which was up to fourteen.
[61] now of course it's up to sixteen or rather under sixteen.
[62] That is includes fifteen.
[63] they tend to drift away when they get to the last year anyway, you know?
[64] Er girls were never included as horses as I remember it, but nowadays there are of course, which means that you have more boys available to be ploughmen and this perhaps helps the numbers.
[65] The girls used to join in the in the party afterwards, you know?
[66] But no They didn't take part in the event really.
(PS2VD) [67] And does it have to be young people resident in South Ronaldsay, or is it more of an open contest now?
Marcus (PS2VC) [68] Oh it's always been confined to the Really it was to the school areas, you see?
[69] Er each school area.
[70] It wasn't run by the school as such, or anything, it just just kind of happened but the er I mean teachers or anybody like that was never involved in it.
[71] But it ran with each school area, you know, Berry, Grimness, [...] Marketthorpe and so on, [sigh] and now of course the total areas as one but I think perhaps it would be permissible to somebody with local parentage maybe not resident in the area.
[72] Don't see much of that happening actually.
[73] It's a very strong local tradition and I think it'll stay that way.
(PS2VD) [74] So we have to hope for a fine day for this on Sunday, obviously.
[75] What happens if i it is a really bad day?
[76] Has it ever been, in your memory, postponed or cancelled, or do they just carry on regardless?
Marcus (PS2VC) [77] I don't remember it being postponed.
[78] Although at easter time there is some shocking bad weather sometimes, you know really cold sleety showers and it's just a question of getting out there to the sand and get it over quickly.
[79] But in those days you didn't have many visitors at all.
[80] There weren't many people looking on.
[81] Now that it's become a summer time exercise it's er good for the tourist you know?
[82] And this helps to foster it because the tourist contribute well to the funds and this gets the children more prize money and so on.
(PS2VD) [83] Lovely.
[84] Right, anything else you want to add on that Marcus, [...] ?
[85] So how did the event get the title of the festival of the horse?
Marcus (PS2VC) [86] Well er to me it doesn't quite ring true, it's always been the boys' ploughing match and it always will be as far as I'm concerned but I think this happened at the time post war I can't say exactly which year, when the date was changed from easter time to August.
[87] This was partly to get better weather I think, for the competition, and also to attract tourists.
[88] And I think originally it may have run in the first year both at easter and at August.
[89] Erm and it was organized then as a tourist thing.
[90] And this title er the festival of the horse was, shall I say dreamed up, erm and in fact we had one or two horses, Clydesdale horses, on show down at the Crummery square in the Hope.
[91] Just to make it more of a horsy event.
[92] So that title to some extent still sticks with it, but it I can't hel I'm old fashioned enough to th to think of it as being a bit a bit false, you know? [laugh]
(PS2VD) [93] That's grand,love [break in recording]
William (PS2VE) [94] [...] I couldn't put you right with that because I'm not sure [...] then or no.
[95] I can't remember.
[96] They could have been mind you.
[97] But the only difference that I see was that they pushed their ploughs there, so they must have been smaller than the ones we use.
[98] But we had er [laughing] horses [] [laugh] Pair of horses, no [...] or lasses or whatever.
[99] And that's what What year?
[100] I don't know how many years had [...] There's a chap in the village, Jim , he might be remember, but he ran out of time too, to win the cup I think.
[101] You see I think he'd win it three year.
[102] It's just like the World Cup.
(PS2VF) [103] Where did people get their ploughs from?
William (PS2VE) [104] Well the blacksmiths made two that I know of.
[105] And there's one hanging in the village that you'll see in a window.
[106] And me dad, he made three anyhow, course there'd be non of them to the for they were wood.
[107] They were just wooden Stalch you know, on end.
[108] A beam made the wheel and the counter as we called it on it and all.
[109] Wood is a good working thing.
[110] We'd a very good job.
[111] He was a good hand.
[112] In the sand you see the iron [...] although it broke it more but this plough he'd kept the thing fairly together [...] .
[113] I mean about the job, that's why I got fast you see?
[114] It was keeping the thing just like what you do in the land.
[115] [...] in the ploughing matches you see the size and smooth, that's how they were and that was, what this wooden plough did.
[116] The sand i's solid, more solid than the earth you see?
[117] And it just [...] you curled it up with a plough you see?
[118] Just [...] lovely [...] And was no broken again it was just standing kind of like, [...] Really made a good job.
[119] It's was our wood plus the Bore had made.
[120] I don't know how many years it went on and then there were a lot of ploughs and boys [...] a lot of their own ploughs I think.
[121] They couldn't afford to get a smithy made plough you see? [laugh] pucky poor in that times you know? [...] couldn't afford to get one made.
[122] But that certainly was in Stronsay, and that's the [...] to prove it.
(PS2VF) [123] An and that had stopped by World War Two would you say?
William (PS2VE) [124] Oh aye, aye, [...] stopped before World War Two I think.
[125] I don't know why it stopped, they had to [...] get out of it you see?
[126] More modernized you see?
[127] Er there were tractors now for Peedie boys, [...] .
(PS2VF) [128] As well as William I also spoke to Jim .
Jim (PS2VG) [129] [...] in nineteen thirty and ninety thirty one I won the cup, I'd been twelve year old then.
[130] [...] onto the sand here in [...] Bay and then there seven site or plod laid off for every plougher that was there you see?
[131] And you had to plough that within a certain time.
[132] I think it was two hours for me I had to plough that one.
[133] And I was judged by the judges and
(PS2VF) [134] Was there an upper age limit that you could compete?
Jim (PS2VG) [135] Yes, there was.
[136] Fourteen I think was the limit.
(PS2VF) [137] How often did you manage to win it?
Jim (PS2VG) [138] twice.
[139] But you had to win it twice before it became your own property.
[140] So I won it twice.
(PS2VF) [141] Er do you have the cup yet?
Jim (PS2VG) [142] Yes I do.
[143] It was just like, just like looking at any ordinary cup standing in the [...] black ebony stand, and er lions head in each side with rings in it's mouth.
[144] And it's silver cup.
(PS2VF) [145] Do you know how long the boys' ploughing matches went on for?
[146] When they stopped?
Jim (PS2VG) [147] [...] in thirty six, somewhere thereabouts.
[148] Not ju exactly sure.
[149] And in the thirty five i think.
(PS2VF) [150] What sort of plough did you use for the competition?
Jim (PS2VG) [151] Iron ploughs made by a blacksmith.
[152] I tell you why, because he we he won the smithy window across the road there.
(PS2VF) [153] And what did you use for horses?
Jim (PS2VG) [154] Two boys.
[155] [...] like a pair of horse,th they pulled the plough.
[156] I don't mind whether we used reins or not,th th they just Well I mean they knew what to do you see?
[157] In fact we had the two boys pulling we had th it just as near as possible to the proper thing. [tape change]