Dalmally Show a farming fixture for almost a century



Dosan Bheg of Achnacloich, Dalmally Show Champion 1954


There has been an annual agricultural show in Dalmally since at least 1920, and though the exhibitions and activities may have changed a little since then, the essence of the event - celebrating the achievements and attractions of our rural community - remains the same.

In its earliest days, the riverside show was organised by the Glenorchy and Innishael Horse and Horticultural Society, and while sheep and cattle always featured prominently, sheepdog trials were the highlight (the popular terrier race of today's shows could be a nod to that tradition).

The weather was as unpredictable in the 1920s as it is today, with The Scotsman reporting on 12 September 1927: “Glenorchy and Innishail Horse and Horticultural Society held their seventh annual Show at Dalmally. Bright sunshine favoured the opening, but later in the day heavy rain rather upset the proceedings.”

Dalmally Show has been held in early September (usually on the first Saturday) since its first meeting. Despite the battle with the elements that characterises being one of the latest agricultural shows in the calendar (it once rained for eleven consecutive shows) the event has rarely been cancelled.

In September 1997 it coincided with the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, and was called off as a mark of respect, and ten years later, in 2007, the outbreak of foot and mouth in England meant that it could not go ahead. The war years also saw many, though not all, shows called off.

Today, the show supports a variety of good causes and community groups, and this was also the case during the Second World War, with the 1943 event supporting the Red Cross, which then worked with sick and wounded soldiers.

For decades, Dalmally has been regarded as one of the country's premier Highland Cattle events, and a memoir of the late Captain Ben Coutts, who was chairman of the Glenorchy and Innishail Agricultural and Horticultural Society from 1959, hints at how this unfolded:

“Oban was the Highland Cattle Society's sale centre and Argyll then had many folds of Highland cattle, so we decided to make the Highland Cattle section of the show very special,” he wrote, in an article published in Farmers' Weekly in 2000.

“I am proud to say that the entries in the last few years have been 100 and over, larger sometimes than the Royal Highland Show. It is a good time to start showing Highland Cattle as they are starting to come into their winter coats and the show ground has the most wonderful setting.” (http://www.fwi.co.uk/news/captains-memoirs.htm)

The prominence of Highland Cattle and Blackface sheep sections continued through the Seventies and Eighties, as the quality of livestock being exhibited improved so farmers travelled from further afield to compete, and Dalmally's reputation as a premier show for these breeds grew. This high profile may have been what led producers of Take the High Road, to choose Dalmally Show as the location for scenes from the programme.

Though farming is the heart of Dalmally Show, a host of other traditions continue, in particular, the talent on display in the rural industries and horticulture tents, where some (though not all) of the categories remain the same as those featured in schedules almost a century ago.

There has always been plenty for families to see and do, and alongside the anticipated rides and candy floss, entertainment on offer has included zorbing, alpaca rides, a helicopter tour, and, at one show in the 1980s, the chance to meet the famous Hercules the Bear.

Do you have memories or documents from past Dalmally Shows that you would like to share? Please contact us.