Archie Hume of A Hume Country Clothing pays tribute to Scotland’s country shows and fairs.
Scottish summertime doesn’t come with many guarantees, certainly not any that relate to the weather. As the joke goes ‘I love summer in Scotland. Last year it was on a Wednesday.’
To top it off, the things you can rely on, like midges on the West Coast and an even greater number of pelotons on the roads aren’t necessarily a good thing.
Just as well then that we have our County Shows to look forward to. I know from extensive experience, that here in the Borders, the Border Union Show gives my many farming chums a focus beyond their two summer extremes of staring out their combine windscreens forlornly waiting for the rain to stop or moaning about the drought ruining their crops if it’s been dry for more than three days. And, more importantly, it gives the rest of us country folk the chance for a big day out, shopping, socialising, nibbling and tippling
We take the A Hume roadshow along to the Scottish Game Fair at Scone Palace, coming up soon from the 5–7 July. And also to the Border Union Show at Springwood Park, on 26 and 27 of July.
As frenzied as it is, those days are amongst the most enjoyable of any throughout the year. There’s always a drop or two of fizz on the stand and a festival atmosphere – there are people I might not see all year-round but you can absolutely bet I’ll see them at the show.
Tens of thousands visit the Scottish Game Fair and the biggest of them all, the Royal Highland Show, is said to contribute £65m to the Scottish economy. On a large scale, or a smaller county scale they are a chance for the countryside to show off, our best beasts, fanciest tractors, our skills, traditions and our way of life.
A win at a prominent show is a coup for a farm’s fortunes so competition is fierce. The county show may well be a seen-and-be-seen extravaganza of well-dressed country folk cutting a dash in their tweed but you can be sure that none of them are more pampered and preened than the livestock. The pens bustle like a Manhattan salon to a soundtrack of snipping sheers and hair dryers running off portable generators as the beefiest of Highland Beef and chirpy Cheviots get the full spa treatment.
Spectating at the show ring is always a highlight of any show. Showing livestock is such a proud moment, often a multi-generational affair, a time when younger members of farming families are the envy of their rural classmates because they get to skip school to put on a white coat and show the family sheep.
If you grew up in the countryside you’ll almost certainly have memories of the county show. The shows have a big educational role to play in teaching children and the wider public about agriculture, though I’m not sure exactly what lessons the little boy next to me at last year’s Highland Show took home. As I stood watching a pipe band I overhear him ask his dad ‘Why do pipers walk as they play?’ to which his dad replied, ‘To get away from the noise.’