Seventy odd years ago my mother was born at a place in the middle of nowhere called Pennymuir.
Apart from my mum being born there, its main claim to fame is that it is the site of some of the best preserved Roman Marching Camps in the United Kingdom. It is also where, what were in the past, two important drove roads met. One of them is the old Roman Road Dere Street.
Every year on the first Saturday in September the Upper Kale Water Agricultural Society holds its Annual Show and Sports Day. A day for the people who live at the top end of the Kale Water to get together and celebrate who they are. I’m not sure how long they have held it, My Aunty Bet has some photos that seem to have been taken at the show in 1906.
In the past (17th 18th & 19 centuries probably even earlier) Pennymuir Fair took place on the field beside the inn. The drovers bought and sold their sheep and cattle. They drank whisky and they made their deals. My grandmother had a theory that some of the drovers probably hid their money in the rushes, or buried it, to keep it safe and then, due to the whisky, forgot where they had hidden it.. She thought that there could be a small fortune buried in the field. As far as I know, she never found anything. It might be worth going back with a modern metal detector though.
Pennymuir Show is a sort of second cousin twice removed of the fair. While the buying and selling may have disappeared (although if you offered the right price to the owner of one of the exhibits, I’m sure a deal could be done), a fair amount of whisky is still consumed.
When we were kids growing up on a farm in the Scottish Borders, we went along to Pennymuir most years. The night before this years show all four of us and my mother got together for a meal. It was the first time in a quite a few years that we had all been together in the same place. We decided that it would be a good idea to go along.
By the time we arrived the show was well under way. The judging of the sheep, the Industrial classes (cakes, crafts, fruit, vegetables and flowers) was over and the prizes awarded. They were in the middle of judging the dog classes. (Border Collies, Terriers and Foxhounds).
Not being that interested in dogs, I had a look round the sheep. Forty years ago I had a bit of an idea about what a good specimen of a particular breed should look like, but I don’t have a clue these days. My brother couldn’t make it so I have no idea if the right sheep won or not, but there were some quite impressive animals on show.
Some of them had some quite unusual coloured fleeces as well.
The Industrial, Vegetable, Flowers, Shepherds Crooks, Photography and children’s classes were on display in the hall. Pennymuir Hall is a village hall without a village. It is a functional wood and corrugated iron structure that does not seem to have changed much since we held my grandparent’s Golden Wedding party there nearly fifty years ago.
The flower and vegetable classes are more limited than those you would find in a southern horticultural society show. This is hardly surprising. Exotic vegetables like butter-nut squash and sweet corn just don’t work in the Upper Kale Water. What they do show is that quality produce can be grown in a fairly harsh environment.
Also on display in the hall were the trophies. The collection has built up over the years and there is now a cup for almost everything
The show is a day out for everyone. There was a beer tent and a better than average food van. There were races for the kids. My niece was quite enthusiastic about taking part, especially when she discovered that every competitor got a sweet at the finishing line. There were also races for terriers. If you have never seen terrier racing before, think of it as freestyle greyhound racing. A bunch of unruly Jack Russells chasing after a stuffed bunny rabbit, over a fifty yard course, with the occasional punch-up along the way. The terrier racing unfortunately, seems to have replaced the Hound Trail.
Slight digression: Hound Trailing is really a sport from the other side of the border, Cumberland and Westmorland to be precise. The dogs look like foxhounds, but are in fact bred specifically for racing. They follow an aniseed trail laid over the hills around the show ground. The trail is usually around ten miles long and the first dog back and under the control of its owner is the winner.
We didn’t stay for it, but after the show there is a hog and lamb roast and to end the night a dance in the hall which goes on until the early hours of the morning
I can’t really end without a picture of the men’s toilet facilities.
Portaloos and the hall facilities are available for the women.
I’ve just discovered another blog post on Pennymuir Show
Pictures of Pennymuir show 1906 added.