When the new committee of Newtown St Boswells and District Farmers Club organised their inaugural Show in July 1914, they did not count on it being the first and last show for a considerable number of years, due to the outbreak of war.
The venue of the first “St Boswells Show” is uncertain but it was held in close proximity to St Boswells and in all probability was in the fields adjacent to the then Southern Central Auction Mart run by John Swan and Sons Ltd. Horses played a major role in establishing the event, but sheep and poultry were also exhibited.
The immediate years following 1918 were affected by the inevitable shortage of horses but the ingenuity of the organisers coupled with the enthusiasm of sheep and poultry breeders brought the show through a difficult time. This enabled the show to survive for the future, a sequence which was to follow in later years. In 1957 Hawick Show was wound up following five years of wet conditions and it was then that a close association with the Hawick Agricultural community was formed. They have been well represented on the committee and assisted on the show day - a connection which continues today.
The standard of horse entries at the show has always been held in high regard and in past years Hunter Breeding programmes were very popular in the area. This resulted in a large number of young horses coming forward every year and St Boswells show was recognised as an ideal nursery show to attend - a fact that was demonstrated by the large number of four year old hunters which were always a feature.
Throughout the show’s lifetime, it’s home has been for the majority of the time at the fields adjacent to Newtown St Boswells Livestock Mart, known as Monksford Parks, and that is where it continues today.
It has, however, had various homes. In the late ‘40’s it was held in the field behind what was then the Garage of Sommerville and Stephenson owned by the Edgar brothers and now the location of Border Toyota.
From there it returned to Monksford Parks where it remained for many years until the early 70’s and before the bypass was built, when it moved to The Holmes, St Boswells through the help of Mr and Mrs Willie Dale.
Two years prior to this time St Boswells Young Farmers Club became involved in the setting up of the show in an effort to contain costs. In fact at an Annual General Meeting about that time a motion was moved and seconded to wind the club up as there was the sum of less than £7 in the bank. This motion was, however, defeated and “the show went on”.
The move to the Holmes was a great success and in an attempt to broaden the appeal to the public a dog show was created. The first one was judged by two local characters and was stewarded by well known Kennel Club member, Miss Jean Cook of The Black Bull Hotel, Lauder. All went well bar an objection to the winner when a dog that won at Crufts was placed well down the line. However, this was resolved when it was brought to the complainant’s notice that none of the other dogs were shown at Crufts!
Thereafter to conform with tradition it was described as a novelty dog show.
Great care was always taken in the appointment of the dog show judges and the then committee decided that the best measure was to appoint the person who displayed the most character at the show to be invited the following year.
Following three years at the Holmes during which time a sheep dog trial was held at the adjacent property of Whitehill, the show was then moved to Whitehill with the enthusiasm of the late Mr Hunter Gordon and family, where it remained until a very wet summer early this century, when it returned to its original home at Monksford Parks. Earlier this year the Sheep Dog Trial was once again held at Whitehill, when Mr John Gordon and family welcomed it to mark the centenary of the Club.
Agriculture suffered a severe setback in 2001 with the arrival of Foot and Mouth Disease and that spelt the end of sheep classes at the Annual show.
History does repeat itself and as in the years following 1918 and 1945 when horses were not being bred, sheep farmers were encouraged to exhibit.
In a role reversal in 2002 horse owners were encouraged and that today is the basis of the show.
Nevertheless the 2002 committee were proactive in maintaining the livestock connection and decided to take the show to the stock and since then a very successful stock and crop competition has been held whereby the various classes of stock and crops are judged on the farm with the prizes being presented at the show.
To mark the centenary and also to highlight the major role that sheep production plays in the Borders, a single class of ewe lambs was included in the prize at this year’s show. Twenty entries came forward and we hope to hold them again and introduce a Young Handler’s class.
To carry on with our centenary events there is a ploughing match on Saturday, November 1, at Whitehouse, St Boswells, by kind permission of the Duke of Sutherland. There are seven classes along with demonstrator units and closing date for entries is October 24. More information can be found on www.stboswellsshow.co.uk.
The following day the Border Vintage Agricultural Association are holding a ploughing match at the same venue.