Tomorrow, Saturday 27th May, is the 201st annual Drymen Show.
What’s that, then? It’s a sign that summer is almost here, that’s what it is – and if the weather tomorrow is anything like it is today – wall to wall sunshine and absolutely scorching – it should be a grand day out.
But, what is it really? It’s a local agricultural show. Some of you might know them as county fairs. Scotland, being a largely rural country, has a lot of Shows held over the summer months. I grew up on the island of Islay, and one of the highlights of the year was the Islay Show, held on the second Thursday of August. As well as the livestock parades, one corner of the field would host ‘The Shows’. This was a small travelling amusement outfit which would come over from the mainland for the event – such sophistication! They had swing-boats, and candy floss, and in those days there were still stalls where you could win a goldfish. Or buy one. Mine were always called ‘goldie’, and they invariably died within a fortnight.
The Show was a magical place for a child, particularly in a place and time where we were able to roam freely, unfettered by adult restraint. The braver among us (not me) would climb over the fence in a far corner of the field, to avoid paying the entrance fee. Much of the time they got chased back out again.
Once in, it was an outdoor Aladdin’s Cave of highland cattle and fancy sheep; ponies with creaking leather saddles; huge Clydesdale horses with hot breath and soft muzzles. The shaded cool perfume of the canvas flower tent, crushed grass underfoot; the thick sisal ropes supporting that most vital of edifices, the beer tent; farmers in their Sunday best. And everybody clad from the knee down in wellies, because no matter what the weather, that field is going to become a thick, parked-car-trapping gloop of mud and what my grandmother politely referred to as sharn, but is known in most circles as cowshite.
And then, after all the day’s excitement was over, in the evening there came the Show Dance, which I don’t recall as a teenager ever being allowed to attend, on account of its reputation…
Ah yes, the Show! I’ve not been to one for years, but the last Drymen Show I attended was just as magical as those island ones of my youth. It was, of course, a lot bigger: the entertainment was more sophisticated, the events more wide-ranging. But it is still a really entertaining day out, with much more to it than just a couple of sheep.
So, if you fancy a day out with a difference, here’s some of the Agricultural Shows taking place in the area:
Drymen Show, 27th May
Gargunnock Show, 3rd June
Doune & Dunblane Show, 1st July
Mid Argyll Show, 12th August
Killin Show, 19th August
And, if you fancy seeing a bit of island life, here’s the Islay one: Thursday 10th August!