Mt Ireh ploughs ahead again

FORTY years ago Martin Dumaresq was a young Longford farmer taking over the operation of Mt Ireh from his father, Alan, when the World Ploughing Championships came to Tasmania.

It was the first time that the Dumaresqs had seen nearly 20 of the world’s top ploughmen and their tractors showing off their skills on river flat paddocks at Mt Ireh.

It was the first time the international event had been held in Australia and only the second time in the Southern Hemisphere. The two-day event attracted an extraordinary number of onlookers. “Over 40,000 people turned up – it turned out to be the biggest sporting event in Tasmanian history at that time,” Mr Dumaresq said this week.

Although not quite the same number of spectators are expected, Mt Ireh will again play host to ploughmen and women next month at both the 2022 State Ploughing Championships and the National Ploughing Championships next month – as Martin Dumaresq hands over the operation of the historic Mt Ireh property to his son, Piers.

The world event in June 1982 was huge for the state, Mr Dumaresq said. He joined the organising committee after Hagley farmer, contractor and committee person Ross Gibson got in touch to see if the Dumaresqs would provide the paddocks and host the international event, at their Illawarra Road property.

It was four years in the planning and attracted competitors from 19 countries including Kenya, Great Britain, Belgium, Zimbabwe, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Canada and the Republic of Ireland as well as New Zealand and Australia.

“We had some inkling that it would be quite big just before the event and tried to tell the police that they needed to be ready,” Mr Dumaresq said. “On the first morning, we had a traffic jam from the gate on Illawarra Road back to Hagley and south to Longford and Perth,” he recalled. Then Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser flew in to open the event. It was a beautiful spectacle, Mr Dumaresq said.

“On the Saturday morning, flag poles were erected in the paddock for every country with the national flag of the country flying and that’s where the ploughmen and their tractors gathered.

“It was a June morning with the mist rising and by the time he (Mr Fraser) had opened it, it was a beautiful sunny day.” A stone memorial wall to commemorate Australia’s first world event had already been built on the hill above the competition paddocks by Longford stonemason Cyril Webb. Places were left in the wall for a rock from every country that competed.

On top was placed a fully restored plough, galvanised to survive the rain and harsh winter winds that blow across the flat Mt Ireh paddocks.

It’s still there with the rocks of 19 different countries in place. The state competition will be on June 11 and 12 with the nationals on June 25 and 26, starting about 10am each day. For more information, contact Rob Bayles, phone 0418 137 667.