Crowds head to Muker Show as chairman marks 40 years

Outgoing show chairman Ernest Whitehead.

People travelled from far and wide to attend the 114th Muker Show in Swaledale yesterday

Encouraged by good weather in the morning, hundreds attended the agricultural show, with organisers having to provide overflow car parking to cater for the crowds.

Organisers tried to find who had traveled the furthest to attend the event, with visitors from New Zealand claiming the prize.

A presentation was held during the officials’ lunch for show chairman Ernest Whitehead who has held the post for more than 40 years.

Mr Whitehead, 77, joked that he got the role after “not saying ‘no’ loud enough” when attending a show committee meeting in 1978 not long after getting involved in the organisation of the show.

“I couldn’t get to one meeting but went along to the next — I’d not been in 20 minutes when I found out I was the the new chairman,” he said, adding that he was grateful to the then show secretary Laurie Peacock for “showing him the ropes”.

As well as chairing show committee meetings, the chairman oversees the preparations for the event, which is always held on the first Wednesday in September, and is on hand during the day in case of any problems.

Mr Whitehead said the main challenge was to ensure the show was sustainable. The only event cancelled over the last 40 years was 2001 during the foot and mouth outbreak.

After several poorly attended shows due to bad weather the bank balance had dropped. Fortunately, some recent bumper years mean the event is now on a much sounder financial footing.

The chairman said that while other country shows had expanded significantly to provide a range of entertainment and attractions to bring in a wider audience, Muker Show had resisted the temptation to add main ring attractions and was still first and foremost a place where Swaledale sheep were shown.

Having said that, Mr Whitehead said the show had grown in size and was now attracting people, including some from New Zealand, from well beyond the traditional farming communities.

“We have people who come on holiday in Swaledale every year and time their visit around the Muker Show,” he added.

“40 years ago the majority of those who came were from the local community but that’s now changed.”

Mr Whitehead said the interest shown by those from outside the Dale was welcome, as was the input from those who had moved to the area who were now helping to stage the event.

The retired farmer, who now lives in Keld with wife Doreen, added that the number of enthusiastic, young people on the show committee meant he was optimistic for the show’s success for the next 40 years.