The Aberdeenshire and Scottish Local Agricultural Shows 1930s

The summer time was the time when most towns and villages in Aberdeenshire had their own local agricultural show. It was one of the few highlights of the year that Scottish people looked forward to and it represented the heritage of Aberdeenshire. For the spectator it was a showcase of all things rural/agricultural in Scotland.

Scones on the girdle 1930s
Girdle scones cooked on a peat fire. Ready to be entered at the local agricultural show.

For the exhibitor it was the pinnacle of their year where they could exhibit their professional competence and skill. The Aberdeenshire local shows helped to identify oor Scottish culture and heritage but at the time it was not viewed like that. It was all about what went on in each local Scottish area. These things that went on were common for each show so in a way the shows helped to build reputations and professional status and the cultural identity of the Aberdeenshire folk.

So what happened at the local show during the 1930/40s. There were four strong themes. Cattle and farm stock, Horses, Domestic provision and skills. Each one of these themes would identify who was the best in the district. This ranged from who was the best farmer, best horseman, best stock person, best kitchie deem or farmers wife at baking and knitting, best employer, best saddler, and the person to raise your game to beat them next year at the show. So as can be seen there were many things happening during the show. It could be said that the local shows was the place where agricultural/rural improvements were actually measured and could be seen.

Farm livestock had many classes, fae the milk coo t the bantam cock. The Shorthorn bull t the large white boar. It was in the farmers interest t enter the local show with his stock because it made his stockmen pay attention to the farmers stock and improved his farm. The rural workers inside and outside, also benefited through competing. Their profile at these prestigious events was greatly elevated. If they were winners then this could influence their value to the next farmer who employed them at the two feeing markets in May and November each year.

During this time period 1930/40s big social events like the local agricultural show were few and far between. As a result the show was a great visitor event not only for the folk in the immediate district of 8-10 mile radius but folk fae oot aboot. They came by cherabag bus, horse and gig or the really posh by early car. It was a great place for newsing, sharing experiences and learning. It gave the youngsters in the community an idea of what their futures were like. The quines could see the funcy bakin deen by the winners and strive to bring their baking up to that standard. The young loons could see the Clydesdale horse decorated in its funcy show harness and try to pickup some tips fae the experienced horseman’s work.

As a social event the local show was also very popular. It was the custom that the night before or the night of the show there would have been a dance in the big tent. The music would have been provided by the local musicians comprising of fiddles, melodeon or accordion, mouthie n often a piano. It was one of the few nights when alcohol was drunk with the results creating some sair heads the next day. The dance was also a time of courtin the lassies and many a marriage would have the local show dance to thank for bringing two folk the gither.

The show was part of our Scottish heritage, it showcased past rural life and work. It gave the local folk a sense of their own cultural identity. It was a place where the Scots language and the Doric dialect would have been spoken by everybody. It was a method of transferring skills and knowledge to the next generation and it made a great contribution to the future of rural life.

Don Carney
www.scottishheritage.co.uk
info@scottishheritage.co.uk