The Suffolk Sheep Society South of Ireland held their Premier Show & Sale on Monday July 25th at Blessington Mart.
A large selection of top quality sheep were placed before the judge, Mr John Gibb, of the renowned Cairnton Flock in Scotland while commercial breeder, Mr.Jim Corrigan, was on hand to judge the Gigot Class.
Taking Supreme Champion of the Show was the Finnvale Flock, of Andrew & Jonathan Lucas, Co.Donegal. This stylish son of Salopian Pure Gold (brother to the record breaking 200K gns Solid Gold) and a Shannagh Ewe, had been previously tapped out by John Gibb as winner of the Open Class before lining up in the Championship. While the champion was unsold, Lucas went on to sell his first prize Pen of Three ram lambs for €2800, €2600 and €2600 respectively. Taking Reserve Champion in the pre-sale show was a Rookery Rebel sired ram lamb from Darragh McMenamin’s Mullinvale Flock. Darragh sold another Rookery Rebel sired ram lamb for €2500 to Italy.
Topping the sale was local breeder, Colin Watchorn’s Beechbrook Flock, when his Limestone Gold Rush sired ram lamb was snapped up by Alistair Barkley for €5200. This ram will join his Blackbrae Flock in Northern Ireland. He had been placed second in the Novice Class behind the Donegal based Doherty Bros who had claimed the red rosette with their Malinhead Rossi sired lamb.
Other top prices on the day included Richard Wilson’s Shannagh lamb who was second in the Ram Sired by a South of Ireland Bred Ram class. Sired by Kells T-Rex (the 2020 Premier Champion) this ram was purchased by Richard Thompson at €3700 while another ET brother sold to Mark Priestley for €2700. First in this class was a Ballinatone BT Buddy sired ram from Patrick O Keeffe’s Blackwater Flock who was knocked down at €2000 to the Walker Family. In the Errigal pen, a January born The Views Unknown Legend sired lamb topped the prices at €2000. Westport based Michael Hastings flock, Western Suffolks, had his Strathbogie Joel sired lamb knocked down in the ring at €2100 after he had placed 4th in the Novice Class. In the Shearling Class John Hanly’s Oakbridge Oscar sired ram took the top spot going on to sell for €900
In the female classes it was Andrew Smith’s stylish Cloontagh Chieftan sired ewe which took the red rosette in the Shearling Class. She went on to sell in the ring for €1200. Top honours in the Ewe Lamb Class went to Colin Watchorn’s Beechbrook Flock. This breedy Limestone Gold Rush Ewe Lamb went on to take Female Champion of the show with Andrew Smith’s Shearling claiming the reserve spot.
Topping the Shearling prices at €1400, was the Co Leitrim based Loughrynn Flock of Coote and Trevor Geelan with their January born Crewelands Drifter sired gimmer who was placed third in her class. Andrew Smith’s second prize ewe lamb by Kells Wingman, topped the females selling for €2000 to Northern Ireland breeder Dennis Taylor.
A number of sheep were exported to Northern Ireland and Europe from the sale but the export trade was down significantly on the record breaking 2021 figures and this was put down to a number of factors, with increased transportation costs topping the list playing a major part in the decreased trade.
Commercial trade accounted for 50% of all ram sales and these animals recorded an average of €706, marginally down on last years prices. Although the amount of rams sold into the commercial sector was down slightly on 2021, which was due in part to the early date of the sale, a number of buyers were filling their orders early to avail of the large selection on offer. The overall average for the sale was €1030.
The Society feel that Zootechnical Certification and approval of their Pedigree Breeding Program is playing a large part in its growing membership. Many new breeders took part in this year’s sale and it is encouraging to see so many younger breeders getting involved in pedigree breeding.
The remaining Society Sales will be held in Cahir on Friday 2nd September, Carnew on Wednesday 7th September, Ballyjamesduff on Friday 16th September and Ballina on Tuesday October 4th.
On Sunday 26th June, Suffolk Sheep Society South of Ireland breeders from all over the country turned up to Charleville Agricultural Show to compete in the Irish Suffolk Sheep National Championships from which there had been an absence of 3 years as a result of the pandemic. It was great to see such a high level of interest at the Suffolk ring and we were especially delighted to see some of our Suffolk Colleagues from the Netherlands attending the Show while on a visit to Ireland.
The Society were delighted to receive a new cup for the Supreme Champion of the Show. The Tom Quirke Memorial Cup was presented to the Society by Ann Quirke-O’Mahony on behalf of the entire Quirke Family in memory of her late Father who was an enthusiastic and forward thinking Suffolk Breeder, from his Flock’s establishment in 1967 up until his death in August 2017.
Despite inclement weather conditions, enthusiasm was high as Judge William Fleming of the Hallhill Flock in Scotland prepared to take to the ring. The standard of sheep presented on the day was a credit to all the breeders participating and showcased the Suffolk Breed to its full potential to all those watching the show.
The show kicked off with the Junior Handler class which saw 7 enthusiastic young stock persons demonstrate their knowledge and ability to handle sheep. It was 15 year old Harry Graham of the Westside flock, which he established in 2020, who received the red rosette from the Judge.
In the Shearling Ram class, it was Arthur O’Keeffe who dominated with a Birness Freedom son with Coote Geelan’s Cairness Diamond Geezer son taking second and Harry Graham’s Errigal Jack the Lad’s son taking the third spot.
The sun shone as the Aged Ewes took to the ring with Susan O’Keeffe’s home bred ewe, sired by Castleisle Kilteskin Prince taking the top honours in the Class. In the Shearling Ewe Class, Susan O’Keefe dominated the field once again catching the judge’s eye with her Annakisha Ewe, again sired by Castleisle Kilteskin Prince. Her second entry also sired by Prince took second and Kenneth Bailey’s Cairness Cobra sired ewe took the third spot.
In the Novice Class it was Coote Geelan of the Loughrynn Flock who took top honours with his stylish ewe lamb, sired by Beechbrook Oscar. It was a tight call between Kenneth Bailey’s ewe lamb sired by Cairness Our Bucks and Ann & Dan O’Mahony’s Errigal the Emperor sired Ewe lamb for second and third but the judge settled on Lismurtagh second and Ballygarvanstud third in the class.
The Ram Lamb class was next in the line up where Susan O’Keeffe’s Muirton One Direction son took top honours with Sean O’Connor of the Islandmore Flock claiming his first rosette of the day, taking second with a Beechcrest Bacardi son. Third in the class was Ann & Dan O’Mahony’s Blackbrae Diamond son.
Next it was the turn of the ewe lambs and the first class in was the Untrimmed Ewe Lamb where Philip Byrne of the Limepark Flock showed a lamb by Errigal Simply the Best. She was a stylish ewe lamb who emerged from the class victorious, claiming the red rosette, much to the delight of Philip’s son Padraig who had shown her earlier in the Young Handler Class.
The final class of the day was the Trimmed Ewe Lamb which resulted in a hat trick for the O’Keeffe family with Patrick and his Blackwater Flock taking first with his Ballinatone BT Buddy son, Susan taking second with her ewe lamb also sired by BT Buddy and Arthur taking third spot with his lamb sired by Castlewellan Sportsman.
In the Female Championship it was Susan O’Keeffe’s Shearling Ewe who claimed the top honours and Philip Byrne’s Untrimmed Ewe Lamb took the Reserve spot.
The Male Championship was awarded to Arthur O’Keeffe’s Shearling ram with Susan O’Keeffe’s Ram Lamb taking the Reserve Spot.
In the Final Showdown the judge tapped out Susan O’Keefe’s Shearling Ewe as his favourite of the day to claim the Supreme Champion title and the newly presented Tom Quirke Memorial Cup, with Philip Byrne’s Untrimmed Ewe lamb emerging as Reserve Champion.
The Society would like to thank our sponsors for the day – Connolly’s Redmills and Animax-Vet for their generous support. We would also like to express our gratitude to the Sheep Section Show Committee for setting up the penning and showing area and for running such a well organised event.
Tom Quirke was famous amongst his peers as a man with a keen eye for for good quality stock. Having grown up helping his father with his Pedigree Flock of Border Leicester’s, his love of sheep continued to flourish into adulthood, and when his father passed away in 1955 he took over the flock, taking it to its pinnacle in 1966 & 1973 by winning the McKenzie Cup.
His love of animals also continued to grow, and he took a keen interest in Border Collies and Sheepdog trialling where he competed both Nationally & Internationally, including the BBC Show, One Man and His Dog.
Tom was elected as Chairman of the Munster Sheep Breeders Association and in the mid sixties, he began to take interest in a new up and coming breed – The Suffolk Sheep. He had the vision to see the potential for the breed given its faster growth rates, ease of fleshing and most of all its saleability and promise as a breed. As a result, in 1967, the Derryvillane Flock of Pedigree Suffolk Sheep was founded with the purchase of three shearling in-lamb ewes from the Patrician College, Ballyfin, Co Laois, with another five ewes being purchased from the Annakisha Flock of Arthur O’Keeffe Snr.
Three years later in 1970, Tom won the Novice, the Open and the Championship for the best ram lamb in Ireland at the South of Ireland Premier sale in Gavin Low’s sale yard, Prussia St, Dublin.
Over the following years, Tom was actively involved in promoting Suffolk Sheep, travelling throughout the country successfully exhibiting and selling his sheep.
He was appointed to the Judges Panel in 1980 and judged at many shows up and down the country. Like many other top Suffolk Breeders, he travelled to the Premier Sales in the UK to purchase stock from the top breeding lines and he became well known amongst Suffolk breeders on both sides of the Irish Sea.
Tom was appointed Chairman of the Suffolk Sheep Society – South of Ireland Branch and it was during his tenure as Chairman that he was intrinsic to the foundation of the National Flock Competition in Ireland. His vision for the Flock Competition was that smaller flocks would be able to flourish and compete against flocks of a similar size, hence developing the quality of Suffolk Flocks nationally. The Flock competition continues to be held annually (although it has had a break as a result of the Pandemic)
In his latter years, Tom was honoured by the Suffolk Sheep Society by being inducted into the Suffolk National Hall of Fame, an honour bestowed upon breeders by the Society for their outstanding contribution to the Suffolk Breed. Up until his death in 2017, Tom always attended Suffolk Events whenever it was possible and as ill health crept in and he was no longer able to attend in person, he looked forward to nothing more than a sale catalogue, filled with all the prices and results of the day, being presented to him on the return home of a family member.
It was therefore a privilege and with great delight that the Suffolk Sheep Society accepted a memorial cup from the Quirke Family at Charleville Agricultural Show on Sunday June 26th 2022.
The Tom Quirke Memorial Cup for the Supreme Champion of the National Suffolk Championships was presented to the Society by Tom’s daughter Ann Quirke-O’Mahony on behalf of the entire Quirke family. The Tom Quirke Memorial Cup was presented to Susan O’Keefe of the Clyda Flock by Ann Quirke O’Mahony, for her Shearling Ewe who won the Supreme Champion Title of 2022.
The Society would very much like to thank the Quirke Family for their presentation of the Cup and it looks forward to it being presented to many Suffolk Champions in the years to come.