(Published by The Malay Mail 9 August 2013)
Kangaroo Kids’ liven up the crowds at the closing ceremony followed by the singing of ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’, the Welsh national anthem, by the Royal Welch Fusiliers.
There was plenty of talk about “the baby” when the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall attended this year’s 50th Royal Welsh Show in Builth Wells, an old market town nestled deep in the rolling valleys.
In his new role as grandfather to the world’s most famous baby, ‘His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge’, Prince Charles, with a beaming Camilla at his side, told crowds of ruddy faced farmers and families attending Britain’s most prestigious agricultural show:
“For me, it’s particularly special to be here at the Royal Welsh… I discovered the other day that it is my seventh visit — can you believe it — in very nearly 50 years. That’s probably why I’ve become a grandfather.”
His short address was met with cries of “Congratulations Granddad!” and a thunderous applause. The Prince smiled widely and held out his hand to accept a card, no doubt promising to deliver it safely to Britain’s no.1 export, the much-loved Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
The birth of Prince George on 22 July coincided with the start of this four-day event, Europe’s largest agricultural show. I strongly suspect the organizers were hoping Prince William might attend (in place of the show’s patron the Queen Elizabeth II), given his strong Welsh connections. For the show’s ‘feature county’ this year was Anglesey, a tiny island off the north west coast of Wales where he and Kate have lived in a modest cottage for the past three years, and from which he has conducted search and rescue helicopter pilot missions for RAF Valley.
Alas, royal junior was fashionably late; and I’m guessing Prince William was a little tied up. More precisely, his hands were squeezed blue and mouth scratchy-dry from ushering a constant stream of reassurances to his wife — busy pushing out the third to the British throne. He’s long since been forgiven since the Welsh love him and Kate, who have jointly placed Anglesey firmly “on the map”.
Whether it was the new royal, or the sweltering heatwave that gripped Britain for most of July, record numbers, totalling 241,781, passed through the turnstiles this year.
I was told not to expect to cover the entire showground in one day, but I reckon we had a pretty good stab at it, stopping only to cool off at Mole Valley Farmers whose corner pitch provided us with a much welcome (and free) cup of tea, bara brith fruit cake and a shady place to view the top champion winning cattle, horses, goats and pigs on parade for the last day of the show.
Master of the Banwen Miners Hunt displaying his pack of hounds used in fox-hunting still practised (under loopholes in the 2004 hunting law banning the controversial sport) in some parts of Wales and England.
Rosetted Hereford bulls, Hill Radnor sheep and towering Welsh Cob horses were led by their proud owners into the main show-ground, to be filmed by the Welsh S4C and BBC televisions crews.
“What are those balloon things hanging under that one?” my youngest child asked pointing to a bull with a glossy grey coat, rippling with muscles as it strode by. Those swinging super-sized bollocks were enough to make most blush, but not the owner, who would be seeing at least a five-fold increase in the value of his bull after placing in the Royal Welsh, not to mention the lucrative siring rights.
There was something for everyone: fence building and axe swinging competitions, horse and hound parades, the Portuguese School of Equestrian art show, sheepdog trials, falconry, horse and carriage and Australian daredevils ‘Kangaroo Kids’ on quad bikes. And when the heat got the better, sitting on the grass under centuries old spruces, listening to the local Builth Wells male choir pelt out their harmonious tunes, was a popular option.
The prize-winning cattle and sheep were led to lofty barns after the show to rest after three hours of posing and behaving in the hot sun. The heavy smell of urine hit the senses as we walked in.
I got talking to a Mr Radnor, proud breeder of prizewinning Kerry Hill Sheep. Wearing a dapper tie and beige chinos he introduced me to hand-reared Polly and a yearling ram, explaining that he’s expecting a call soon from one Lady Bamford, founder of a successful organic farmshop chain and wife to the owner of JCB construction company. “She’ll (Polly) sell for around £1600 and the ram for £2400,” he boasted, saying that such is the quality of his sheep that Lady Bamford will buy from him without prior inspection.
Later, as hot air balloons passed overhead, and the sweet singing of “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” the Welsh national anthem echoed across the grounds during the closing ceremony, I wondered when Prince George himself might attend the Royal Welsh.
Who knows, maybe he’ll come as Patron, His Majesty The King. And, carrying the name George meaning ‘farmer’ or ‘earth worker’, they’ll surely have him rolling up his sleeves to join the shearing sheep competition before he can say any “Dim diolch yn fawr!”