Robin Magee, formerly gamekeeper at the historic and beautiful Rademon Estate near Crossgar, has been honoured by The Great Game Fairs of Ireland in recognition of a lifetime of work dedicated to the Ulster countryside and its sporting traditions.
Presenting Robin with his Award at the preview of The Irish Game Fair & Flavour Fine Food Festival held recently at Shane’s Castle, Albert Titterington, Director of the Great Game Fairs of Ireland, praised the contribution Robin has made over the years to maintaining and developing one of the Province’s fine historic estates.
He said: “Our objective in The Great Game Fairs is today what it has always been: to demonstrate how countrysports, farming and conservation can work together for the preservation and promotion of the Irish countryside and its traditionally rural way of life – and we are delighted to honour an individual who shares our vision. Robin’s skills, energy and commitment, combined with his extensive knowledge, make him a true champion of country living.”
Preparing to follow in Robin’s exaulted steps is 8-year-old Katelyn Thomas whose dad is gamekeeper at Ballydugan Estate close to Downpatrick. The Downpatrick Primary School pupil, pictured with her dog Minnie, who was competing at the Shane’s Castle Fair, is heart set on becoming a gamekeeper when she grows up … evidence that country lifestyles are successfully inspiring a new generation.
It wasn’t just the amazing birds of prey that soared to new heights at the Irish Game Fair at Shanes Castle last weekend.
Record numbers of the public poured through the gates to see what has been billed as the ‘biggest and best ever Irish Game Fair.’
Game Fair Director Albert Titterington explained why the thousands poured in despite the odd touch of drizzle. He said: “We simply deliver what the public wants and expects from the Great Game Fairs of Ireland’s fairs. This year we worked hard to make sure that Shanes was extra special: we told the public what was on offer and the public responded in their thousands.
“We had the best ever range of competitions and the biggest prize fund; a huge tented village of trade stands with a real country lifestyle theme and, for the first time, three arenas operating, each with its own action-packed programme. The Main Arena featured high profile demonstrations and competition; ‘Countrysports in Action’ offered the public the opportunity to interact with the stars of the show and the Living History arena, set in the midst of the re-enactors’ Living History Village in the lee of the ancient Shanes Castle, illustrated a timeline from the Vikings to the Georgian period.”
“Shanes also catered for the public’s fascination with fine food, especially with locally sourced produce, and at Shanes, we had the best ever Fine Food Festival – the largest ever seen at any Irish Game or Country Fair with some really exciting top notch game and fish cookery demonstrations.
“We had Ireland’s largest and most varied range of canine competitions and displays with international gundogs, while Ian Openshaw, recognised as the most successful handler in the world, wowed the packed Arena audiences along with the CLA International Team and Dog Guru Keith Mathews who annually includes Shanes in his busy schedule of international dog training masterclasses.
“The widest range of Irish hunting, shooting and fishing organisations exhibited and also the Kennel Club from London, not to mention display vehicles old and new including horse & carriages, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a De Lorean sports car, old military vehicles and fire engines, right up to the latest 4 x 4’s. There was simply so much to see and do that many of the public decided to come for both days of the fair.”
Commenting on the economic boost which the game fair makes to the local area, Albert said, “The record crowds at Shane’s Castle, Antrim made a vital economic contribution to the whole area. I know that hotels and guest houses were fully booked over the weekend and understand that some have even taken repeat bookings for next year. The positive impact of the Fair is all the more significant for the local economy given these tough economic times.”
With the Shanes Castle event successfully staged, final touches are already being put to arrangements for the Irish Game and Country Fair at Birr, Co Offaly on 31 August and 1st September: “Without doubt Birr Castle’s Game Fair is now firmly established as the top fair in the Irish Republic and, withy the historic Birr Castle ‘watching over’ proceedings the public love the fair’s unique style.
“Last year, many felt that only Shanes topped it, but with the surprises planned for Birr – the non-stop entertainment, surprise appearances, competition, prizes and of course the huge commitment and support from the country’s leading fieldsports bodies, and the world renowned Castle gardens – well, there is the feeling that Shanes may just have met its match for the ultimate Game Fair crown. All will be revealed in due course!”