31 May 1996

Celebrating first century at venue

CELEBRATIONS to mark the centenary of the opening of the RUAS Balmoral showgrounds in Belfast included special displays in the horticultural pavilion and the Womens Institutes hall, the publication of a history of the showgrounds* and the unveiling of a statue at the entrance to the conference centre.

The Duke of Edinburgh, patron of the RUAS, performed the unveiling ceremony and revealed a 6ft high work in bronze by Lisburn-based sculptor Anna Cheyne, whose commission was "to capture 100 years of activities at Balmoral".

"A standing stone forms the basis of this particular sculpture," she explained, "but much of my inspiration comes from the shape of pebbles. Having worked on a farm after leaving school I was able to use this experience to create a relief of animals and figures. Photographs of early Balmoral shows were also very helpful."

The statue can be appreciated at two levels – at a distance to get the full impact of the outline and at close quarters for the pictorial interest. One of the most notable items is the relief, viewed from above, of a Ferguson TE20.

The famous "little grey Fergie" is also a cause for celebration this year, for 1996 sees the 50th anniversary of its launch. A tribute to the TE20 and the impact it had on the farming scene, and to the life and work of its creator, Ulster-born Harry Ferguson, was staged the Balmoral Hall.

The TE20 also featured in the display put on the Northern Ireland Group of Fellows & Associates of Royal Agricultural Societies which traced the development of agricultural machinery over the 100 years of the Balmoral showgrounds history.

*On with the show by Alf MacCreary, W & G Bair (£15).

Sculptress Anna Cheyne: Pictures of past shows helped her to design.

The Duke of Edinburgh, the RUASs patron, examines the statue with its president J L Countney Thompson (left) and chief executive Bill Yarr.