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History of the Llangattock Ploughing Society

The Society has been in existence since 1888. Like many other voluntary societies, the Second World War dispersed many of its leading members and so the later years of the 1940's saw it struggling to survive. At that time, Leighton Bowen joined and set about re-invigorating it. What follows is an abridged version of his recollections of the progress of the Society since that time.

In the 1940s, like thousands of others, Leighton Bowen had completed his War Service and 4 years as a prisoner-of-war and had returned to his pre-war job in the National Provincial Bank. Having had the few post-war years in the Bank and yet with a substantial family connection with farming, he was desperate to find something of interest outside his banking profession and the Society gave him that interest. In late 1949, Leighton took over as secretary of the Ploughing Society from Ben Cowles. He found it was severely short of money, a small Oxo tin containing 3 / 4 d. (16p) being the sole funds of the Society, with none of the prizewinners for that year’s match receiving any prize money.

Social event image Horse Ploughing Vintage Tractor

To pay off the ploughing match prizewinners, Leighton and his farming friends: Ron Edwards (Whitehall), Brian Cowles (Hendre), Jack Probert (Home Farm) and Frank Harris decided to organise a Barn Dance, which were just becoming popular. Troy Farm, owned by Fred Lemon was an ideal site near to Monmouth to attract a good crowd; some spot prizes were generously donated and, with an artist friend of Leighton's producing six posters, the event was advertised in the Beacon, Argus and Abergavenny Chronicle. It was a great success, with the catering and bar organised by Harold Lewis, Hostry L.C. and the Society was able to pay off all the ploughing prize winners, as well as buy 2 calor gas cylinders and a gas boiler. WD & HO Wills Ltd sent about 50 packs of playing cards.

There then followed some excellent annual matches. To bring about more interest on the day, Hunter Trials were introduced, which brought along Col. Harry Llewellyn, Mrs Raglan Somerset and a number of other well known horse people, some of whom would also come to the meetings. Indeed, years after, Leighton remembers David Broome telling him that it was to the Society’s event that he came with his father Fred Broome and his brother to compete in his first competition. When meetings were called at the Wellington, the room would be packed full and many would wait out in the bar to find out what had been agreed. The late Trevor Davies, Pyscodlyn Farm, Abergavenny, regularly attended the meetings.

There were some successful hedging matches and some excellent poultry whist drives with first class prizes. Leighton particularly remembers one poultry whist drive at the Hendre Hall with the late Reg Harris (brother to Frank) as M/C and no spare spaces in the Hall –tables were even put in the corridor. It had snowed the day before and there were several inches on the ground, but having filled the outside verandah, there were five tables put out in the snow. Leighton recalls a first class ladies committee who were always encouraged to attend the meetings.

He left in September 1954 to join the National Farmers Union in Usk, and left the NFU in 1964. For the next 20 years, he and his wife moved around including 5 years in Somerset. When they came back to the area in 1983, it was to find the Ploughing Society dormant, with £100 in a Bank account that had not earned a penny in interest in almost 20 years. He wrote an article about the Society in the Beacon and called to encourage colleagues such as Ron and Irene, Frank Breakwell and his wife, the Downhams to start the Society up again.

Leighton arranged for a meeting to be called in the Wellington which was very well attended, with a lot of younger people that he didn't know, but who were clearly interested in reforming the Society. Unlike the past, where it had always been the rule to elect a member of the aristocracy as President of the Society, Frank Sutton was elected to the role, with Leighton stepping down when a Chairman and Committee were elected.

Leighton finds it very gratifying to see the dear old Society in such fine fettle today and wishes it great success in the future.