Highlands of Fife Ploughing Association


The Highlands of Fife Ploughing Association was inaugurated on the 23rd of January 1909; the last match was held on the 11th of February 1939 at Braeside, Peat Inn, Fife. To celebrate the Centenary of the founding—and the 70th Anniversary of the final match—the Association reformed in 2008 and staged a match on the 7th of March 2009 at Radernie, Peat Inn: the capital of the Highlands of Fife.

The match was suspended during the war years and never restarted when peace came. However, resurgence in match ploughing, and the resurfacing of the old minute books, has led to this match being resurrected.

The Highlands, or the Riggin ‘O’ Fife as it is also known, is a tract of high ground that runs east to west across the region of North East Fife somewhere between the Firth of Forth and the River Eden: from approximately the Drumrack crossroads on the B9131 in the east to beyond the A 916 in the west.

Some of the land rises to over 500 feet hence the title “Highlands” and the “Beggars Mantle” in King James IV description of Fife as a “beggars mantle fringed with gold”. The farms at the time of the original matches were generally smaller family run stock holdings; these have gradually given way to larger units in the post war era. Modern machinery and husbandry methods have meant that a great deal of arable farming now takes place although stock is still common place.

Several farming families were behind the old match such as the Anderson’s, Methven’s, Black’s, Fraser’s and Grieve’s. Many of the descendants have now come on board to resurrect the association including the SCPA Executive Committee member Willie Grieve. Meetings for the Association were held in the Peat Inn Hotel where the proprietor Tom Ireland was the Association treasurer from 1909 until 1929. The prize giving dinner was also held in this hotel with vivid descriptions given in the local press. The match entrants were restricted to a five mile radius of Peat Inn and match sites also tended to fall into this radius. It was all horse ploughing and the classes were Champions, Swing Ploughs, Chilled Ploughs and Juniors, indeed the last Junior winner from 1939, Joe Doig, who was 14 at the time, is to be interviewed for a commemorative publication. There were special prizes for Feerings, Finishes etc, Harness and Grooming, Youngest and Oldest Ploughman and one for Largest Family.

The association was affiliated to The Highland Agricultural Society of Scotland but drew up its own set of rules. The match was advertised in the Peoples Journal, and judges were asked to come from as far a field as Perthshire which was quite an undertaking for an eight o’clock start and travel by bus! Typical of the farming carried out at the time, many of the matches were held on ley and the Centenary Match was also partly held on grass ley. This is thanks to our host, and Chairman, Ally Fraser whose father Murdo was the last Secretary.

By Peter Small