Ploughing Matches

A ploughing match at Trumland in the 1920s


Three reports of Rousay Ploughing Matches from the columns of The Orcadian


Rousay and Veira Agricultural Society – 1881

The annual ploughing competition of this society came off on Wednesday 2nd inst. on the farm of Trumbland. The weather was favourable. Fourteen competitors came forward, and before commencing work were kindly provided with breakfast from Trumbland House, and refreshments were abundantly served on the field during the day. A great many people were present. About 9.30 am work commenced. The field was rather steep, and an allowance of time had to be admitted. The judges were Messrs Sinclair, Evie, and Marshall, Shapinsay, who described the work as superior to the previous years. Grooming and harness also showed that the men had improved very much, and deserved encouragement. Prizes were awarded as follows:

Ploughing: 1 and Highland Society’s medal, John Harrold, Trumbland; 2 D. Allan, Trumbland; 3 William Sabiston, Westness; 4 Jas. Marwick, Trumbland; 5, Robert Sinclair, Langskaill; 6 George Gibson, Langskaill; 7 Allan Gibson, Scockness; 8 William Johnston, Saviskaill; 9 Alex Craigie, Falquoy; 10 (youngest ploughman) James Inkster, Saviskaill.

Grooming: With best kept harness. 1 John Craigie, Westness; 2 Charles Johnston, Trumbland; 3 George Learmonth, Westness; 4 Donald Allan, Trumbland; 5 William Johnston, Trumbland; 6 John Elphinston, Faraclett.

Special Prizes were presented to the competitors, as undernoted, to the donors of whom the society tender their best thanks. 1 William Johnston, Saviskaill, for the best feering; 2 D. Allan for the best finish; 3 George Gibson, for best ploughing with least ‘high cut’; 4 James Marwick, Trumbland, for the best decorations; 5 Charles Johnston, Trumbland, for the best groomed horses; 6 James Inkster, Saviskaill, first done; 7 and 8 James Inkster, youngest ploughman; 9 Malcolm Leonard. 10 James Inkster, first done; 11 Robert Inkster, second youngest ploughman; 12 J Marwick, Trumbland, best kept harness; 13 William Sabiston, longest in one master service; 14 Alex Craigie, last married ploughman; 15 R. Sinclair, youngest abstainer; 16 M. Leonard. 17 Ann Gibson, Trumbland, prettiest young girl at the competition. Mr. Geddes, having been appointed a judge, awarded as above, and caused a great amount of merriment.

Mrs. Burroughs kindly distributed the prizes; and afterwards three hearty cheers were given for the judges and also for General Burroughs, C.B. and his esteemed lady. An excellent dinner provided by Mrs. Burroughs, to which all the members of the society were invited, of whom a large number were present. The room was beautifully ornamented with flowers and evergreens. General Burroughs, C.B. occupied the chair, and Mr. Gibson acted as croupier. Grace was said by the Rev. Mr. M’Callum, and the guests enjoyed an excellent dinner. Thanks having been returned, the usual loyal and patriotic toasts were proposed and responded to – ‘The church’, ‘The Society’, ‘The health of General Burroughs, C.B. and Mrs. Burroughs’ were duly honoured. The health of Mr and Mrs. Munson, Mr. Sinclair, Newhouse, and others, were also duly responded to. A very happy evening was spent, and all seemed to appreciate the kindness shown to them. The whole day’s proceedings turned out to be a success.


Rousay Ploughing Match of 1888

The Rousay ploughing match came off on the farm of Saviskaill, Rousay, on Wednesday. The judges were Mr. O. Laughton, Soulisquoy, and Mr. S. McAdie, Balfour Mains, (Shapinsay) whose decisions gave complete satisfaction. The judges, committee and a few friends were entertained to a excellent dinner by Mr. and Mrs. Seatter, Saviskaill and the usual patriotic toasts were given and duly responded to. The committee take this opportunity to thank all the donors of special prize donations, for their contributions and also their worthy president and vice president for their handsome donations.

Ploughing Ordinary:- 1 Charles Corsie, Brendale; 2 John Mainland, Ervadale; 3 William Learmonth, Faraclett; 4 P. Swanson, Avelshay; 5 Robert Sinclair, Stennisgorn; 6 William Lowe, Saviskaill; 7 James Grey, Hurtiso; 8 Charles Johnston, Trumland; 9 John Craigie, Saviskaill.

Grooming:- 1 Allan Gibson, Bigland; 2 William Learmonth, Faraclett; 3 Peter Swanson, Avelshay; 4 James Craigie, Langskaill.

Harness:- 1 Peter Swanson, Avelshay; 2 C. Corsie, Brendale; 3 C. Johnston, Trumland; 4 William Learmonth, Faraclett.

Champion ploughers:- 1 John Harrold, Trumbland; 2 George Gibson, Langskaill, 3 Allan Gibson, Scockness.

Special Prizes. A lantern and razor to youngest ploughman, Robert Grey, Hurtiso; half a pound of tea for longest with present master, C. Johnston, Trumbland; purse to youngest ploughman who took a prize for ploughing, John Mainland, Ervadale; a tie for the best finish, Allan Gibson, Scockness; Tam o Shanter to youngest ploughman who took a prize for harness, C. Corsie, Brendale; Picture to youngest married man, George Gibson, Langskaill; pair of braces as a fifth prize for grooming, John Harrold, Trumbland; tie for neatest ends, George Gibson, Langskaill; tie for tallest ploughman, John Gibson, Vacquoy; Bible to the second champion, George Gibson, Langskaill; pair of socks to the oldest ploughman, Malcolm Leonard, Gripps; 2/6d to the third champion, Allan Gibson, Scockness; whip for best harness, P. Swanson, Trumbland; comb and brush for last prize in grooming, James Craigie, Langskaill.


Jim (Mainland) o’ Westness with his prize harness at a Rousay ploughing match.
Jim Nicolson, who was married to Cilla Corsie, Knarston, competing in a match at Trumland. See the newly erected War Memorial in the background, unveiled in 1923.


The Annual Ploughing of the Rousay Agricultural Society was held at Trumland on February 18th 1922, where 15 ploughs competed and the judge was Mr R Ritch, Grind, Rendall.


1st    H.S. Medal and Cup  –  James Smith, No 2 Frotoft. Prize – 6s
2nd   James Linklater, Curquoy – 5s 6d
3rd    Tom Marwick, Glebe – 5s
4th    John Leonard, Faraclett – 4s 6d
5th    John Gibson, Avelshay – 4s
6th    James Lyon, Ervadale – 3s 6d
7th    John Marwick, No 1 Frotoft – 3s
8th    Robert Seatter, Banks – 2s 6d
9th    David Marwick, Quoys, Wasbister – 2s
10th  James Nicolson, Nearhouse – 1s 6d
         Youngest Ploughman, James Gibson, Hullion – 2s 6d
         Feering and Finish, James Smith
         Straightest Ploughing, Tom Marwick
         Best Ploughed Rig, James Smith


1st     James Nicolson, Nearhouse – 3s 6d
2nd    Tom Marwick, Glebe – 3s
3rd     James Gibson, Hullion – 2s 6d
4th     James Smith, No 2 Frotoft – 2s
5th     James Linklater, Curquoy – 1s 6d


1st     James Nicolson, Nearhouse – 4s 6d
2nd    John Leonard, Faraclett – 4s
3rd     John Shearer, Trumland Farm – 3s 6d
4th     James Taylor, Trumland Farm – 3s
5th     James Smith, No 2 Frotoft – 2s 6d

A large number of Special Prizes were distributed which caused much amusement to the Spectators.


H.S. Medal and Cup winner in the above ploughing match James Smith [born 1885], who lived at No 2. Frotoft [Burrian] with his wife Catherine and son James.
George Grieve, Cruannie, competing in a Rousay ploughing match held at Banks, Sourin, c1936

[All images from the Tommy Gibson collection]