Watch: 89-year-old 'Queen of the Agriculture Shows' still reigns supreme with thousands of trophies

By Concubhair O'Liathain

Nancy Murray has been a real showstopper for well over thirty years and has amassed a house full of trophies, cups and rosettes for her prize-winning cookery, arts, crafts and garden produce.

Sitting in her parlour in Cúil Aodha in Co Cork, Nancy, 89, is surrounded by trophies she has won for traditional brown bread, jam, apple and rhubarb tarts, assorted cakes and buns, vegetables, hens and ducks, crochet, needlework and knitting.

Nancy travelled for miles around her home in Cúil Aodha and is adamant her trophies were hard won.

"Hours of work went into every entry I ever put into a competition," she says.

"Ballyvourney, Kilgarvan, Macroom or Ballingeary, never gave me prizes for nothing."

This week she's basking in the satisfaction she takes from a good day at Kilgarvan Show at the weekend.

A few weeks previously she won the perpetual cup at the Ballyvourney/Coolea Show for the most wins for the ninth year in succession.

This time, the show committee decided to award her the cup perpetually.

Nancy Murray, 'Queen of the Agriculture Shows' pictured surrounded by thousands of trophies which she has won all over Munster. Pics: Don MacMonagle

When asked if she remembers when she first started entering the shows, she says she would have to check the dates on the trophies to see when that was and given that she has one room full of glittering marble prizes for us to see - but dressers chock a block with awards in other parts of the house, setting her to find the date would have been a tall order.

"Jer used to go to all the shows as he was a great man for the tug of war," she says, remembering her late husband who died over 20 years ago.

"I went along with him always and started entering then."

Originally from Co. Kilkenny, Nancy met Jer when she was 47 and he 52.

"He never drank or smoked or wasted a farthing," she says, her love of her husband as firm as if he were still in the room.

In the years since Jer's death, Nancy has kept busy and overcome many challenges.

Nancy with some of her crafts at her home in Cuil Aodha, Cork.

She's not as mobile as she used to be and doesn't go out into the garden as often as she did previously.

She has a protective guard dog, a number of cats and a regular stream of visitors, who are lucky enough to sample her apple tarts or traditional brown cake or jams.

In another room she shows off some of the handiwork which gained her prizes during her show career.

Ironically, she has more regard for the items for which she didn't win prizes.

A knitted Red Riding Hood doll which turns inside out to reveal a kindly grandmother, Aran jumpers and cardigans and a painstaking item of needlework depicting St Patrick feature among a vast collection of craftwork.

She does't know what will happen with her collection of trophies when she passes on.

They give her immense satisfaction now, however.

"Whether you win or lose, it's important to keep smiling or else you shouldn't enter these competitions at all."

In the meantime, she gives no indication that she's going to retire from competing in the the shows and thanks to a recent operation to remove cataracts is planning to take up needlework again!

Most Read in Ireland