Plough Sunday is farmers’ new year

Bilsborrow Young Farmers team assemble with their plough before  the Plough Sunday service at St Helen's  Bilsborrow
Bilsborrow Young Farmers team assemble with their plough before the Plough Sunday service at St Helen's Bilsborrow

A traditional Plough Sunday was observed at St. Hilda’s, Bilsborrow to mark the start of the farming year.

Thought to be a very ancient festival it was revived by the Victorians and is traditionally celebrated on the first Sunday after Epiphany (January 6).

A plough was carried into church for blessing by local Young Farmers and a lecturer and student from nearby Myerscough College gave two of the readings.

Opening the service, Canon Ron Greenall stressed that the realities of country life involved much hard work and though technology had changed, the need for food, education and fellowship had not.

He stressed rural life is not a storybook existence and said: “It seems that our whole conception of the world comes from Ladybird Books, ie we view the countryside as hay rakes, haystacks, big dogs chasing the farmer’s red truck, chickens pecking around cobblestones, milkmaids with their churns returning from the milking and so on.

“But reality is far from the idyllic past that never was. The reality of today’s world is highly automised, highly commercial, highly expensive. But while there is a change beyond our dreams, our dependence on each other is as great as ever.”

There is, he said, an ongoing need for fellowship, a need for food and for education to be provided for generations to come.

Canon Greenall emphasised the importance of such teaching establishments as Myerscough College in the development of modern farming and equipment and said: “Technology has penetrated almost every avenue of life to the extent we choose to believe we know everything but, we are called not as Masters of the Universe but as co-operators with God.”

In the medieval period, when there was only one plough in each village, the village plough was brought into church for a blessing before ploughing began on Plough Monday.

By Victorian times, when many farms owned their own plough, a representative plough was brought into church and local farmers asked the rector or vicar to bless the plough.

This Plough Bearer Team comprised local Young Farmers Alex Degnen, Joe Metcalf, Jack Raby, Andrew Thompson, Emma Butler, Megan Foreshaw, Sarah Stuart and Constance Cornthwaite.

Lecturer David Pennington of Myerscough College and student Sarah Stuart gave readings.