As Muriel Sheldon’s Looking Back column reminded us last week, 25 years ago the International Plowing Match was held very close to St. Marys in Downie Township on the Walch Farms at the southwest edge of Stratford. This was the 75th anniversary of the event. The very first IPM was held in 1913 at Sunnybrook Farms, a 200-acre country estate in York County, now almost the heart of Metropolitan Toronto. Since then, the event has been hosted by various chapters of the Ontario Plowmen's Association representing all regions of Ontario.
As well as 1988, Perth County has hosted the match in 1930 in the Gore of Downie, 1972 in Sebringville, 2005 near Listowel and again this year near Mitchell on this special 100th anniversary.
There have been some interruptions in this century of plowing match history. In 1918, the event planned for the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa was cancelled because of the Spanish Flu Pandemic. From 1942-45 wartime restrictions meant no matches could be held. But by 1946, the plowing match was back, taking place on the Port Albert Airfield near Goderich in Huron County.
Perth County’s hosting of the IPM has always been marked by excellent organization, dedicated volunteers and support from all the municipalities within the county boundaries. The Perth County Plowmen’s Association ran a terrific event for the 75th anniversary in 1988 and again in 2005. The 2013 IPM is now underway. Thanks to all the work to prepare for the 100th anniversary, it is sure to be a memorable celebration.
The Heritage Tent and the displays of vintage tractors and other machinery are always crowd-pleasers. This photograph from the St. Marys Journal Argus, Sept. 21, 1988, shows Murray Hotson of Avonton and John Murray of Stratford with a 1928 Rumely Oil Pull tractor, owned by John Mahaffy. The Rumely was an internal combustion variant of the early steam-powered tractors, burning all types of kerosene. Plowing matches — whatever the year — offer an opportunity to admire not only these great machines but also the dedicated collectors who restore and keep these reminders of our history in such wonderful condition.