BYGONE DAYS: Hubert tops successful week with top price at Saintfield

After scoring a unique record of successes with his Large White pigs at the Royal Ulster Show at Balmoral in May 1981, Co Down pig breeder Hubert Gabbie of Crossgar (see pictures to the right) crowned a great week of successes by taking supreme honours at the show and sale held at Saintfield Livestock Mart – he had both the Large White and Landrace champions and made top prices of the sale.

Saturday, 5th June 2021, 10:00 am
Hubert Gabbie of Crossgar, Co Down, with his top prize-winning Large White pig at the Balmoral Show in May 1981. He is pictured here with his supreme champion. Picture: Farming Life archives

His successes at Balmoral that year included the Large White supreme and reserve championships; he won six classes and all 12 special awards.


Hubert’s unique list of successes was still a big talking point at the show and sale at Saintfield as he dominated both the prizes and prices with his Large White and Landrace pigs.

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Hubert Gabbie of Crossgar, Co Down, with his top prize-winning Large White pig at the Balmoral Show in May 1981. He is pictured here with his reserve supreme champion boar. Picture: Farming Life archives

His Large White champion, also adjudged to best of all pig breeds, made the top price of 605 guineas, and his reserve boar, which was second in the class to the champion, clinched the second highest price at 450 guineas.

In the Landrace section he had the Landrace supreme champion gilt, which made the top breed price of 300 guineas, equalled by Robert Overend from Bellaghy, Co Londonderry, for his reserve champion Landrace boar.

The Welsh champion came from the herd of Mrs Elizabeth Heaslip of Carrowdore, Co Down.


Robert Harrison from Kircubbin, Co Down, with his champion pony at the Balmoral Show in May 1981. Picture: Farming Life archives

When Robert Harrison, who ran a small mixed farm of cattle, sheep and pigs at Kircubbin, Co Down, decided to buy a pony “for a wee bit of interest” he never dreamed that he would have a champion on his first time in a show ring – and at Northern Ireland’s premier show at Balmoral, reported Farming Life during this week in 1981.

The fairytale-like story began when Robert, “who is a regular reader of Farming Life”, saw an advertisement of ponies for sale by Lady Perdita Blackwood of Cavollo Farm, Crawfordsburn Road, Newtownards.

Accompanied by his wife and two young sons, Robert found a big selection of young ponies and picked a bay filly he “liked her sweet head”.

The filly, Cavollo Lark, was of outstanding breeding, from a long line of top prizewinners. She was sired by Lady Perdita’s great pony sire, George F, whose successes included three times in a row at Ballsbridge, and out of the dam, Cavollo Dawn Chorus, which also had an impressive “prize history”.

The Clydesdale supreme championship was won by a 10-month-old colt exhibited at the Balmoral Show in May 1981 was won by Samuel J Brizell of Garvagh, Co Londonderry. Holding the colt is Mrs Brizell's sister, Ena. Mr Brizell had won scores of Clydesdale championship but this was the first time with a colt. Picture: Farming Life archives

But, Robert, at the time a few months previously, was only interested in the fact that he had brought a pony which he liked and was not really interested in showing it.

Lady Perdita had kept in contact with Robert after he had purchased the filly and with ‘Lark’ developing into a smart pony she encouraged Robert to show the filly at the Balmoral Show in 1981.

Robert had to parade his filly with geldings, but emerged the winner in the two-year-old class for ponies not exceeding 143cms.

It was Robert’s first time in a showring and to win a red rosette was really exciting for him and his family.

Mr Martin Tyse, right, area manager for International Harvester Co with F H Sanderson, centre, sale manager for Saville Tractors (Belfast) Ltd, the I H distributors in Northern Ireland at the Balmoral Show in May 1981. On the left is Jim Browne, Saville's dealer representative. Picture: Farming Life archives

But the excitement was only starting in the final line-up for the supreme pony championship in which Robert’s filly came out on top – an achievement which had eluded many prominent breeders during a lifetime of showing.

And, in addition to the championship rosette and prize money, Robert’s success earned him the Farming Life Trophy.

No one was more thrilled for Robert’s success than Lady Perdita Blackwood who was among the first to congratulate him.

Robert was “over the moon” at his success and was intending to show the pony at both the Saintfield and Castlewellan Shows in 1981.

With her long line of “prize bloodlines” Robert planned to keep the filly as a brood mare to rear foals and further that “wee bit of interest” that started off in Farming Life.