History of the Fettercairn Show

Written by Jim Brown MBE

At Fettercairn here, you help to perpetuate an event that was first held in 1826. It was founded by a local laird Thomas Ramsay of Balbegno who gathered the leading young men and farmers to form a target shooting club which in 1826 developed into the Fettercairn Farmers Club. However they got their priorities right – they had founded a Distillery in the village two years earlier and a church some 23 years earlier.


The club did not merely hold a Show – they took an active interest in farming education and set up a agricultural library in the village and its AGM in this hall was usually addressed by some leading academic – most notably Sir John Boyd Orr – The Director General of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisations and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1949. To give you some idea of our vintage– the first Highland Show was held in 1822 just four years before Fettercairn– the North East Show age table then reads –The Black Isle 1836, Echt Show 1853, Turriff Show 1864, New Deer also around 1864, Keith Show 1872 and Tarland around 1900. Of course many shows have folded over the years including Ellon, Elgin and the Kincardineshire Show which used to be held in alternate years in Stonehaven, Banchory and Laurencekirk and Banchory would be an off shoot of that circuit. The Angus Show was also on a circuit of the main Angus Towns but is now resident in Brechin. I am not trying to establish that our Show is the oldest and therefore better — All of these dates indicate the immense amount of completely voluntary effort that has been expended by farming communities over hundreds of years to sustain all of these events and all of you here tonight are these very people.


Sadly today many one day public events organised at great expense and funded by the rate and taxpayers are held up as iconic experiences and they impinge on events such as ours. They fuel the public with higher expectation and they become increasingly difficult to please. But we are all still dedicated to the cause. Fettercairn used to be a confined show when in our catchment area we had so many famous herds of pedigree and commercial cattle, flocks of commercial and pedigree sheep and riding ponies in big numbers. As numbers diminished we had to become an open show and thus prize winners tonight from near and far.