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Queen's Birthday Honours: Ploughing champ Hugh Barry Barr made an MBE aged 89

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 13/06/2015

Aghadowey retired farmer Hugh Barr
Aghadowey retired farmer Hugh Barr

A three-time world ploughing champion is among 85 people from Northern Ireland named in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

At the age of 89, Hugh Barry Barr is also the oldest local recipient of an accolade.

Mr Barr, who is from the Coleraine area, is one of the best known ploughmen in the world.

He first picked up a plough at the age of 15 and still retains a keen interest in the activity.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Barr said he was surprised by the honour.

"If it had happened 50 years ago I could have understood," he joked.

"I'm surprised that a man of my age is getting honoured, but I suppose it's better late than never."

Today's list includes a knighthood, one CBE, 15 OBEs and 36 MBEs.

The recipients are drawn from a wide section of society, with more than half representing the community and voluntary sector.

Others are recognised for their contributions to the economy, sport and health.

Mr Barr, who receives an MBE for services to ploughing, is the oldest recipient.

He is the only person to win the World Ploughing Contest in three consecutive years in its 60-odd year history.

Since retiring from competing, he has been a long-time judge and demonstrator at national and international events.

He explained that his interest in ploughing began after a family tragedy.

"I started ploughing when I was 15," he said.

"My brother, Robert, won the Coleraine ploughing match in January, and in March he was dead from meningitis.

"My father was taking it bad that there was nobody to take Robert's place. One of my brothers asked me would I try it.

"So I gave it a go. I was only 15 years of age.

"I started, and I loved it, and it seemed I was able to do a right good job."

Mr Barr won the World Ploughing Contest in 1954, 1955 and 1956. His hobby took him to countries including Canada, Norway, Sweden, Germany and across the UK and Ireland.

He retired from competing at 30 because he wanted to spend more time on his farm and with his family.

"It nearly broke my heart when I did retire because I had nothing more to reach for," he added. "It was like going in to a dark hole."

The recipients on the Birthday Honours list are drawn from all six counties. While many are involved at grassroots level in community and voluntary organisations, senior figures in public life are also recognised.

Will Haire, the senior civil servant in the Department for Social Development, is made a Companion of the Bath, while Roy Adair, the chief executive of Belfast Harbour, becomes a Commander of the British Empire. PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr is made an OBE, as is Professor James Robert Nixon, who is recognised for a lifetime of service to the medical profession.

Trevor Parkhill, the chairman of Hazelwood Integrated College, receives an MBE, as does George Robinson, a long-serving Democratic Unionist MLA for East Londonderry.

Chief Constable George Hamilton is one of three PSNI officers to receive the Queen's Police Medal. The father-of-four (48) joined the Royal Ulster Constabulary in 1985 and is recognised for his 30 years' service in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph

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