Belfast Telegraph

Passion for ploughing: Gamble family’s three generations with 100 years of experience

By Chris McCullough

It's a skill that has been handed down through the generations and for this Co Antrim family ploughing is in the blood.

William Gamble and his son Nigel have more recently been joined by third generation Marc, who also developed a huge interest in the practice.

Based in the Ballyclare area, the Gamble family are all involved in vintage ploughing and have even turned the furrows in unison at events.

The trio have amassed more than 100 years of ploughing experience between them and have participated at competitions all over Ireland and the UK.

All three are members of both Ballynure Vintage Tractor Ploughing Society and Ballyboley Ploughing Society and hope to be in action this weekend in Donaghcloney.

Not only do they have a wealth of experience in ploughing, they have also accumulated an eclectic mix of tractors into their collection - each with its own story to tell.

William has been ploughing since 1948, when he was 11.

He learned to plough on a Ferguson Continental tractor while working for a local farmer, as his family was not involved in farming. He said: "I pretty much got the real passion for ploughing on that farm. No-one at home was interested in ploughing, but the farm I worked on bought a new Ferguson Continental and I taught myself on that tractor with an old single furrow plough.

"In fact, before that, when I was very young, there was an old horse plough at my grandfather's place.

"I was so keen to find out what it did that I took it into his garden myself and tried to push it around. I soon found out ploughing took a bit more power than what I had to offer back then."

Through the years William kept his hand in at the ploughing, but it wasn't until 1974 that he took it up competitively.

Although working full time as a lorry driver, William still found the time to master the skills, which he has handed down to his son and grandson.

He said: "I plough in the vintage class and actually came second in Limavady and fifth at the Carlow world event. I have also competed at many international matches and of course at quite a few club matches over the years.

"More recently, my son Nigel has ploughed with the Fordson N and I moved on to a 1948 Case D tractor. I first drove that same Case some 60 years ago and chased it all that time before finally being able to buy it for myself at a farm auction just four years ago."

The first tractor William ever bought was an orange 1938 Fordson N full wing that he purchased in 1973.

Other tractors in the Gamble collection include a 1978 Massey Ferguson 185.

For William, ploughing has changed dramatically over the years. "Ploughing used to be judged on merit, with a good judge knowing a decent furrow by its depth, angle and straight line. However, today's ploughing is judged with a point system which detracts away from judging just by the eye," he said.

His son Nigel started ploughing when he was 15 under his father's expert guidance.

He works as a HGV driver and is also a diesel fitter by trade but ploughs when he can.

"I used to travel everywhere with dad as a child around all the ploughing matches," said Nigel. "After watching dad for years I couldn't wait to get started on a plough.

"When I was 15 I ploughed my first furrow using a Ferguson Continental tractor and a single furrow plough - then I was hooked."

It's no wonder then that third generation Marc Gamble (21) has also acquired the passion. Marc is already well known in ploughing circles, with his name engraved on numerous cups and plaques.

He said: "I certainly am following on from my dad and grandad with this passion for ploughing. I simply adore ploughing and all the events it takes me to. I competed in Carlow in 2016 at the all-Ireland match, which was very important for me as my grandad had also ploughed there some 20 years prior to that."

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