Moynalty Steam Threshing started back in 1976 with a meeting held in the local community hall. A group of people came together to raise funds to help build an extension to the local church. Dickie Gilsenan suggested holding a steam threshing at the local GAA pitch. A committee was formed with John Sheridan as Chairman. The very first Steam Threshing Festival was held that October at Moynalty GAA grounds.
Harry Rowntree’s McLaren Steam Engine and Sheridan’s Mill were at the first Threshing. There were other attractions including Irish Dancing and some side shows like” fish the bottle”, skittles and sheaf tossing. A local football match was also held at the venue. Following the success of the first festival it was then decided to make the Steam Threshing Festival an annual event. A group from the committee travelled to Stradbally, Co Laois to gain a few insights into how to organise a festival for the following year. The Stradbally Committee were more than helpful and shared some new ideas with them. Glynn’s from Co. Carlow were approached to bring an engine to Moynalty but with transport and low loaders of that era it proved too difficult a task that year. The following year Dickie Gilsenan persuaded them to bring their engine to the festival.
Before the development of more modern methods of advertising, members drove the length and breath of the country with posters and flyers promoting our event.
The 17th Century Thatched Cottage became one of the main attractions at the Steam Threshing. Preserving artifacts from the past became an important part of the work of the committee. This work was led by Sean Quinn the present curator, and the late Paddy Gaynor and Phil Donegan. The collection grew and is on display in the Vintage Museum at the Threshing field.
The Festival itself revolves around the arrival of the twenty ‘Iron Ladies’ ( Meath Chronicle) or regal steam engines which arrive in Moynalty for the Threshing of the corn on the second Sunday in August every year. The ritual of threshing, reaping and binding is re-enacted for the spellbound spectators. Other attractions include ploughing and tilling by horse, by tractor, a Road Making Exhibition from the past, Horse Shoeing and other skills and crafts along with a huge Vintage exhibition. Farm animals and a Dog Show are very popular events. A working Waterwheel on the Borora River shows how water was harnessed to power machines.
Huge crowds enjoy the delicious home cooked Colcannon, boxty, pancakes and pig, roasted on the spit. Younger folk have fun at the Funfair. Music adds to the enjoyment of the day with Irish dancing, singing and the evening concert. Country and Western stars Nathan Carter, Mike Denver and Derek Ryan have featured and the very popular local talents Matt and Paul Leavy perform each year for the large crowd.
Steam Threshing Committees continue to support the local community through the maintenance and development of the Park and the facilities at the Threshing Field.
Funds are also raised to support charities and worthy causes both at local and national level. The Steam Threshing Festival is a non-profit making venture which is made possible by the voluntary work of the women and men who give of their time and energy to support the event. A huge debt is owed to the work of the founders and all those who have passed on to their just reward RI.P.
Every organisation needs inspiring leaders and the Steam Threshing Festival has been honoured with hardworking committees and dedicated Chairmen, John Sheridan R.I.P. Sean Gilsenan and the present Chairman Peter Gaynor.