Charleville Show was founded in 1979, the driving force behind this venture was the late Canon Donal O'Driscoll. He called a meeting of a small number of interested people, they met at Cronins Hotel in November 1978. He put forward a number of reasons why Charleville should have its own show. A lot of negative opinions were voiced on the night, as there was no tradition of a show in Charleville or the surrounding areas.
Jerry Lyons clearly remembers him saying "Forget about Tradition - Charleville is the centre of one of the best agricultural areas in the country and should have a show" After a long discussion it was agreed to support the idea and a date was fixed for the first formal meeting to form the show society. This meeting was held soon afterwards, and in addition to the original group that met, a number of good prospective members turned up to the initial meeting. The officers for the first show were elected at this meeting with Dr. O'Driscoll unanimously appointed as Chairman and the late William Biggane as Vice Chairman, Maura Sheehan was appointed as Secretary, Dan Murphy was appointed Treasurer and Pat O'Riordan was appointed P.R.O.
In 1982 Jim O'Callaghan succeeded Maura Sheehan as secretary, and is still a staunch committee member..
The first task of the newly elected committee was to acquire a site for the show. The Late Mrs. Joan Binchy very kindly offered the use of her lands to hold the show. A date was then secured from the Irish Shows Association and the last weekend in June 1979 was chosen. This weekend became the traditional weekend of the show.
Good support was forthcoming from existing shows in surrounding areas such as Paddy Luke Ryan from Cappamore Show, gave great guidance to the committee on their first venture.
A good cross section of interests were represented on the general committee such as the late Jim Berkery from Kilmallock and the Late William Fitzgerald from Effin. The show got off to a good start when the first schedule was issued and circulated; this resulted in great entries in all classes, which vindicated Dr. O'Driscolls prediction. This was particularly evident in the Dairy section where there were very good entries in the premier classes including the All Ireland Maverick Junior Cow.
In the horse and pony section very big entries were received from all over Munster. The central location of Charleville was attractive to a wide range of exhibitors. It must be stated that the success of the show was also due to the very generous sponsorship which was forthcoming with Golden Vale as the main sponsors, and also the goodwill of the traders in the town.
The amount of voluntary help that was forthcoming for the first show was very encouraging. The preparation of the ground entailed all manual labour and there was no shortage of same.
On the night before the show the weather was very unfavourable, the site became a quagmire, as late as 12.00 o clock on the Friday night the committee was undecided whether to go ahead with the show or not. Dr. O'Driscoll called a meeting of a small number of the committee who were still on the grounds, and against all the adverse conditions it was decided to proceed.
Great difficulties were experienced on the first morning of the show getting exhibitors into the field, despite all this the programme went ahead according to plan. Thankfully on the Sunday the sun shone all day and there were great drying conditions, by early afternoon the grounds had completely dried up and the Sunday programme was a great success.
A number of novel attractions including sulky racing, which was a new experience for the locals and this proved to be the highlight of the show. Also in the early years there were Tug o War competitions and Sheaf tossing. Charleville Show was the first to introduce a musical programme for the Sunday afternoon, very well known acts such as the Bairds, The Dublin City Ramblers, Louise Morrissey, Kathy Durkin, Johnny Barrett to name but a few were very attractive performers at the show.
Over the years the show committee introduced Novel Attractions such as Lawn Mower Racing, Formula One Cars, Saving The Hay, Exhibitions of Rare Breed Animals, and from the start there was a vintage section which has grown from year to year. The visit of the Duchess of York in 1993 drew widespread publicity and she proved to be a major attraction.
The Famine Pageant was the best novel attraction presented by the show, it was initiated by the Late Michael McCarthy (The Hiker) from Buttevant. The purchase of the permanent grounds in Ballyhea in 1991 was a major achievement for the show committee. In order to help meet the cost of this investment a new share register was opened at £100.00 per shareholder. The most gratifying aspect of the shareholding drive was the excellent support we got locally and also from a very widespread area. Over the years a lot of development has been carried out in the new grounds and as can be seen today would match any show grounds in the country.
Charleville Show today boasts it is the largest two day show in the country, it is also fortunate as members retired there have always been very enthusiastic member ready to take their place. Three members of the present committee were on the first committee, and they are Ian Doyle, Nora Leahy, and Pat O'Riordan.
This bodes well for the future of the show, and its success can be contributed to the fact that all the members give their time and efforts on a voluntary basis. It is a Labour of Love for everybody involved.