Organising any event – large or small – is a huge, mind-boggling, often thankless task, but it is one which Border Union secretary, Ron Wilson, and his right hand lady, Joan, have always taken in their stride.

Answerable to every fine detail from trade stand holders, catering, car parking and security, right down to the basics of portaloo numbers and of course toilet rolls, is a 24/7 job.

It’s not just for the few weeks running up to the big days like the Border Union Show and the Kelso Ram Sales either, but also the increasing number of other events now staged on this 45-acre site, known as Springwood Park, just outside Kelso.

With the multi-purpose Springwood Hall which opened in 2003 complete with separate on site shower and toilet facilities, the park which is situated on the scenic banks of the River Tweed, is now home to a whole host of events to include championship dog shows, caravan and scooter rallies, weddings, conferences, craft and antique fairs and sponsored school days.

However, with an ever increasing numbers of events, the organisers leave themselves wide open to a whole manner of risks which, outwith cold, wet weather, have in the past included the horrors of Foot-and-Mouth disease and Blue Tongue.

Unphased, the couple has never swayed from doing their best for the Border Union Agricultural Society, its members and the farming community.

Admittedly, they have not been alone in their quest to boost the profile of agriculture in the Borders, with three full time staff, complete with assistance from society members at busy times.

But now, 20 years after Ron took on the full-time role as secretary and treasurer, he is stepping down to enjoy a well-earned retirement at the end of the year. He and Joan are nevertheless extremely grateful to all the people who have worked with them during their time with the society.

“We have been very fortunate to have been an integral part of the modernisation of the show which has grown around us,” said Ron.

“When I first started, all we had were two basic sheds, the grandstand and a showfield, but plans were already being considered to develop the site from a show field to a show ground,” he added pointing out that the society then went about planning and applying for government and grant funding to help finance such bold moves.

As a result, Ron and Joan witnessed the construction of the new exhibition hall, tar-mac roads, additional field drainage, secretary’s office and updated show facilities, that have enabled Springwood Park to become a growing business venture in its own right.

And, importantly for Ron, following years of investment and bank loans, society finances are back in the black.

“I do feel relieved all the debt incurred following the development of the park and two years of Foot-and Mouth, has been paid back,” he said.

“The new hall, which spans 42m x 24m, and other developments, cost over £1m to construct, and we were fortunate to attract European, Scottish Borders Council and Scottish Enterprise funding. "The society itself, which became a charitable company in 2001, contributed in excess of £200,000 of its own coffers and since then has spent another £500,000 on heating and other internal features.

There were also huge debts incurred following some major disease outbreaks”

Ron added: “The first year of Foot-and-Mouth, in 2001, there was no show and of course no income for the society.

“The second year in 2007, which was confirmed near Pirbright animal research facilities in early September, cost us even more as we already had the marquees up for the Ram Sales and some 200 sheep here for the event.

“Everything was in place for the sales and then we got the news of the complete standstill for all livestock. Well, the phone lines completely jammed as people immediately questioned what was happening. We lost £110,000 that year.”

Two years later and the Ram Sales were almost scuppered again by Blue Tongue disease which meant different parts of the country were in different health zones. The north of England became a closed zone two weeks before the sales so amazingly there were more than 1100 rams from south of the Border “bed and breakfasted” in Scotland. All rams entered for the sales had to be vaccinated for the particular strain of Blue Tongue, BTV8.

On a more positive note, Ron’s tenure witnessed the Bicentenary of the Border Union Agricultural Society in 2013, which in turn attracted a record breaking 25,000 people over the two-days of the agricultural show, compared to the norm of 16,000-18,000.

In commemoration of the bicentenary, that year also saw the first Schools Countryside Day, which proved so successful that it has become an annual event.

The Duke of Roxburghe, through his Fallago Environmental Fund is the major sponsor, plus local industries, councils and retail giants, of this one-day event which enables every primary five school child in the Borders to attend the Schools Day, which is staged in the park and encompasses every aspect of the countryside. This includes all sectors of farming from sheep dog trialling, sheep shearing, bale wrapping, bee-keeping, milking, renewable energy, birds of prey, pigs and poultry and butchery demonstrations.

It's Joan who has a particular soft spot for this event, but then she has always been its main organiser. “It’s a great way of educating young people and the Day depends on the help and generosity of sponsors and volunteer stewards for their huge support.”

Ron also likes the challenge of the Ram Sales in September.

“It is very difficult to pick out a favourite event, but I do enjoy the buzz of Ram Sales. As soon as you get the entries in, and the ballot, which is a double ballot and open to the public, is drawn we have a four-week target to get the marquees up, which cost in the region of £50,000, and all the penning planned and erected.

“1998 was our biggest year as we had a record 7730 tups entered that year which were sold in 18 rings. Amazingly, no tups went missing!” said Ron, pointing out that since then, sheep numbers have declined and, as a result, entries have settled around 5500 annually.

While 1998 was the biggest, this year’s sales proved the most successful to date with a record breaking £3m changing hands as 4452 rams were sold to average £710 – another record.

Amazingly most years, there are only five or six tups left the next morning with no homes to go to and it’s Joan’s position as official ‘tup detective’ to suss out why such individual rams have been left and find out where the so-called ‘lost’ sheep disappeared to!

The Border Union Show on the other hand, is a completely different kettle of fish, as its success is very much dependent on the weather.

“It is becoming harder to make agricultural shows pay as every element of the livestock sector costs money and yet that is what people want to see and it would not be an agricultural show without livestock,” he said, adding that a couple wet show years could potentially break the event.

“It costs between £120,000-£140,000 to stage the show every year when you consider the marquees, police, catering, judges, stewards, security and main ring entertainment required to attract people to the show,” said Ron, adding that the Border Union Society is fortunate in that it has a waiting list of trade stand holders.

“There are so many tentacles to organise when you think we’ve introduced a large rabbit and poultry show and quite often have a national cattle breed show and equine qualifiers.”

However, after 20 years at the helm, Ron who has been employed full time and Joan part time, are handing over the reins to enjoy a well-earned retirement.

“It has been a privilege to have been involved for so long in such a progressive business and this could not have not have been achieved without the dedicated small team of permanent people, the 10 chairmen, directors, sub committees and the hundreds of volunteer stewards and helpers throughout this time," concluded Ron.

I can't see Ron or Joan sitting back for too long though. Their son Robert and his young family is already in the process of launching a new venture to run alongside their well known pedigree Hereford herd, at Cowbog, just outside Kelso, and their daughter, Julia, and her family is enjoying life in Australia, so, there will be more than enough to keep them on their toes.