It is now 70 years since one of the greatest Highland Shows was ever staged – and it was at Dundee!

In the days before it settled permanently at Ingliston in 1960, it travelled round the country rotating between eight different regional areas. It’s not that long ago that people still talked about the Dundee Show, such was its success.

The 12 travelling shows held in the post war years were held at a time when farming was still basking in glory following WWII and the industry was buoyant.

The first post war show kept to the rotation, with the 1948 show at Inverness following the Edinburgh show of 1939. The society had actually wanted to stage a show in 1947 but timber shortages thwarted them, although importation from Canada was considered.

Inverness shows, the north of Scotland region’s location, had always struggled in the numbers game because of low population and the longer travelling distances for exhibitors. Despite a visit from the King and Queen and Princess Margaret the wet weather during show week harmed the show’s potential.

The King did, however, bestow the Royal title to the event and any organisational cobwebs left from the eight barren years were blown away.

Therefore, Dundee was ready to welcome the new ‘Royal Highland’ to an arable and stock farming area which was looking to improve livestock, adopt new crops and growing methods and mechanise even more.

The last one held in Jutopolis was in 1933 when 96,340 attended. The 1949 show would smash this, and the 1948 Inverness crowd of 87,076, by a long way with 163,917 passing through the turnstiles.

Like 1933 the site was on Riverside Drive, a flat stretch of land next to the Tay which had been reclaimed from the Firth by the council’s policy of tipping the city’s waste there for many years.

As normal the town council provided material help with floral displays and extra labour to help on the site and adjoining car parks, a police presence and the water supply was also given by a very helpful town council.

This water supply was much needed as the show was blessed with four days of continually hot dry weather. However, the extreme heat posed problems with animals needing extra water and the pigs having to dig into the ground to keep cool.

Indeed, the council had to lay on a 24-hour service of water carts to lay the dust on the 57 acre show yard. One of the hazards of staging such an event in such dry conditions was the ash from the thousands of city fireplaces and factory boilers used in the reclamation was loosened by the many thousands of footsteps.

The Police coped with the huge number of visitors easing congestion on the walkways, roads and car parks which saw 36 acres set aside along the length of the site. Being next to the main East Coast rail line aided travel from further distances with passengers alighting at Magdalene Green Station across from the main entrance.

There was even a park and ride system as car owners could leave their vehicles on the Fife side and travel the short journey over the bridge to the show, as the Tay ferries wouldn’t be able to cope.

The palatial entrance gates were at the east end of the site and once inside there were cloakroom huts and catalogue kiosks while the railway offices were nearby. The east end of the show ground opened out to all the trade stands of which machinery dominated.

Many of the visitors would be wanting to do business on these stands, and it would be interesting to know the number of orders taken on show week, a great deal more than today probably.

The trade stands facing the arrivals were MB Wild, James H Steele, Lister Blackstone, Eddie Gray of Fetterangus and Kenneth Melville of Errol, a local David Brown dealer.

Some of the big names in machinery were in the motion yards up each side including Ransomes, Albion, Alex Strang Allis Chalmers dealers from Portobello, Bisset of Blairgowrie and Ferguson.

Such was the rising popularity of the Fergie tractor, sales staff had to scrounge newly sold tractors and implements for the stand from local dealers and farmers as supplies from the factory were not forthcoming.

Amongst the national manufacturers were a huge number of Scottish firms offering a range of their own products or acting as dealers for other products.

This led to a great deal of duplication, something the show organisers strove to eliminate a decade later at the new Ingliston site.

On the northern edge perimeter were the poultry and rabbit marquees and the flower show. While on the opposite river side were forestry and agricultural research pavilions.

At the west end of this side was the grandstand and main ring, between this and the north side catering outlets were all the pavilions for feed, fertiliser, seed and veterinary products, NFU stands, members pavilions, meeting rooms, press offices, the show headquarters and a square next to the bandstand and clock, while a Royal pavilion furnished by Justice of Dundee was constructed for the visit of her Majesty the Queen. Various judging rings were erected in this area too.

The western end of the site saw row upon row of canvassed roofed stock lines containing nearly 2500 head of stock almost a thousand head up on the previous year.

It was all native breeds with Ayrshire, Friesian and Jersey dairy breeds. Shorthorn, Aberdeen-Angus Galloway and Belted Galloway and Highland beef breeds, commercial cattle and for the first time at the show Herefords.

Sheep breeds were few compared to today with Blackface, Cheviot, NCC, Border Leicester Suffolk, Half Bred, and Oxfords. Goats were also present, as were the aforementioned pigs.

Heavy horses by now in decline, saw Clydesdales joined by Percherons and Suffolk Punches. Shetland and Highland ponies were joined by ridden and hill ponies and ridden and in hand hunters.

Although we can’t travel the show these days, let’s just hope for four dry days and a show as successful as the 1949 one.