Horse Fair Reminds Us of The Way We Were

Kate McSweeney (left) and Aimí Ní Riada getting the views of Mike Mangan on the traditional events unfolding around them on the streets of Castleisland on November 1st Horse Fair Day. Aimí will broadcast her first Caint Chiarraí from Radio Kerry on Sunday night at 8pm.  ©Photograph: John Reidy

Looking at the forecast and the weather itself for the few days after the annual November 1st Castleisland Horse Fair Day one can only thank God for the few days we got when it really mattered.

Thank God that, for the good of the town, the weather obliged all through the Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival and held its composure until after the fair day.

Gigantically Bigger

There are people who will swear that Thursday’s was the biggest fair they had ever seen. Who could argue with them. They’re right of course. That’s a statement of fact – for them.

Of course there have been bigger fairs than Thursday’s – gigantically bigger. Days on which you couldn’t draw a leg on the street or on the flags.

Days when schools had the be closed for safety sake and long before safety became the issue it is today.

Throngs of People

Consider Thursday’s fair for a minute. The throngs of animals and people from top to bottom, the noise and bustle and heritage and tradition of the events unfolding on the main and back streets around.

Take a couple of angles of thought on that and then think gigantically bigger – as it was in the days of yore.

And then, add the fact that all of this – or something very like it – happened in Castleisland once a month with cattle and horse fairs.

Pig Market Every Tuesday

Think also that it happened to a lesser degree every Tuesday for the pig markets and on December 8th for the general Christmas and turkey markets.

Think of the eating houses of the day and the public houses and the revenue generated and the work for all who wanted it and the market town reputation being laid down and strengthened.

Whatever else last Thursday’s fair did, it gave us all a glimpse of the kind of town and the kind of mentality we came from.

Rural Kerry Town

And Castleisland wasn’t the only rural town in Kerry or in Ireland which conducted its business in that bold, self perpetuating way of life.

However, it’s a manner now largely smothered by bureaucracy, hindrance and neglect by governments in recent years in particular.

It’s a way of life which has left the stage with all its props. November 1st in Castleisland is the one day of nostalgia left to us.

More Than That

But it’s more than that. It pays its passage as if to make it forcibly clear to us how it was and the way we were.

And, imagine after all that, there was a movement afoot only a few years ago to move the fair off the street altogether.

Now, wouldn’t that be the final insult to a town and its long and proud tradition of fending for itself and its people.

Aimí ar Caint Chiarraí

As a hoof-tnote: As you’ll see from the photograph above, I met Kate McSweeney and Aimí Ní Riada getting the lowdown on the fair for a project they’re putting together. Aimí, a recently qualified journalist, will broadcast her first Caint Chiarraí from the Radio Kerry studios on the coming Sunday night from 8pm to 9pm. Go n-éirí an t-ádh leat, Aimí agus bain ard taitneamh as.

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