Castleisland’s Ancient Horse Fair is Cancelled under Covid-19 Restrictions

Busy street scenes like this as horse trading goes on during Castleisland’s annual November 1st horse fair day will not be conducted here on Monday due to Covid -19 restrictions. ©Photograph: John Reidy
The cover of a J.K.O’Connor calendar which listed Castleisland’s many annual fairs. This alone signaled its central role in the commercial life of the town at the time.

Castleisland’s only remaining fair, the November 1st Horse Fair will not be held this year on its historically allotted date.

Nor will it go ahead on its fall-back date on November 2nd because of the government restrictions on gatherings of people and the five kilometre travel limits.

Never on a Sunday

Tradition has it that when November 1st fell on a Sunday the fair was not held on that day but was carried over to the following day.

That would have been the case this year but for the cloud cast over the world by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cahirmee Horse Fair Abandoned

On July 12th. of this year, likewise, hopes that the equally ancient Cahirmee Horse Fair would be held had to be abandoned as local Gardaí sent out message to dealers near and nationwide that the Buttevant staged fair was being abandoned on safety grounds.

Gardai went as far as contacting Pavee Point in Dublin to ensure that members of the Travelling community throughout Ireland were made aware that the Co. Cork fair was a non runner this year.

Imposition Of Level 5 Lock-down

So it is with Castleisland. The recent imposition of Level 5 Lock-down finished any hopes of holding one of the town’s leading money spinning days on the calendar of events down through the years.

Fears were expressed recently that the fair could be moved off the street if its ancient links with the flags and the town charter were broken this year.

Broken Link Fears Unfounded

These are unfounded according to Kerry County Council Director of Services and Castleisland resident, John Breen.

“We know what the fair means to the economy of the town and as a tradition to hold onto for the people of the locality and, everything going well, we can all look forward to the fair returning on November 1st 2021,” said Mr. Breen.

The origins of the Castleisland Horse Fair has long been a topic of discussion around the day itself with ne’er a hope of an accurate or positive outcome.

Origins a Mere Guess

Given that we know the date of the establishment of the Norman Castle here, in 1226. and how the life of a castle at the time revolved around horse power, we can safely assume that our horse fairs – and we had more than one in the year – date away back to near then.

It is hard to imagine that life in an area in which a castle of that monumental size was being build would go on without an element of horse trading on some scale.

Town Charter in 1601

If not then, our fair was surely established with the granting of the town charter to Castleisland in 1601. This allowed the town to hold regular, weekly and monthly fairs and markets.

And, at one time, the town could boast of holding Kerry’s only monthly horse fair. Take a look at the busy diary in the old J.K. O’Connor’s Emporium calendar cover.

While it’s impossible to know or say when the Never on a Sunday rule came in, this year’s fair date would have fallen on a Sunday and would have been held on the Monday – but alas !

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