On a per capita basis the Knocknagoshel Horse Fair is doing as well as its bigger counterparts around the country. Mention Ballinasloe or Buttevant or Killorglin or even Castleisland on November 1st and an image of horses and characters and colour begins to emerge.
There are locals now in Knocknagoshel who believe that the fair, now in only its third year, is gradually taking over in popularity and pulling power from the deeply traditional Pattern Day.
Either way the traders and the publicans of the village are getting their pound of flesh from the presence of the Pattern Day with the inspired addition of the fair. And the locals are embracing it with enthusiasm.
For pre-Pattern night, the locals have come up with a ‘Harvest Queen’ selection night over the past few years. It’s an event that fills the village for the night and keeps the tills in the pubs ticking over.
The Pattern Day is precious and unique to a small handful of towns and villages around the county. The origins of these days are well anchored in the ancient past and it would be a shame to see them being lost for want of wider acknowledgement.
New festivals are attracting funding from various state agencies and that’s a good thing. However, it may be good practice for the agencies to look back and out to places like Knocknagoshel. They would see that the local community has minded and nurtured an ancient festival which has been handed down for safe keeping through countless generations.
They would see that a little marketing effort, in conjunction with the locals, would go a long way towards cultivating ‘Foot Fall’ to the heart of the regions.
After all it was the locality itself from which the idea of the now annual horse fair sprang in 2012. And they’d see that any investment in effort, on their part, would be more than matched by those same locals.
Local man Tom Greaney explained on Saturday how a ‘centralisation’ policy took much of the wind from the sails of the Pattern Day Sports meeting in The Mall.
Once upon a time and well within living memory, most of the county athletics championship meetings were held in village football fields in places like: Knocknagoshel, Farranfore, Knockanure and Gneeveguilla. Then they were all taken into a central location in Tralee and the events that built up around them in the villlages fell away, mostly.
Knocknagoshel and its Pattern Day Sports survived and re-invented itself. And now a Knocknagoshel Pattern Day Sports Medal is again a prized commodity.
In Knocknagoshel the Pattern Tradition is surviving but it and its equals can’t be taken for granted. There is no shortage of imagination in the village and its hinterland – remember Massabielle from 1988 – a play written and directed by Fr. Pat Ahern – a founder member of Siamsa Tire. The huge undertaking involved only villagers and it ran for something like 14 nights due to the demand from bus tour operators. It made it onto the RTÉ 1 TV news.
All right, local man, the late Rory O’Connor was an RTÉ insider and was able to pull a few strings. But it was still well worthy of its billing and air-time as a good news story from the regions. Remember Mindana – what happened to Mindana ? I rest my case.