Timeless charm of ould lammas
Thousand of visitors headed to Ballycastle, Co Antrim for August's Ould Lammas Fair, one of the country's oldest harvest festivals. Ronnie Bellew met with the horse traders and film makers who make this gathering a real highlight of Ireland's summer schedule
Published 21/09/2010 | 05:00
The preacher on Ballycastle seafront was telling anyone who cared to listen that God loves sinners. "You may have very little thought about Christ today, you may have very little thought about God today, but I want to assure you dear people on this the last day of August 2010 that God loves the sinners too and God is our salvation," he proclaimed above the fairground din.
It was the second day of the Ould Lammas Fair and the preacher and his companions were a reminder that even though 'the devil's buttermilk' was flowing, you're not too far away from the North's bible belt and Big Ian in Ballymena.
The God-fearing souls on the seafront were part of a throng of thousands from all over Ulster and beyond who converged on the north Antrim town at the end of August for one of the country's most distinctive harvest festivals.
The charter for the fair was granted to the MacDonnells of Antrim in 1606, but its origins run deeper and Ould Lammas (Lammas is the name for an old English feast celebrating the first loaf from that year's harvest) is believed by historians to be a 'Christian' version of a pagan Irish Lughnasa festival.
Whatever its origins, the Ould Lammas Fair has a timeless quality and, as with most street fairs, is a mixture of the good, the bad and the gaudy.
The fortune tellers were out in force, the streets packed with buskers and there were more than 400 stalls where you could buy anything from dulse (a local seaweed) and 'yellowman' toffee to 'the world's smallest kite',, Ulster Scots music CDs and Scullion hurls from Loughguile.
The Ballycastle horse dealing is the last remnant of the fair's agricultural roots, but these are lean times for horse traders.
Denis Devine, a farmer from Randalstown in Antrim, has been travelling to Ould Lammas for years and he reckons the trade is at an all time low.