Fairgoers in a huff at Muff as rain dampens spirits
THE young lads said they had been coming for about 40 years. The real veterans admitted to having been regulars at the Muff festival for the best part of 70 years.
Probably because it has been held for over four centuries in the same field at the same small crossroads a few miles from Kingscourt, Co Cavan, there was an old-world feel about this annual horse fair.
It is believed to be the oldest traditional fair in Ireland. It started when King James II granted a licence to a local merchant in 1608.
Pat Owens (77), from Ladyrath near Nobber, was very precise. "I have been coming to Muff for 66 years."
Surveying the gridlock outside the gate, he chuckled at how things had changed. "I first came in 1945. In those days there were no cars. Nobody had a car apart from the doctor, the vet and the priest."
Matt Donlon (80), from the Bailieborough area, could not get over how little money was changing hands yesterday.
Haggling is an art form in Muff and the experts make a great song and dance about rejecting insulting offers, often walking off in a huff only to return a short time later to make the deal and even hand back a little "luck money".
But as the rain bucketed down it seemed that most people could not summon up the energy to argue as ponies and donkeys changed hands for half nothing.
Most punters agreed that you could not give animals away. Andrew Clarke, a native of Muff, said that he had seen donkeys being sold for €50. "Four or five years ago people were getting €1,000 for an ass," he said.
James Collins was probably the most successful business man in Muff yesterday. The copper coal buckets and tin cups, known as pongers, which he made himself, were selling like hot cakes.
Paying €18 for a billy can and tin cup, James Traynor from Greaghadusson near Virginia recalled days on the bog when he learned how to drop a match into a billy can to get rid of smoke from the campfire.
Faction fighting was once the order of the day at Muff Fair and in one notorious incident on August 12, 1830, two men were shot dead.
Now "tossing" is the worst vice to be seen and fortunes are won and lost by patrons tossing coins from match boxes or combs.