Auction shoot-out for the Knockiel Corral

I was very interested recently to see that a farm at Knockiel, Rathdowney in Co Laois was the subject of a lively fire-fight when it came to auction before Christmas, writes Jim O'Brien.

Three bidders were locked in combat until there was only one left standing, a local farmer who faced down stiff opposition and paid €322,000 or €14,000/ac for 23.1ac of ground.

The sale and the place-name, Knockiel, interested me since a friend of mine, Rathdowney poet and raconteur Michael Creagh, immortalised the townsland in verse.

In one of his poems he describes how he and his friends would take a detour into a quarry at Knockiel on their way home from school and transform it into their piece of the Wild West. Their schoolbags became saddlebags, their pencils turned into six shooters and it was 'bang bang you're dead,' for an hour or more as Rathdowney's Clint Eastwood and John Wayne teamed up to take on the bad guys.

The land sold at Knockiel before Christmas was certainly not quarry material but good flat ground worthy of a shootout.

Located in the middle of Rathdowney the 23.1ac are bounded by the local GAA pitch, the soccer pitch and a housing estate. The property is made up of three fields all in grass and described by Roscrea auctioneer, Seamus Browne as top quality land.

The parcel had been zoned for development during the boom and sold at that time for a massive sum, however it has since been rezoned agricultural and came for sale at agricultural prices.

The auctioneer certainly got himself a shoot out when he brought the place for auction.

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Bidding opened at €150,000 and with two customers in contention bids were exchanged like bullets from a Colt 45.

The price on offer quickly passed the €230,000 guide price and Sherriff Browne intervened to declare the place on the market.

GAA club

However, the two bidders, both local farmers, weren't done shooting and continued to fire until one blew the smoke from his gun and put it back in the holster at €250,000.

However, a new combatant emerged from the crowd in the shape of a lawyer believed to be acting for the local GAA club.

He took up position and began exchanging bids with the remaining local farmer who held firm and outgunned the latecomer to buy the place for €322,000.

Perhaps the words of the local poet Michael Creagh, from his collection The Rhymes of a Rustic Boy, make for a fitting postscript to a lively sale:

'Then John and Clint, the Cleeres and me we'd mount and ride away

Wounded but content that we had lived to fight another day.

We still had lots of foes to kill but we were in no hurry

We'd fight them all again next day above in Knockiel Quarry.'

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