The audience was paralysed...afraid to move a muscle in case it cost them €3m
How high stakes drama played out in the auction room as 100ac farm went under the hammer
In rural Munster, football and hurling are the preoccupations of the summer. In large swathes of the province, the hurling would probably come first. For those who live outside the Rebel County, it is deemed to be a good year when 'the hay is saved and Cork is bate'.
Cork is not 'bate' yet in hurling or football and it will take some performance in land prices to top the €58,000/ac paid last week for a 101ac residential farm located on the outskirts of the city at Douglas. It sold for €5.8m under the hammer of Fermoy auctioneer Mick Barry and was bought in trust by a Galway solicitor.
I walked the farm a number of weeks ago and it has everything - location, quality and a residence on a valuable site. I knew it would make a few pounds, so I went to the sale.
I arrived early to find the auction room at the designated hotel set up for a crowd. Not even the fine day and the opening ceremonies of the World Cup prevented a crowd emerging. From half past two the seats began to fill, mainly with people who have their work done, were out for the bit of lunch and came to see how the farm belonging to their late neighbours, 'God be good to them', might do.
As the minutes ticked down towards three o'clock others of similar vintage appeared, but these later arrivals had a son and heir in tow. They all nodded to one another and greetings were exchanged. Some looked around to find a seat near a neighbour, others wanted to melt into the crowd.
Then the suits began to strut in, young men with waxed hair and good shirts and phones as big as small televisions. They decamped to the back of the room to stand around tall tables where, on another day they might have sipped Dom Perignon and talked knowledgeably about tight prop heads, scrum halves or wingers.
I suddenly realised I needed to be at the back of the room, to have a good view of the proceedings. I was lucky to move when I did, the space was becoming crowded by a flurry of latecomers that included farmers in their prime, athletic men who had just jumped from the tractor, pulled on a shirt and a pair of jeans, brushed the hay from the heads and rushed off in the jeep not saying where they were going.
Do I hear €5m for this fine farm?
Soon the crowd was one hundred strong and a hush descended when auctioneer Mick Barry, led by the solicitor and his assistant, processed solemnly to the podium.