Bridging the gap to Moate Mart memories
There were some serious celebrations in the Westmeath village of Moate at the launch of Moate Mart Memories - a collection of old stories and photographs of what was once one the busiest marts in the midlands.
Moate had a thriving sales ring throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s, and was a Mecca for Dublin and British buyers because of the quality of the livestock reared in its catchment, and the fact that it had a ready-made railway connection to the livestock boats in the Dublin Docks.
The mart was founded back in the early 50s and was run by two local livestock-dealing families - the Dolans and the Conlons - until it closed in 2004.
At one time, Moate Mart used to be mentioned in the same breath as the premier Smithfield Mart on Dublin's northside.
Denis Watson, who helped compile what he describes as a "book about the characters and goings on at the mart", says the demise occurred because of the prevalent economic conditions in farming during the Noughties.
Once the new road network was constructed through the midlands during the "build and build again Bertie years", the railroad connection in Moate became less important for transporting the animals, while the actual mart site itself, like many other marts throughout rural Ireland (think Trim, Edgeworthstown, Maynooth), became a valuable development site. With the mart located in what was becoming another Dublin satellite town, it was inevitable the site would be earmarked for new housing at the time.
However, Denis - along with his friends Paddy Duffy and Martin Dolan - thought the memories and the old mart should not be allowed to disappear, and the characters who worked and traded there should be remembered.
Moate Mart held livestock sales three days a week at its commercial height: Monday for cattle and sheep, Wednesday, pigs, and Friday, weanlings. And under the gavels of well-known local auctioneers, Theo Robinson and Henry McGowan, most of the livestock which went through the ring were destined for the British market.