Farm Ireland

Monday 19 March 2018

Turnout proves Cahirmee Fair is still a rural hit

Hundreds of horse traders haggling and bartering under the hot sun shows that the traditional horse fair is alive and well

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Sunglasses and ice cream were the order of the day at Cahirmee Fair in Buttevant, Co Cork, last Tuesday. Temperatures in the mid-20s took their toll on both humans and animals, as the handlers got burnt and the horses got progressively more tucked up as the day wore on.

However, the blazing sunshine did give a cheerful, summer atmosphere to proceedings as horses, ponies, donkeys and even a jennet were sold at the fair.

The fair, which is hundreds of years old, is still called Cahirmee after its original site two miles outside of Buttevant, even though the fair has been held in the town for the past 90 years. It is said that the Duke of Wellington's horse at the Battle of Waterloo, a black horse called Copenhagen, was bought at Cahirmee in the early 1800s.


While there were no military buyers at the fair this year, there was still plenty of interest in the stock for sale. Miniatures, children's ponies, traditional cobs and lighter sport horses were plentiful, but three-year-old hunting types with a bit of bone and feather were thin on the ground.

Westmeath horse dealer Jim Derwin bought 30 horses on the day, and his new stock ranged from a 12.2hh child's pony to a 16.2hh horse.

The dealer and his spotters combed the fair from 7am for the best horses and ponies and paid from €250 up to €4,000 for the animals of his choosing.

"I got some nice riding-school types and a few horses," he said. "There were some nice cobs and Connemara ponies in the bunch too."

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Derwin's haul of 30 horses at Cahirmee join the 36 he bought at the Spancil Hill fair three weeks ago.

The riding-school types are destined for Scotland, while the Connemara ponies are being lined up for potential buyers from Dubai, who are due to visit his Athlone yard next week.


Sadly, the fair was marred by a serious accident on the outskirts of the town in which a horse is believed to have died and a rider seriously injured. It is understood that a trotting horse and gig collided with a riding horse, who was pierced by the shaft of the gig.

The sight of the injured horse lying on the road bleeding heavily greeted many of the fair's visitors.

The tragic incident highlighted the urgent need for an organised approach to trotting races at all fairs.

At 30-35mph, any collision is serious and the risk to both the drivers and spectators is huge.

A designated trotting lane, as has been implemented at the fair in Ballinasloe, would help to reduce the risk of accidents and injury.

Perhaps too, the authorities -- be it the gardai, welfare officers or local authorities -- would then be able to prevent foals and yearlings being cruelly driven to the point of exhaustion.

Traditional country fairs such as Cahirmee are part of the fabric of rural Ireland but they can only continue if they are attractive to visitors and locals alike.

Indo Farming