The real deal at revived fair day in Castlegregory

West Kerry

Ger ‘Jet’ McCarthy, Bridget, Al and Seán Goodwin and Johnny McKenna at the fair. Photo by Declan Malone
Ger ‘Jet’ McCarthy, Bridget, Al and Seán Goodwin and Johnny McKenna at the fair. Photo by Declan Malone

Declan Malone & Joan Maguire

Cattle, sheep, horses, pigs, goats, chickens, dogs, farmers wearing rubber boots in the sunshine and wandering tourists; they all added to the ambience on the Forge Road in Castlegregory on Saturday where the sights, sounds, and smells of the fair days that have slipped into the past were rekindled.

The fair day, held as part of the Castlegregory Summer Festival, isn't what would be called a re-enactment. It's more a case of simply holding a fair day in the way they were always held before marts took over the business of buying and selling livestock, before we became too 'claims conscious' to allow farm animals on a public street, and before we found it offensive to be up to our ankles in dung.

In Castlegregory they got the revived fair day, now in its second year, just about right with animals penned along the side of the Forge Road, farmers leaning against gable walls to pass the time of day with their neighbours, a man from Roscommon selling plastic barrels, and another man selling boots and wet weather clothing that was a little out of place on a sunny-drenched day. All that was missing was the hard bargaining, the falling out over prices and the coming back together to strike a deal and the pints to settle affairs that were at the heart of matters when a fair day really meant business.

One man who knew fair days in their prime was Peadar Curran from Dingle and he strode around the fair in Castlegregory, perfectly at home in the hubbub, ready to examine a horse's teeth or chat to a companion of old. "Ah, it's great to see it all the same," he said. "Sure no one does this anymore."

One of Peadar's old comrades was Kieran Goodwin, who had horses in one pen and displayed a scarlet rosette in another, signalling his prize for best pen of heifers at the fair. "We struck many a deal, my old friend," said Peadar as he examined one of Kieran's horses closely. If he was interested in buying, he didn't show it. But then a wily old fox like Peadar would never make the mistake of showing his hand.

Further up the street Colleen Bowler had a goat on a lead - and a struggle on her hands keeping the cheeky devil from nibbling her coffee cup. Her sister, Jackie, who brought a Tamworth sow and her litter of banbhs to the fair, has animal problems of her own. Gertie (the sow) and her offspring were one of the big attractions of the fair and very well behaved in their trailer on the day. But at home it's a different story. Gertie is a free range pig, so free ranging in fact that she knows her way around the neighbour's kitchens.

Pat O'Shea, who is one of the organisers, said this year's fair attracted more people and he felt it had a great social atmosphere but sales were down - possibly because of Brexit and the uncertainty surrounding agriculture at the moment. He said the organisers hope to expand the fair in the coming years but he has no desire to see it turning into a mere showpiece for tourists, instead it will remain a real working fair.