There is uncertainty as to when fairs started in Killimore. In the early 19th century five fairs were held annually, on January 1st, March 17th, June 29th, September 29th and November 22nd. Research in the local newspapers, together with accounts by local people give a good insight into what people experienced at the fair.
The following notice was published in 1879:
N O T I C E
The Public are hereby informed that the following
New Fairs, Free of Customs,
In addition to those already established, will be held in the TOWN OF KILLIMORE, County Galway, on the following dates, viz.:-
February 13th August 17th
April 19th October 26th
May 23rd December 9th
Dated this 30th day of December, 1878.
Signed on behalf of the Committee,
THOMAS COSTELLO, Secretary.
The Fair, held in February 1879, was described as being fairly successful, despite the expectations of the “prophets of ill”. Cattle, sheep and pigs were in very good supply and prices matched those of surrounding fairs. It is worth noting the prices paid for animals at that time in Killimor and also the prices which were refused.
One and a half year old heifers realised £7 to £9 and people paid from £10 to £12 for two year old heifers. An offer of £13.10s. was refused by Mr. Pelley of Hearnesbrook for three year old heifers. Strippers realised from £10 to £12.10s; springers from £12 to £15. In the sheep department – hoggets rated from 35s. to 45s.; ewes in lamb from £2.15s. to £3.10s. Pork on foot was rated by the cwt.
The Following Decade
During the following ten years prices seem to have increased slightly. At the New Year’s Day Fair of 1889, the following prices obtained – two year old heifers were sold at prices from £11 to £12 and one and a half year olds at £10. Milch cows – not mentioned in 1879 realised from 13 guineas to 14 guineas each. Calves were considered dear, as a good calf was unobtainable under £6.15s.0d. Sheep in good condition were sold from 54s. to 57s. each. Large fat pigs of good quality realised about 43s. per cwt., light ones being sold at 47s. 6d per cwt. Stores and bonhams were considered dear, bonhams ranging from 13s. to 25s. each. For some years the pig sale took place in Killimore on the eve of the fair. Up to this point in time fairs in Killimore had been restricted to cattle, sheep and pigs. The question then arose as to the reason why horses were not included because as a horse centre Killimore was unrivalled. Some of the best sires attended in the locality, with the result that the farmers around fetched very handsome prices for especially young animals. On June 19th 1909 the following advertisement appeared in The Connacht Tribune
A SPECIAL FAIR FOR
Horses, Sheep and Cattle
Will be held
On the 25th of August.
The Fair Committee are making strenuous efforts to popularise
the Fairs of Killimore, and earnestly request the patronage and
co-operation of neighbouring farmers
The Fair promises to be well attended,
and if the traders and farmers make a com
bined effort, it is certain to be as great a
success as the Markets.
A proposal was made to add five other monthly fairs to the existing ones. The dates considered were February 25th, April 25th, May 22nd, August 25th and October 25th. The local paper stated that the New October Fair proved very successful. Large flocks of sheep and cattle were observed moving towards the town and a large number of mares and farmers’ horses were disposed of, at prices ranging from £15 to £24.
In February 1910 attention was drawn in the Killimor Notes in The Connacht Tribune, to the lack of Railway Communication which proved a great obstacle to the success of the fairs and markets. The writer commented
Thirteen English miles separate Killimor from the nearest railway station and a large proportion of the merchants’ goods must be conveyed that distance by the antiquated horse and cart, which means a loss to the merchant and a greater loss to the consumer. The other day I stood on the hills of Maugheraneerla; I view Banagher on the one side with its railway terminus, while the Shannon carries heavily-laden steamers by its door on the other side, and the prosperous and progressive district of Killimor is devoid of the advantages of modern locomotion. I considered it surprising that some means could not be devised to establish a connection between the two places.
A notice was issued from the Courthouse, Galway under the Bovine Tuberculosis Notification (Ireland) Order of 1910, ordering “every person having in his possession or under his charge
(1) any cow which is, or appears to be, suffering from tuberculosis of the udder, indurated udder, or other chronic disease of the udder; or
(2) any bovine animal (i.e. any bull, cow, ox, heifer or calf) which is, or appears to be, emaciated from tuberculosis, to report same to a Police Constable in the area, without avoidable delay”.
A financial dispute between this country and the United Kingdom Treasury led to the “Economic War” of 1932-1938. Both countries erected a wall of punitive tariffs and restrictions on each other’s trade. This particular event hurt farmers badly especially livestock farmers. Animals made “very bad money” and at one particular fair in Killimor three cattle and a cow were sold for £16. Lambs were as low as 8 shillings, 30 shillings or £2 for a good two year old. There were creels of bonhams on display and were sold for 10 shillings each or £1 for a good one.
Fair Day in Killimor in the mid 1950s
The fairs in Killimor were about the biggest in East Galway excepting Loughrea and Ballinasloe. There were thirteen fairs held each year and attended by all the leading Exporters and Dealer in Ireland. Fair were held on: 1stJanuary, 25th January, 25th February, 25th March, 25th April, 25th May, 29th June, 25th July, 27th August, 29th September, 29th October, 22nd November and 10th December.
On the eve of each fair, prospective vendors arrived in Killimor, selected an area of the side-walk of the street and put up a pen in which they displayed their animals next day. Owing to the dearth of lorries, tractors and trailors, some people employed drovers to convey their animals to and from the fair. The most memorable of these drovers were Waltie Meers from Loughrea and O’Mearas of Borrisokane. Many farmers drove their own stock along the roads, with animals making the odd foray up a boreen or through an open gate! And so began the fair in the early morning. Buyers strolled around, seeking a bargain, and judging the qualities of various animals. Teeth, horns, neck, flank and udders were carefully studied and assessed; good points were praised by vendors and were castigated by buyers. Prices were offered and refused and finally the bargain was sealed with much spitting on, and slapping of hands. Money was handed over later in the day and the luck penny given to the buyer. Animal noises, raised voices of the bargain makers and general commotion pervaded the atmosphere. The odd loose animal was known to wander in through a shop door, causing consternation. Travelling salesmen known as “cheap jacks” peddled their wares at the fair, either in “standings” or in the open. They were blessed with the “gift of the gab”, thereby enticing customers to their stalls to buy new or second-hand clothes, boots, harness or farm implements. A “stand”, selling an assortment of sweets such as Bull’s Eyes, Peggy’s Leg and Liquorice was in a conspicuous position near O’Meara’s gable end. Butchers did a particularly brisk trade on fair days with men buying fresh meat for home consumption. Entertainment was provided by Ballad Singers who also sold ballad sheets for 1d. each. The following story is told, denoting the interchange of bluster and wit at the fair in Killimor. A juvenile jobber offered ten ballads (meaning ten notes) to a shrewd seller for two pigs. The person addressed shrugged his shoulders, smiled, winked and gave his head a slight toss and replied “no, thank you, avic, I don’t sing”. Though common at fairs in some areas, there is no account of Faction-Fighting at Killimor fair though the odd argument may have arisen! There were at least three Gardaí and a Sergeant present on the street, just in case! Hunger was assuaged at what were then called “Eating Houses”, where customers availed themselves of a fry or a mutton chop. These “eateries” included Porters, Briens, Clarkes, Haras and Kal Morans. Bargains being completed – or not, as the case may be, men retired to the local hostelries to quench a mighty thirst, discuss the affairs of the day, hurling matches and political matters. Some may have imbibed “one over the eight” before merrily setting out for home. The aftermath of the fair was not very pleasant, especially for those charged with cleaning the street and carting away the animal excrement.
Old Fair Day and Tolls
Certain fairs in Killimor proved very important. One such fair was when women, who did not usually attend fairs, had a bonham bought for them. This particular bonham was fed and nurtured by the woman of the house and eventually sold, providing money for the house or for personal use. Of particular significance was the November Fair, which in older times was a three day event and was known as the “Old Fair Day” or the “Fair of the Bush”. Cattle were walked from surrounding areas, but mostly from West Clare, Gort and Ardrahan, arriving on 21st November. Fair Day was on the 22nd when cattle were brought out to the Fair Green (near Hearnesbrook) for which a toll was collected by Johnny Connors. He had the Toll Rights, which were authorised by Galway County Council. He also had an official agreement with P.V. O’Meara for the use of the scales (situated to the west of O’Meara’s Public House) to weigh the cattle on that particular day. Any unsold stock were brought back from the Fair Green into the town and sold later in the day or on the following day. Cattle were then driven to Ballinasloe Railway Station for transport to various locations. Senior Citizens may remember droves of Kerry-Blue cattle passing through Killimor en route to the Ballinasloe Great October Fair.
There was no pig fair as such in Killimor, but pigs were collected every Tuesday. They were weighed on O’Meara’s scales and brought by lorry by the various dealers to the factory for slaughter. At every fair cartloads of bonhams were sold opposite Soughleys (now the Heritage Centre). The story goes that the bonhams were often washed with buttermilk to make them look good!
The question may be asked nowadays – How did traffic get through the town during the fair?
In truth, there was very little traffic in the 1950s and 1960s. Cars and other vehicles became plentiful in the 1970s but by then the fairs became defunct and marts had taken over. The last fair in Killimor was held in early 1970s. The reason for the decline in fairs was due to a degree, to the scarcity of manpower, young men having emigrated to England to work. To add to that, many townspeople countrywide, objected to the inconvenience and hygiene aspects involved. So began the era of the Marts.
History of Tolls
The finding of an Agreement drawn up between P.V. O’Meara and Bernard Hanney prompted research into the history of the Toll system. Briefly, permission in the form of a written patent was granted by the Crown to hold markets and fairs. People who accepted and owned this franchise were permitted to charge customs or tolls, at the place and on the days specified in the patent. Certain conditions applied: the owner of the franchise accepted responsibility for the organisation and supervision of the fair or market, and ensured the settlement of any disputes that arose. Landlords in the early 17th century took out patents for fairs and markets to ensure that no rival would lay claim to such franchises and to safeguard their property. Increasing opposition to the payment of Tolls resulted in the 1818 Act, which was passed to regulate the levying of such Tolls. This Act ordained that a Toll- Board be used, at the location of the fair, to display charges and the name of the body or individual who claimed the right to collect such Tolls.
As previously indicated, Johnny Connors, as he was known locally, collected the Tolls on “The Old Fair Day”. To comply with regulations, the Market Authority (the person entitled to collect Tolls) must have a weighbridge in or near the fair, for people who needed to weigh cattle. This weighbridge had to be inspected every six months by the Weights and Measures Inspector. P.V. O’Meara owned the weighbridge and “loaned” it to Mrs. O’Connor. O’Connor’s land was subsequently bought by Bernard Hanney who also wished to purchase the Toll Rights. The following agreement was drawn up between the two parties, by Hutchinson, Davidson & Son, Solicitors, Ballinasloe and Dublin.
THIS AGREEMENT made this 17th day of November 1953 BETWEEN PATRICK VINCENT O’MEARA of Killimore, in the County of Galway, and BERNARD HANNEY of Killimore aforesaid, of the other part WITNESSED that the said Patrick Vincent O’Meara agrees to let, and the said Bernard Hanney to take, the use of Weighbridge, situaet in Main Street, Killimore, for the Killimore November Fair, subject to the following conditions:-
(1). The said Bernard Hanney shall pay therefore, the yearly sum of one shilling.
(2). The said Bernard Hanney shall be responsible for any damage to the said Weighbridge, when in use by him.
(3). The said Bernard Hanney shall be responsible for any accident that may occur, in the use of said bridge, when used by him.
(4). This agreement shall be determined by one month’s notice on either side.
(5) The said Bernard Hanney shall pay the Costs of this Agreement.
IN WITNESS where of the parties aforesaid have hereunto subscribed their names the day and year first herein written.
Signed by the said Patrick Vincent O’Meara, in the presence of Patrick V. O’Meara, Thomas Lyons.
Signed by the said Bernard Hanney, in the presence of Bernard Hanney and Joseph Boland.
The Old Toll Boards
The charges on the toll boards used in Killimor are reproduced as accurately as possible. Owing to the age of the boards and the faded condition of some of the lettering, some words and charges were either missing or impossible to decipher. The lettering and decoration on the boards denote a high level of craftsmanship at a time when everything was done by hand.
SCHEDULE OF TOLLS & CUSTOMS
TO BE LEGALLY COLLECTED IN KILLIMORE
ON THE 22ND NOVEMBER
£ s d
FOR EACH MILCH COW WITH HER CALF “ “ 6
A COW WITHOUT CALF “ “ 5
OX OR HEIFER “ “ 4
½ YEARLING CALVES “ “ 3
CALVES “ “ 2
EACH SHEEP “ “ 1
FAT PIGS “ “ 3
STORE PIGS “ “ 2
SUCKLING PIGS GOING IN “ “ 1
… AND FLANNENS PER PIECE “ “ 2
CANVASS PER PIECE “ “ 1
TABLES EACH “ “ 1
A KISH OF BROUGHS “ “ 4
COVERED STANDINGS “ “ 4
UNCOVERED STANDINGS “ “
REFRESHMENT TENTS “ “
Marian Gohery/ Lagana Remembers
I started school when I was 4½ and I’m 12 years old now. There were Fairs on our village streets then, but, alas there are no more. I loved the fairs because sometimes we got the day off, but mostly we had school. The noise started long before I got up in the morning. There were tractors, trailers, lorries, horses and carts and of course the humble ass all carrying their load to the fairs.
On sale were all classes of livestock from the smallest bonhams, to the largest bullock. You could also buy or sell such things as cabbage plants, young apple trees, gooseberry bushes or perhaps the shirt on your back if you felt like it. There were traders there from all directions with one aim only and that was to sell their wares which consisted mostly of clothes both second hand and new.
Business was good in the morning as I made my way to school. I listened with wonder as the bargains were made and maybe if I was lucky I got a few pence from a good natured farmer. In the evening when school was over the fair was over too, only a few drunks remained and the tinker women at Kirwan’s Corner tried to sing a few bars of She Moved through the Fair.
The marts have taken over now and it’s the Auctioneers’ hammer the farmer must watch today. Maybe it’s all for the best, but I miss the old fair and I’m sure the shops miss it too. Money was made and lost there, and many a hand shook in friendship.
Outside P.V. O’Meara’s on Fair Day