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Tag: Listowel Horsefair

The Fair, the Tarbert Road and Value Centre

Tree in Winter: Listowel Town Park 2017


Top of Bridge Road, Listowel


The Fair

 Dick Carmody in his book  In the Shadow of the School remembered the fairs of his youth.

Another aspect of the Fair

Breaking  in and the training
of farm horses required an experienced and skilful horseman. As with many tasks
relating to farming, there was always one or more recognised experts locally
who would take spirited and untrained animals through all the stages of roping,
harnessing and carting to becoming a sober manageable and contented animal that
could be entrusted to any member of the family. There were exceptions, whose reputations
would soon become known throughout the locality and might not be so easily
disposed of at the next horse fair.

For horse breeding purposes, most
farmers depended on the services of a visiting stallion to place their breeding
mares in foal. This arrangement took place on fair days in Sheehan’s
yard at the top of William Street in Listowel. Though well educated in farm
animal husbandry from a very young age, for this particular event we were kept
a safe distance. The expected arrival of a young foal in about 11 months was
now eagerly awaited.


On the Tarbert Road

This is a section of Tarbert Road outside Listowel. This busy junction leads to the An Post sorting office and Applegreen service station.


Value Centre, Bridge Rd., Listowel

Horsefairs, Tim Kennelly Roundabout and North Kerry Tyre Centre

Co. Cork sparrow ; photo TJ MacSweeney


Listowel HorseFairs


By Delia O’Sullivan  in Striking a Chord

The big fair day in Listowel,
the October fair, was the topic of conversation among the farmers for weeks
afterwards. Exaggerations and downright lies were swapped outside the church
gates and continued at the holy water font, to the fury of the priest. It
finished over a couple of pints in the pub. 
None of them could be cajoled into giving the actual price, always
sidestepping with,”I got what I asked for,” or, “I got a good price.” There
were tales of outsmarting the cattle jobbers – an impossible task.

The farmers on our road set
out on foot for thwe seven mile journey at 4 a.m. It was their last chamce to
sell their calves until the spring. Now nine months old, these calves were wild
and unused to the road. Traffic confused them, so their only aim was to get
into every field they passed to graze or rest. Each farmer took a helper. Those
eho had decided to wait until the spring fair would go along later to size up
the form.

The battle would commence at
the Feale Bridge where the farmers were accosted by the jobbers- men trying to
buy at the lowest price. These offers were treated with contempt and a verbal
slagging would follow. “You’ll be glad to give them away before evening,” or,
more insulting, “Shoudn’t you have taken them to Roscrea?”

(Roscrea was a meat and bone
meal processing plant where old cows that could not be sold for meat were sent
for slaughter.)

The shopkeepers and publicans
in Listowel were well prepared for the influx; trays of ham sandwiches sitting
on the counter of each pub where most of the men finished up. The jobbers,
being suitably attired, would have their dinner at the hotel and the farmers
who wanted to avoid the pubs would go to Sandy’s for tea and ham. The
shopkeepers kept a smile on their faces when calves marched through their doors
upsetting merchandise and, sometime, leaving their calling card. The bank
manager was equally excited, greeting each man as “Sir”. He found trhis was the
safest approach as it was hard to distinguish them. They all looked alike in
their wellingtons, coats tied with binder twine and the caps pulled well down
on the foreheads.

My father arrived home late.
It was obvious he was in a bad mood though he didn’t arrive home with the
calves. He said he was cold and hungry and sat in silence at the table, while
my mother served up bis dinner which had been kept warm for hours over a pint
of hot water. As he was half way through eating his bacon and turnip, he looked
at my mother saying, “I’ve never met such a stupid man in all my life.”  The quizzical look on her face showed she
didn’t have a clue wht he was talking about and didn’t dare ask. It took the
mug of tea and the pipe of tobacco to get him started again.

My uncle Dan, my mother’s
brother was his helper. Dan was a mild softly spoken man who had little
knowledge of cattle. It was a a sluggish fair; prices only fair. My father held
out until he was approached by a man he had dealt with often in the past.  They followed the usual ritual arguments-
offers, refusals, the jobber walking away, returning with his last offer. This
was on a par with what my father was expecting so he winked at Dan, which was
his cue to say, “Split the difference.” . Instead Dan winked back. My father
gave him a more pronounced wink. This elicited the same response from Dan. The
day was only saved by a neighbor, who, on noticing the problem, jumped inn,
spat on his palms and shouted, “Shake on it, lads, and give the man a luck

Over a very silent pint and
sandwich Dan mournfully remarked, “If Mike hadn’t butted in you’d have got a
better price for the calves.”


The Tim Kennelly Roundabout

This roundabout is on the Tarbert Road at the junction of Cahirdown and The John B. Keane Road.

This sign on the roundabout warns motorists of an entrance and people turning off the roundabout.

The entrance in question is to Kenny Heights


North Kerry Tyre Centre

on Bridge Road, Listowel February 2017


Very Soon Now

Ballybunion, The Horsefair and Progress on the extension to Listowel Community Centre

Beautiful North Kerry

Photo: Mike Enright


All the Fun of the Fair

The Horsefair is a big event in the life of Listowel and many people have written about it and photographed and painted the fairs. Here I bring you a few photos from fairs through the years and an account of the January Fair 2017 by Billy Keane.

The man selling the manic Indian
Runner ducks and the pointy- beaked, big red hens came all the way from Macroom
to the horse fair in Listowel. There were goats, too, and puppies, horses and
ponies, a llama called Larry and donkeys with sad eyes. Noah must have left the
gate open.


The street was
thronged and I had forgotten all about the day that was in it. The custom is to
hold four horse fairs in our town on the first Thursday of each quarter. No one
knows exactly how long the horse fair has been going on here in Market Street. Hundreds
of years, I would say. There’s a story going that Napoleon’s horse Marengo was
bred in a field down by the River Feale. He was sold at Listowel Horse Fair and
again at the great fair of Cahirmee to the French.

My mother and father opened up our
pub 63 years ago on the day of the January horse fair. It was their first
wedding anniversary. They had no money and the pub was very busy, which gave
them a great start.

Gerard O’ Leary’s family own a
poultry operation in Macroom and he travels all over Ireland with laying hens.
It seems to be a big thing now for townies to keep a hen or two for the eggs.

I was wrong about the ducks. They
are placid enough, Ger says. There wasn’t a quack out of them. It was just the
insane eyes that scared me, and one duck kept staring at me like she was a
witch in disguise. I woke up later that night after a terrible dream. There was
the Indian Runner sitting at the end of the bed, staring away. I jumped out of
the bed, but she was gone. As my old friend Frank Galvin used to say, she was a
hollocollution – Frank’s word for hallucination. It was then I got to thinking
the duck with the stare might have picked up a bad scent from me. I checked the
pillow and it was full of feathers.

The Indian Runner ducks are
teachers. Says Ger: “Ducks are like sheep in that they stay in tight
groups. The ducks are used to train young collies who aren’t able for the big

We meet a crude man with a few
drinks in him, who told us he’s gone from the wife. “She’s too old to
breed,” he says, “and too wicked to keep as a pet.”

“You can’t say that,” I

“I can say whatever I
want,” says he.

There were just a few donkeys at
the horse fair. A few years back during the boom, a dealer told me he was
getting a grand a donkey but now the donkey sanctuaries are full again. I
always felt very sorry for the donkeys. There’s an old, faded holy picture
hanging up over the place I’m writing in right now. The little donkey has bony
legs as thin and knobbly as rosary beads. He’s carrying the Holy Family across
the desert and on to safety.

I think the happiest moment of my
life was when I was being returned to the mother and father after a lovely
adventurous month in the country with our cousins, the Looneys. Bill Looney let
me drive the donkey and car down Church Street. My friends saw me and I shook
the reins to get the donkey flying as we galloped on at full speed. I was the
proud boy.

Miley Cash is the main man at the
horse fair. His big white lorry was parked along the street. Several horses
were tied to the side of the lorry. He says: “I bought those ones at
Kilmichael, where the ambush took place and another at Doneraile. I’ll be
calling to Tipperary on the way home to Monasterevin to pick up another

Miley is a broad, blocky man. You
couldn’t put an age on him, but he told me he has been coming here to Listowel
for more than 60 years.

He is here to support the fair and
the way of life for the people who come here.

“Do you see that man over
there with the pony?”

An old man holds his pony on
display. The dappled brown and white pony looks like he could easily pass for
an Apache’s mount in a cowboy picture.

“Well”, continues Miley,
“he bought her for €1,100 and he kept her for year. Now he’ll sell her for
the same money. There’s no money in this for these people. He put new shoes on
her and had her clipped and tagged. The horse people never count the expenses
when they figure out the buying and selling. They love the idea of having a
horse. He sold him to me for €1,100 and there was a tenner luck.”

Several pony men parade their stock
nonchalantly by Miley, as if they were taking the ponies for a walk and the
walk happened to pass the dealer. Miley gives the parade no more than a glance.
That’s all he needs. The Cashes were reared to this game. He sells his purchases
on to Germany, Holland and France.

Just then, a small Traveller boy
walks past us with a Shetland. The kid can’t be any more than seven or eight.
And isn’t he the proud boy. The Travelling people are at their happiest on days
like this. Horses are in their blood.

This man approaches Miley and he’s
whispering. There’s a lot of whispering going on at horse fairs. I listen in.
“Don’t tell him you know me,” says the pony whisperer.

What was it all about? Your guess
is as good as mine, but somehow you feel that horse fair people wouldn’t be
happy unless there was a bit of bargaining to be done, with plenty of
subterfuge and walking away in a huff if the price isn’t right. No different to
trade unions and employers, if you think about it.

The-nephew-and-uncle team of Johhny
Cahill and Daniel Riordan are selling an unbroken Welsh pony and a Stewball,
which is another breed of blocky pony.

“How much will ye get?”

Uncle Johnny whispers: “About
300 for the Skewball. And 150 for the pony.”

The two have a lovely way with the
horses and each other. The Welsh pony rears up and Daniel leads off to walk the
friskiness off of her. Walks him past Miley, that is. “She’s a nice
cob,” says Johnny. Miley nods, but no more than that. The bargaining
pre-play sets up the process.

I couldn’t see any sign of
mistreatment or of neglect at the horse fair. There have been problems with
animal welfare at other fairs. But the majority are in love with the idea of
owning a horse, donkey or a pony. The tourists love the tangling, the vibrancy
and the colour of it all. This is a tradition worth keeping.

I went back then, after a long
walkabout among the pony people, to open up the pub for year 64.

Irish Independent


Progress on the Extension to Listowel Community Centre


Humans of Listowel

I met Mike Sheehy and Leo Daly out for a morning walk in the town park

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