Hollymount Fair Days

In 1734 a patent was granted to Sir Thomas Vesey to hold a weekly market and four three-day fairs in Hollymount each year. The fairs were to commence on 22 April, 28 May, 1 September and 30 November. By 1750 only the fair beginning on 30 November is noted in the almanacs. After the change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in September 1752, (when the day immediately after 2 September became 13 September!),
the dates of the Hollymount fairs changed to 16 May and 12 December.

The right to hold fairs and markets was passed down the generations by Vesey’s successors the Lindseys of Hollymount House. They rented out the right to collect tolls and customs from those offering livestock and goods for sale. When the Irish Land Commission acquired Hollymount from Hermon Lindsey Fitzpatrick a century ago they gave the Fairgreen and the right to collect tolls to the Ballinrobe Rural District Council and when that body was dissolved, the Fairgreen and associated rights passed to Mayo
County Council.

In the years before the establishment of a police force, the person who collected the tolls was responsible for keeping law and order. Overindulgence in alcohol on fair days sometimes led to rows in the Fairgreen and occasionally resulted in an appearance before the Justice. Otherwise respectable citizens, who imbibed more than they were accustomed to, found themselves charged with being drunk and disorderly at the next court in the village. According to records at the South Mayo Family Research Centre, there were at least two killings on fair days in Hollymount. At the December fair of 1818, a row broke out in a public house. The publican cleared the premises and threatened to
shoot any of those fighting if they came tried to re-enter. A man called John Fleming attempted to do so, was duly shot, and expired from his injuries two days later. There also was the case of Geoffrey Costello of Roundfort killed on the day of the December fair in 1844 for which Michael, John and Thomas Duddy were arraigned but found not guilty.

The December fair had cattle, sheep and pigs. Many were purchased by butchers for the Christmas trade. According to newspaper accounts the December fair in 1870 was a very small one. The reason being the severity of the weather. The west of Ireland was covered in a blanket of snow.

The Midland Great Western Railway transported finished cattle and ‘forward stores’ purchased in Hollymount from Claremorris station directly to the North Wall in Dublin for the live export trade from 1871 onwards. From 1891 store cattle were taken in ‘specials’ destined for the Hill of Down in Co. Meath from Hollymount station.

In 1876 the May fair was noted for the ‘large supply of hoggets of a superior description which were purchased at from 40 to 48 shillings each’. By the late 1880s the Hollymount’s May fair was considered the largest annual fair for hoggets in Mayo with buyers coming from Galway and Roscommon.

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