Kilmaine Fair - "The 28th of Kilmaine"

The fair day of Kilmaine was a real event. The day of the fair was a most important occasion in the country people’s lives. Everybody with anything to sell or buy was sure to be there, and bargaining went on from morning until night.  The well-known fairs in Kilmaine were held on the12th July and the 28th October.

Customs and traditions

The old style fair has been replaced by the mart.  A lot of the old customs and traditions have died out. Such important occasions like the fair drew about certain procedures and customs some of them common sense and practical, some very strange. All the convention of striking a bargain had to be followed; by doing so the buyer could attribute all sorts of faults to the animal he wanted to buy. The seller could remark freely on the buyer’s meanness, all without offence to either. There always was a third party standing by to help the bargain along ‘tisn’t a bad price the man is offering you, come on now don’t break my word, split the difference’, and so on. Often the buyer would walk away, fully expecting to be called back: often the seller would loudly proclaim that he wasn’t selling at the price offered. Then the margin of difference was narrowed until the bargain was made; the buyer spat on the palm of his hand and slapped on the seller’s palm. The animal was then marked with the buyer’s mark and a voucher was handed to the seller and it in turn would be exchanged for money on the collection of the animal.

To seal the bargain

This also called for at least one quick one in the nearby pub, where the third party that helped to make the bargain was not forgotten. The seller to the buyer gave a luck-penny with the sold animal, a small sum, a couple of shillings or so, in proportion to the price.

Luck penny

When the husband was setting out for the fair, the housewife always had a few shillings of the egg-money ready to give him for the luck-penny.  It was lucky for the man bringing animals to the fair to have some bit of iron or steel, especially a steel knife, in his pocket. It was lucky to shake a grain of salt or a pinch of ashes on the animals to be sold, as well as holy water.  It was unlucky to meet a hare or a red haired woman first thing on the road. When an animal was sold, if it had a head halter, a rope or a spancel from the house, this had to be taken off and brought home; for fear that the luck of the house might go with it.

An old saying

‘Even if all you have is an old puck goat be in the middle of the fair with him’ is the old saying. The middle of the fair was where the main part of the buying and selling was done. Most of the important buying and selling of livestock was finished by the middle of the morning. The farmers and buyers were there since the dawn.

Other activities

It was around the edges the peddlers and cheapjacks with ‘standings’ full of clothes and boots stood. Shoes, clothes and groceries were purchased on the fair day, as this was payday for the farmer. Shopkeepers also benefited from the fair as bills were paid, and there was an air of excitement about the village.

Making a ‘match’

The fairs were a known place for the making of matches as the ladies came in for the day’s fun and it was a social occasion for all. Buying; selling; match-making; fighting; drinking and sometimes the hiring of labourers for the spring and harvest work, all took place at the fair in Kilmaine.

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