The FAIR DAY in BOYLE was not only an important occasion in the local farmer’s monthly calendar but of equal value to the traders and shopkeepers in terms of their monetary survival. OldCoachRoad
Preparation of course began months before and all Fair Days whether in Boyle, or Ballaghaderren, Ballymote or elsewhere were religiously marked off in conjunction with Old Moore’s Almanac, as the fattening up process required time and energy. For some though, it could be a spur of the moment decision as a pig or a heifer sold might make the difference between a bill being paid or a daughter married off.! Traditionally the FAIR DAY in Boyle was held on the FAIR GREEN in Lowparks, at the top end of Church Street, which later became known as Green Street As the first streaks of dawn appeared on the horizon, the byways and highways leading into the valley town became alive with the slow shuffling sound of animals, carts and general livestock moving towards the fair and the sweet smells of manure, Woodbines and Sweet Afton Many miles would have been walked since early morning, as the cattle made their way up one of the oldest streets of the town and as both man and beast reached the top of the stout hill, many a sigh of relief and Bejasus could be heard. On the top, the toll man took charge and the livestock were directed to available spaces in a field overlooking the beautiful Lough Ce and in the shadow of the Church of Ireland Clock Tower where their fate was sealed. Here the deals were struck, spittle shot forth and a handshake was the bond that sealed the deal. Horses and donkeys were sold on the Crescent and on the corner of the Rockingham Arms where May and Paddy Hever had been up half the night doing the bottling to ensure their own labels were on the bottles. Hens, geese and around the Christmas in particular turkeys had their own pens on Military Road. Friendships and relationships were renewed and often old scores remembered and filed away to be told around the turf fire on long winter evenings when the story would begin, well one Fair Day in Boyle in the middle of ….etc. And so the seanachai continued. Soon it was time for tae and biscuits at what we would now call, pop-up eateries such as Mrs. Shannon’s in Lowparks, as apart from Henegans small shop, the only café on the green. Further down the hill was the Princess Hotel (now the Credit Union) where the Ward family ran an old fashioned hotel and haberdashery with their tiny little vicious dog called Punch. Next door to them was the quaint sweet and cigarette shop of Miss Rosie and Vera Cox who were ready and waiting to welcome the auld fellow from Frenchpark or the queer buck from Ballinagare and where cigs could be sold in ones and bon bons and gob stoppers wrapped up in a piece of newspaper. Egan’s Bakery across the road had to have an extra early start on a fair day morning, This was to ensure the vans teeming with fresh batch, tea and carrowseed cakes and long pans got through the archway and down the street before the mass movement of cattle started to climb the hill. The main baker, who hailed from Strokestown and was deaf and dumb usually started around 5a.m. but Fair Days means this was at least two hours earlier and indeed the smell of the batch bread coming through that gateway achingly cut through the nostrils of many a herder who had been on the road for hours and was a reminder that the last time he had his cuppa and soda bread the surrounding light was dark. Church Street and the Green were not the only centres of business on fair days as in fact the whole town became one great seething mass of man, shouts, curses carts and animals as public houses and tea houses and general shops vied to get the farmers custom. The ale houses in particular being in many instances an emporium for everything, from beer to buckets, nails, rope, pegs, butter eggs, soap and bicarbonate of soda etc.and as the ating and drinking continued , the snugs too became beds. As the dusk drew in the canny farmers drifted homewards and the clean up of the town began as an ocean of brown swept through the town Picking one’s way, throughout the fair day over deposits of dung soon became an art form in dancing and hopping, especially for townies to avoid shoes changing colour. Walls had to be washed down, windows too and lost souls put on to carts where the only one to know the way home was the donkey. Farmers wives too had their say on a fair day, that is if the famer remembered to take that shopping list tucked in under the peak of the cap as of course flour and meal, sugar and bacon had to be bought which would supplement the farm food and it had to last for the next few months and wholesalers like Candon could provide the lot. If the demon drink held sway, Some farmers made a long weekend of it; in other words they forgot to climb up on the cart and return home, at least until all the monies had been dissipated by the cursed stout and whiskey, and when the ‘slate’ with the inn keeper was full!