The Ballinasloe Horse Fair

17th May 1757
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The Ballinasloe Horse Fair is a fixture in the lives of the people of South East Galway. The true date of the first fair is not known, but the earliest reference gives a date of May 17th 1757, though the fair was probably taking place long before this.

Though now predominantly a horse fair, the Ballinasloe Fair was once an agricultural show where cattle and sheep, as well as horses were sold between farmers from all over Ireland. Local tradition has it that the fair has ancient origins, though there is not sufficient documentary evidence to place an accurate date on the fair's origins. In the early 1800s, newspaper references from London describe the fair as being the largest of its kind in Europe, and the greatest one-day fair in Ireland. 

The area of Ballinasloe was once the seat of the Trench family, who held the title, Earls of Clancarty. The Trench family made their home at Garbally House. In In 1757 Richard Trench applied for a permit to hold the fair on the 17th of May and the 13th of July. At the time, Ballinasloe had fairs throughout the summer months, with the famed horse fair taking place in October. It is most likely therefore that Richard Trench formalised the October fair in the same year. The Trench family embraced the Horse Fair, even going so far as to host it, or at least aspects of it, within the grounds of their home at Garbally. 

The fair was of huge importance to the local farming community as the price of cattle and sheep at the fair could mean either a year of poverty or prosperity. 

Though agricultural fairs have declined in importance in the past few decades, the Ballinasloe Horse Fair remains an important date in the calendar as people flock to this South East Galway town for one week in October.  

The RTE archives have a video from the 1972 Ballinasloe Horse Fair which can be found here. 

Comments

  • Thank you for this feature on horses.  My Edward Taylor family from co Sligo (I believe) were known for their horses in Canada (Ontario).  They emigrated about 1829.  Does anyone know if show horses were raised in Sligo?

    Jeannette

    Jeannette

    Sunday 21st July 2019, 01:13AM
  • In Co.Cork the oldest horse fair in Ireland is credited with Cahirmee which is believed to date back to pre Christian times.The fair was held in the townland of Cahirmee which is about 2 miles east of Buttevant and in the middle of very horsy country. The king of Munster , Mee ,is reputed to have started the fair and the Cahir denotes a castle,major settlement or fortress.  Napoleon's horse ,Maringo, is reputed to have been bought at Cahirmee. The fair was moved to Buttevant ;s main street in c,1921  for safety reasons with the outbreak of the War of Independance that year

    Donie

    Donie O Sullivan

    Sunday 21st July 2019, 05:46PM
  • Are there any archives available for these fairs?  My Burke ancestors were cattle herders and records from South Mayo Family Centre has my GGGG Grandfather lease contract records from Lord Viscount in Cloongawnagh (Burke) near Toomore in Aghamore parish.

    Paul Burke

    Monday 3rd August 2020, 02:43PM
  • Well into the 20th century, my grandmother's MURPHY family were farriers on North Gate Street in Athenry, Co. Galway.  I know they were involved over many years with the horseracing community in Southeast Galway. Is there any way to research their participation at the Ballinasloe Fair?

    Finally, I know that one of her brothers was named an "ALL-IRELAND FARRIER."  I have tried to research this "award"... no luck so far.  Would anyone have a thread I could follow?

    Thank you!

    Mary Callaghan

    Piseog

    Monday 3rd August 2020, 09:50PM
  • An Interesting read thank you.  My great grandfather James Dunne DOB 1852 born Wexford was listed on certificates as Groom anjd Coachman.  I  assume he started off on an estate near Wexford of which his father Patrick was a steward.   Later James worked as coachman for the household of Henry Hutchinson Stewart in Dublin.   One of James children was born near Killcullen in the heart of horse / stud country - does anyone have any information on either the estate at which he might of started in Wexford or where he might have been based in New Abbey, Kilcullen.  Many thanks 

    Anji Ni Dhuinn

    Tuesday 4th August 2020, 08:55AM

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