History of the Old Fair Day, Tubbercurry, Sligo
A number of enterprising people in Tubbercurry decided that the tradition of the fair day, which has lasted for at least 220 years, could not be let die altogether and they decided to build a fair. The fair day was held on the second Wednesday of every month and the tradition has been continued with the Old Fair Day taking place on the second Wednesday in August. The first reference to an established fair day in Tubbercurry dates from a ‘patent’ granted to James Napier for the holding of two fairs, one on May 11th and the second on November 18th. This patent was granted in 1750.
Over the years, the number of fairs increased, until in the year 1837, seven fairs were held between the months of February and November, together with a market on each Monday. By 1880 the number had increased to a fair being held each month of the year. It was normal for poultry and smaller animals such as bonhams (piglets) and calves to be sold and bought at the Monday market, which was a much more modest trading occasion than the fair day. The fair days of the early years were occasions when only the gentry were in a position to buy and sell. The general population was there to serve the masters and gain for themselves whatever little advantage they could. They did however use the fair as a festive occasion, an opportunity to meet friends and relations, to arrange marriages ‘matchmaking’ (as the practice was termed), and to become acquainted with the latest gossip or political developments. The fairs also provided an opportunity for a substantial portion of the male population to indulge themselves, consuming on occasion more liquor than was good for them, and sometimes be coming involved in faction fighting, which was the curse of rural Ireland for much of the early and mid 19th century. Political movements used the fair day gatherings to whip up support for their policies, and this was particularly true of the ‘land leaguers’ during the struggle against landlordism. When the land question was settled, the fair day took on a much more serious role for the small farmers, now masters of their own destiny.
The livestock they sold at the fairs was for most, their only source of income and so, the status of their local fair and the attraction for serious buyers or ‘jobbers’ to attend, was of vital importance. Until the arrival of the railway to Tubbercurry in 1895, many of the cattle bought at the fairs were walked by drovers as far as ports of Sligo and Ballina and occasionally as far as Westport. From that time until the advent of the cattle lorries, the instructions after the bargain and agreements on a sale was ‘ up to the station’ a more trustworthy method for each farmer to bet the true value of his animals, rather than be sweet talked by a glib jobber into parting with them for a pittance. The necessity to control, or attempt to control animal disease, also gave the cattle marts an advantage over the fair. Over the centuries the fair had served as the focal point of commence for the businessmen and farmers of the town and area.
Tubbercurry Old Fair Day
The Festival was brought back to life in 1985 and is now considered one of the leading Fair Days in the country. We offer a wide variety of entertainment for both young and old and the Festival has grown in a five day event. Our Festival is a voluntary organisation ran by the proud people of Tubbercurry and its surrounding parishes. Our fair is unique in fact it is completely free of charge. In 2010 we gained notoriety from a programme centred around our fair with Michael Ryan and the Nationwide Team focusing on our Crafts and Heritage displays. Sligo Matters did a feature on the festival for three years 2014, 2015 and 2016. The festival has featured on national radio and newspapers in addition to a strong social media presence.