“The young, the old, the brave and the bold …”
This day last week I was, as Pearse said, “I gceart lar na daoine”, right in the middle of the people at the Spancil Hill Fair.
Almost killed by insurance, it was revived with the help of Clare County Council to celebrate its 400th anniversary year with a lively return to its old self.
Clare County Council chair PJ Ryan was on hand for this post-COVID-19 revival and told The Irish Horse: “We stepped up to the plate and organised the insurance. Otherwise the fair would not have gone ahead. It would be terrible if something that is so important for the county, and so famed in folklore and song all over the world, would not continue.”
Well, it did continue and, having attended for the past 30 years, I can say it was as lively as ever in terms of attendance and sales.
A lot of dealing was done, even on the night before. A Dutch trader bought four breeding mares for close on €20,000.
Well-known dealer Miley Cash was busy. He sent home a full lorry-load on the eve and was back to fill another one on Fair day. He told me: “It’s been a good fair. I missed it when it had to be cancelled and I am glad to see it back. I would like to see all the fairs back. There have been some really solid sales of nice horses. You can always depend on the Irish. They will keep on breeding, win, lose or draw. It’s in the blood.”
An Appaloosa champion
Bringing an extra bit of colour to the proceedings was a really nice two-year-old Appaloosa colt named Camlin, who took the Pride of Spancil Hill sash as Champions of the Fair for Paddy Craine of Kildangan, Co Kildare.
Paddy bought him as a foal from Jarlath McCarthy, who bred him out of a Kings Master mare who traced back to Cruising. Paddy plans to stand him at stud in the years ahead.
In the overall championship he was up against the best heavyweight cob shown by Brendan Dillon of Corraclare and Jimmy Quinn’s 148cm pony winner from Ennis.
To commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Fair, which got its patent from King James back in 1622, the very active committee printed a smart 26-page booklet recording its ancient and more recent history. It was distributed free to the large crowd that turned out on Thursday last.
For my own part, I could not have enjoyed my two-day visit more to this uniquely home-bred Irish event. Long may it survive.