Sean had frogs to fry in a Paris rugby game, but back in Tullow they had a mart event brimful with pride and nostalgia. And with free food for all at the specially constructed marquee in the mart, Tullow hotels must have had a quiet day.

Many attending the Friday celebration were also around when Tullow livestock mart opened its rings back in 1956.

Most senior of these was 96-year-old Joe McCall who built the premises that stands almost unchanged to this day. The fact that the mart is still on its original site makes it unique in Ireland for marts of that vintage.

Tullow mart was established and still owned by three local families: O’Byrne, Dawson and Brophy (one third each). Edward O’Byrne, father of current directors Eamonn and Kyran, and local auctioneer Paddy Dawson teamed up with leading entrepreneur and farmer Stan Brophy to open the mart in 1956.

Speaking to a packed ringside, Eamonn O’Byrne recalled that getting the business going in the face of the then dealer opposition was slow and difficult. “Over the years, we had our ups and downs with bank strikes and other challenges but the mart is in rude good health today,” said Eamonn.

And it wasn’t all oldies at the anniversary celebration. Local Macra na Feirme members fundraised for a defibrillator and presented this to the mart. Given the price of store cattle these days, a heart attack at the ringside couldn’t be ruled out.

A charity affair

A 625kg heifer donated by the mart was sold in the ring on Friday for €1,780 with the proceeds going to the Tullow Day Care Centre.

Tullow mart is now managed by the youthful Eric Driver. Eric has added a calf ring sale to the weekly Friday cattle sales. His predecessors were John Murphy (now a county councillor) and Pat Farrell. John Murphy lists one of the biggest changes during his 35 years at the helm was the raising of the ringside railings. John was also centrally involved with the establishment of the Tullow Sheep Breeders Association.

Tullow mart had its characters over the years. One was Pat Kenny, universally known as Cagney. Cagney ran away from school to become a drover at Tullow mart and he proved so adept at his job that Purcell Exports used to “borrow” him every week to help load their boats in Waterford.

Trading in livestock has changed massively over the years. The water tight regime of instant data recording is a far cry from the early days. The eradication of brucellosis has been a boon for marts, as well as farmers.

The TB eradication scheme, about the same age as Tullow mart, is still around to the annoyance of marts and farmer but is still providing jobs for the boys.

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