Fair days in Callan

Upper Bridge Street in 1920



The buyers at the fowl market in Fair Day included the Flynns and Youngs of Waterford; From Carrick came the Kirbys, Meaneys, Dunphys, Daniels, and Aylwards. The Ayres and the Slaters of Kilkenny and the Barrons of Ballyhale never missed a market day.

Foremost among the buyers was “Turkey Tycoon”, Mrs. Slater of Kilkenny. Wearing a big hat and a shawl, she was driven by stagecoach to Callan to snap up the best of the fowl. A Mr. Shearman inspected the birds for her, to ensure they were “up to standard.”

Carmel Kealy described the colourful scene on fowl market day: “To begin with, the people had to go to the market house and pay six-pence for a ticket to stick on their carts bearing the cargos of birds. The carts lined up from the market house to way beyond the cross, and for the Michaelmas fair they would reach down Mill Street as far as the friary. That was the big day, as turkeys and geese would also be there for the English market.

“That was the day the woman of the house planned to get winter clothes for the family-boots for some, coats for others. That was their pocket money to spend as they wished. There was also a sideline trade in bags of spuds, turnips, etc. Jack Walsh (West Street) was there behind the scales to weigh them all.”

The price of fowl was small enough, Peter Roughan remembered: “A pullet could be bought for a bob, and if you invested in a “boiling hen” you could expect a couple of pence change out of a shilling. And every penny counted. If she sold a few fowl, a mother might buy a pair of buttoned boots for a young lad down at Pollards in Bridge Street or above in Shelly’s for four-and-sixpence.”

The Saturday following the Tuesday fowl day was busy too. The Town hall-or Market House- went back into action as sellers brought their loads of spuds, turnips, mangolds, hay, and straw, to be weighed. Often the hall would be choc-a-bloc with bags of spuds, foodstuffs, and bog turf. The turf was used to kindle coal fires.

Peggie Croke of Clonagoose drove many an ass and cartload of hand turf, selling each consignment for about seven bob to one or other of the local shops. A Mrs. Barry from Kilkenny had her second-hand clothes stall by the Churchyard railings in Green Street for the Saturday market.

Jack Gardiner remembered a Willie Costello who weighed the turkeys. And he recalled a woman who entered his pub “at all hours of the morning” one Fair Day. On the verge of exhaustion, the lady was shivering with the cold and told Jack she had travelled more than thirty miles on an ass and cart with her consignment of turkeys.

But after two hot whiskeys, sipped leisurely in front of a blazing turf and coal fire, she was “rearing to go”. She sold her turkeys and was, Jack noticed, “delighted with herself.”


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