Around this time of the year there are three things on the agenda, the Banagher Horse Fair, the annual Readings at the Pallet in Corrigans, and my parents anniversaries. Between the three of them, this is what I dub the “Pigrimage to Banagher” period.
On a more sombre note, marchers were back on the street over the water issue, with calls for a referendum on the issue gaining ground.
Readings at the Pallet has been postponed at time of writing, and it was only when discussing this with fellow writers from the Rhymers Club I realised Ive missed most of their events this year, and all of the festivals!
But I was not missing the Annual Horse Fair of Banagher!
Fair Day in Banagher
I got a lift to Banagher with the brother and Cllr Sean Maher of Sinn Fein whose councilors, TD’s and activists have been great supporters of the Fair and all that it represents.
On the bypass, where fools in the council put the Fair one year, there was a row of cars in each direction with trailers and horseboxes and lorries that had brought stock to the Fair.
A Garda and a Dept of Agriculture inspector were on the Hill of Banagher checking passports and microchips to the annoyance of all, with this particular Garda being noted for being surly, unhelpful and borderline provacative.
We were directed to the right down what I knew in my childhood at “The Back Road” from which we turned in Cuba Avenue, only to find ANOTHER Garda directing us down Curraghvarna Lane, which was bollarded both sides to stop parking.
“You would not see this at a GAA match” I thought to myself, and we parked regardless of bolards, and walked through the New Houses to Cuba Avenue and entered the Main Street alongside St Pauls Church of Ireland Parish Hall.
Cuba Avenue had yet another Garda manning its barriers, a motorcycle cop who was a lovely chap, and seemed slightly embarrassed to be causing such a nuisance in the town. His manner, and the respect he showed to the fairgoers was in marked contrast to his compatriot on the Hill of Banagher and its very important to point out he also was as effective in doing what he should not have had to do.
All that aside, the street was hopping. The finest of animals were on the street, the craic and conversation was second to none and I parted from Sean and Sean to get a few photos, missing a lot of great shots from having the craic and a chat with fellow fair goers.
But thats what the Fair is about, the human interaction, the haggle and the trading.
All animals were well cared for, none were thin, or mistreated on the street. The driving rain did not dampen spirits, and the sun came out as the fair ended around 5pm, having been on the go since 5am and before.
It was great to see John “Boy” Dolan with his children selling their poultry on the street, and the crowd they attracted was second to none. He was talking to me before about his idea that the release of the pine martin in the wild on the callows is possibly the reason for the sudden disappearance of the Corncrake, after all the money thrown at its preservation.
Its a very valid theory, for no one knows the land like those who live on it, and I ve been looking into this since, and though I didnt find anything to support or disprove this theory, a study in NUIG focusing on Banagher and Birr as opposed to a control in Wicklow of how the pine martin affects the spread of the Grey Squirrell shows that its reintroduction has inhibited the latter and helps the native Red regain its territory.
If the pine martin can do that with squirrells, it is quite possible it can have the effect that John Dolan suspects and suggests.
The summary of the day is that the Fair is back alive and thriving, a tradition that will not be just another memory, in a case where people power stood up to push-the-pen officials who try to regulate our lives into submission. Along with the Turf Cutters who have had repeal of the oppressive legisation levelled at them, the peoles voice is slowly being heeded, and there were thousands of them on the streets of Dublin the day before, on the water issue.
Marching for Water in the Sunshine
The day before I’d met up with the brother to go on the water march. As usual he decked himself out in his self made custume, which got a great reaction from fellow marchers.
He managed to persuade me to reluctantly wear a caubeen and a old style jacket… and I carried the “Che Guevara” flag which also got a good reaction.
The mood on the street was boyant, with many feeling its a formality at this stage that water charges will be abolished.
In light of 13 000 000 000 for just two years tax going unpaid by Apple alone, its criminal to charge the citizenry a THIRD time to pay for our water. How much other multinationals are getting away with not paying makes the mind boggle, and this theme formed the design for my poster.
Stephen Murphy read his verse “Before You Push That Chair” which was poignant to many due to having lost freinds as a result of Austerity, all the while while we afford to bail out banks and let mega corporations get away tax free.
Speeches were given by all the usual speakers, and as the crowd drifted away the talk was of “if they dont listen this time, we will be back more forceful next time” from one man, and similar sentiments from a lot of others I was speaking to.
Calls for a referendum on the water charges were made from the stage, and I really hope that this is not just a rally cry, that its a campaign that the Right2Water will follow up on.