Alf Seale recalls a fair day with his Grandfather
Bringing Bonhams to the fair
I am going to tell you about going to the fairs or the markets. I’ll tell ya about goin’ with me grandfather years ago and only very small, to Ballinasloe market with bonhams (young pig). You see, when you’d have bonhams, normally the time of year made a big difference how saleable they were. If you had them in the springtime or sort of early summer for sale, people used to have surplus milk and they’d be able to feed the bonhams on that and fatten them up. Or if you had them in the autumn time, at the right time, there’d be small potatoes and bits and pieces. People would buy two bonhams to use up the surplus scraps and the rest of it.
The Square in Ballinasloe
But if you hadn’t them at the right time then, you had to go to town to sell them. That was a big occasion. The horse and cart had to be got ready, first of all. ‘Twas a day light starting off then to get to Ballinasloe. ‘Twould take about three hours to get into Ballinasloe, about 12 miles. You couldn’t trot when you had bonhams in case they got sick. You had to walk nice and steady with them. You had to have a good layer of straw in and all the rest of it. So when you got to Ballinsloe then, you had to pick a nice place in the market square and you kept down the back because the – what was described as the jobber’s bonhams would be up at the top where the dealers would have their bonhams set up. So you kept back. What came in on the horse and cart would be described as country bonhams. Whether the bonhams knew that or not I don’t know, ha!
The Cheap Jacks
The horse had to be taken out then from the cart and brought up to McGrath’s yard and put in the stable up there and you had to have your bag of hay for the mare. I’m sure the mare felt as much out of place up there as we felt in The Square. The Cheap Jacks’d be further down, now. They all had a place down along. At that time, the Post Office wasn’t where it is now. Actually, the barber – what do I call him? – Keogh’s the barber, lived that side. As far as I remember, the houses that side were thatched.
A bottle of stout and frying on the hearth
So, anyway, you sold all you could, or then, tackle up, head for home again. If it was times that you couldn’t sell too easily at home, it wasn’t too easy sell in the market either. They did their best. That was grandfather’s time, though. I’m sure he was well into his seventies at the time. At that time, my grandfather – two bottles of stout was a big feed of drink for him. Like, they would have a drink, oh certainly. If they sold to someone, it was more or less tradition ya brought him in for a drink but that was it. A bottle of stout was the drink. The same when you went for your dinner. There was no Supermacs. I remember going into houses along there, they would give you dinners but you sat in behind the table on a bench and the woman was at the big open fire and she fryin’, ah, fryin’ down on the hearth. Like, they had primitive methods enough but they supplied the dinner. There was no signs, no Bord Failte signs outside or anythin’ but the jobbers and farmers knew where to go to get their dinner. Oh it was only pence, I think, at the time. ‘Twould be only a couple a shillin’s. Like, there were how many pence in the pound? There were two hundred and forty pence in the pound that time.