THE famous Cahirmee Horse Fair in Buttevant returned this week after a two-year hiatus.
The fair is typically one of the biggest events in Buttevant every year but was scuppered in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
While the fair has no official organiser, it usually attracts tourists and horse traders from all over Ireland and Britain.
Speaking to The Echo earlier this week, Fine Gael county councillor Liam Madden, originally from Buttevant but now living in Mallow, said it was “great” to see the return of the fair, which he said was “known far and wide”.
“Over a week ago I attended a seminar in Buttevant hosted by [the] historical society on the origins of Cahirmee, which was attended by a huge audience and was of immense interest,” he said.
“Unfortunately, since Covid, there are three less public houses in Buttevant, which shows the toll it has taken on communities, but the fair of Cahirmee still lives on for many.”
According to the Buttevant website, the fair has existed for many hundreds of years, and is described in documents from the reign of Charles II (1630–1685), as the “Fair Field of Cahirmee”.
The fair originally took place in the townland of Cahirmee three miles east of Buttevant, in a 20-acre field.
In the early 1920s, it moved into Buttevant town as buyers and sellers felt threatened by the political turmoil of the time during the War of Independence and the Civil War.
In the 1950s, the fair had declined slightly in popularity, but by the 1960s it experienced something of a renaissance, as an Evening Echo article from July 13, 1963 indicates.
“The normally quiet town of Buttevant was probably the busiest place in Ireland yesterday.
“The annual Cahirmee Horse Fair drew thousands of buyers and sellers from all over the country and from many parts of England.
“Hundreds of tourists also arrived to swell the throng and the shopkeepers had to work at full pressure to deal with so many customers.
“The general opinion was that this has been the largest fair for the past 15 years.
“For a long period of years the fair had declined in importance, but in recent years it has recovered much of its former glory.
“To drive through the town yesterday was a hazardous experience as the buyers and sellers bargained on the main street and other side streets,” the article stated.
“Cahirmee has always been a great attraction for the travelling people, and their colourful caravans added much to the glamour of the fair.
“Now the horse-drawn caravans have disappeared and on this occasion there seemed to be only a few motor-drawn vans,” it continued.
That year, the highest price paid for a blood horse up to the late afternoon was £400 and working horses were fetching from £50 to £70.
“Hunters averaged £150 but prices as high as £300 were obtained for some first-class animals,” the article continued.
According to local legend, one of the most famous horses sold in Buttevant was Napoleon’s horse Marengo, used in the retreat from Moscow during the winter of 1812.