Saturday, July 5, 2008


Listowel in North Kerry held the summer horse fair last Thursday, there was an unusually large number of horses and ponies for sale this year. The fair takes place in Market Street, the street closest to the site of the 'old mart'. I do not wish to indulge in a dose of bucolic sentimentality, but one could not help feel that here was a form of economic interaction which has probably not significantly altered since pre-medieval times. The Irish people have a huge psychic connection with all things equine. They have been a feature of life in Ireland since time immemorial, being in times past a key source of power in agriculture, transport, and of course a limitless reservoir of sport through horse racing. The racing takes on many forms in Ireland from the more conventional well known racing of thorough-breds at the major race courses such as Leopardstown, but also including a wide variety of other meets, ranging from bi-annual or annual race meetings in particular provincial towns. Listowel for example has a fine course and hosts a couple of meetings a year, the biggest being the traditional 'Listowel Races' in September, traditionally timed to coincide with the end of the busiest time in the farming year. Another form of racing is 'sulky racing', basically the racing of lightweight chariot like gigs on the public roads in quiet times. The latter form of racing is particularly well supported by the travelling community, but it is by no means a sport pursued by the 'travellers', one of the photographs shows a 'sulky'. I hope readers enjoy the photographs, showing as they do a uniquely human interaction, which has an economic basis, but also provides a meeting point of the sort which are increasingly under threat these days in this era where face to face human social interaction is sadly becoming rarer.

Two images above a trade completed the halter changes hands...below that horse and owner, below sulky and piebald pony, below, heading for home.


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