You’ll be okay, just don’t look down

The Times We Lived In: Published, December 18th, 1987. Photograph by Eddie Kelly

One-year-old Sean Dunne from Ashford at the first turkey auction at Ashbourne, Co Meath. Photograph: Eddie Kelly

One-year-old Sean Dunne from Ashford at the first turkey auction at Ashbourne, Co Meath. Photograph: Eddie Kelly

 

Chicken – who, moi?” This shot from the first ever turkey auction at Ashbourne, Co Meath, shows one-year-old Sean Dunne, from Ashford, Co Wicklow, looking as though his feathers have been ruffled – to say the least – as he perches among a chorus line of trussed-up turkeys.

Young Sean is being held safely in place by a strong pair of hands, presumably his dad’s. And he’s dressed so snugly that even a day of cold turkey won’t chill him to the bone.

Still, it must have been pretty scary for the youngster, getting a bird’s-eye view of all that poultry. According to the report which accompanied the picture, between 2,500 and 2,700 turkeys were sold on the opening day of the auction at Ashbourne, with a whopping 20,000 birds expected to change hands by the end of the week.

All this avian economic activity, however, couldn’t disguise the fact that some fowl play was going on. Turkey auctions, which had been a regular feature of the run-up to Christmas in Ireland since the 1960s, were technically illegal: under the 1966 Act which governed the control of livestock sales, turkeys were not defined as livestock by the Department of Agriculture.

Fears around food safety and E Coli also meant that sales areas had to be specially cleaned and prepared – which, as time went on and controls got ever more stringent, eventually led to the closing of the bigger auctions. This one, at Ashbourne, held out for more than a decade but was sold to a car auction firm in 1998.

As for our intrepid flying toddler, let’s hope Santa was especially good to young Sean Dunne that year. Let’s face it, if you can face down a flock of turkeys, not only have you been a very good boy – but you won’t be fazed by a bearded man emerging from your fireplace with a sack slung over his shoulder.

These and other Irish Times images can be purchased from: irishtimes.com/photosales. A book, The Times We Lived In, with more than 100 photographs and commentary by Arminta Wallace, published by Irish Times Books, is available from irishtimes.com and from bookshops, priced at €19.99.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.