Buttevant’s ancient horse fair attracts eager crowd

More than 2,000 visitors attend Cork fair

At Cahirmee Horse Fair, the oldest horse fair in the world, in Buttevant, Co Cork yesterday: Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

At Cahirmee Horse Fair, the oldest horse fair in the world, in Buttevant, Co Cork yesterday: Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

 

The ancient horse fair which reputedly supplied horses for both Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington drew more than 2,000 visitors yesterday.

Traffic diversions were in place from early morning as people began gathering for the annual Cahirmee Horse Fair at Buttevant, Co Cork. Trading was brisk from 7am with €1 million in cash expected to change hands over the day.

The ancient horse fair was originally held at the Fair Field of Cahirmee, two miles east of Buttevant. In 1921 it was transferred into the town and is held every July. It is considered to be among the oldest horse fairs in Europe.

Representatives of the ISPCA were on hand to ensure humane treatment for the animals.

Among the attendees at the fair yesterday was local historian John O’Connell who said the great and the good once bought horses at Cahirmee. “At the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon’s horse Marengo was bought at Cahirmee,” he said.

Price of a pony Farmer Noel O’Keeffe said trading was strong all

morning. “It all depends how much you are prepared to give. You could pay up to two or three thousand for a pony.”

Cheltenham Gold cup winning trainer and former jockey Jim Culloty said the event brings “a massive buzz” to the area every year.

“It has been going on for hundreds of years and has changed slightly over those hundreds of years. You certainly won’t find any racehorses at Cahirmee but you get the odd showjumper,” he said.

Another person attending the fair, Kevin O’Keeffe, said it was comparable to Christmas Day in the town.

Carmel O’Callaghan, a native of Buttevant who is based in Singapore, returns every year for the event.

“I come home from Singapore especially. It is a festival you wouldn’t find anywhere else. There is nothing like it,” she said.

Unwavering popularity One of the busiest places in the town

was Tony O’Neill’s grocery shop. It is now run by Michael O’Neill who says he is always amazed by the numbers of people who turn up in Buttevant for the fair. “It is probably as big an occasion now as it was when I was very young.”

The fair dates back to the time of Brian Boru and references to the “Fair Field of Cahirmee” can be found in ancient documents dating from the reign of Charles II. The Duke of Wellington’s horse, an Irish Black named Copenhagen, which he rode into the Battle of Waterloo, was purchased at Cahirmee about 1810.