(Recounted by John Sheerin, 25th February 2001)
“On the fair day each townland had its own area where they kept the cattle. The people from Gurterslin and Drumartin areas always parked near the entrance of the village on the low road. The people from Tourlestrane, Carrane, Tubberoddy and Coolreagh parked from the barracks up the high road. Carrowloban, Kincullew and that area parked down the main street. The Killassers parked on the bridge. Each townland had their own place to park. When the cattle were sold they were put into Leheny’s yard. Then they were loaded on to lorries up the road. Before my time, the pigs were taken to Sligo. The farmer of that time would bring the pigs by horse and cart to Sligo. They would bring loads of meal and flour back on the return journey.
There were a lot of pubs in Aclare in those days. Some shops had both groceries and hardware on sale. There was Kathleen Feehely, Loftus’s, Higgins’, Ellen Haran’s (which became Mayes), Bradleys, Flatleys and Quinns. We had the fair winter and summer. Each farmer herded his animals in a cluster. The villagers from each townland would hold their animals together up against a wall or steer them around the street. Everyone watched their own cattle.
The sheep were on the backway. They were held with the dogs. They stayed together. When they had walked ten miles they were damn glad to stand for a while. When they were bought they were taken home on carts.
The country people brought the banabhs in on carts. They’d sell them in front of Gallaghers. Touhy’s from Ballaghaderreen came with lorries for banabhs, which they kept in crates.
On the fair day the village was hard to pass through. It was noisy with voices bargaining, donkeys braying, the mooing of cows and baaing of sheep. The smells were strong. The place used to be in an awful mess when the day was over and the animals were taken home. The next day the County Council would come and sweep the streets. There was no water or electricity that time. We didn’t get the electricity until the 50’s. In the late 50’s we got the water on tap.
Of course there was many a row on a fair day. When the tinkers were around we often had fights with them. Mind you, not on fair days. One day there were only two guards in the barracks and a row got up. The guards came looking for help to put the troublemakers out of the village. Four or five of us tackled them with the guards. We put them out over the bridge and gave them a good hoisting. Nobody got injured and there were no bad feelings. The fair days were great. I miss them. They ended sometime in the 60’s. Then the mart was started in Aclare by Kennedys. That continued for about ten years.
The village had a shoe maker called Dinny Walsh. Kate Fahy was another shopowner. She sold sweets. Other owners were Bretts, Sheerins, McAllisters and Evans. Each shop had a hardware section. Charlie Brett was the blacksmith. Years before I remember there were three bakeries in Aclare; Loftus’, Higgins’ and Lundys. There was also a cooper who lived down at the edge of the river where the car park is now. I don’t remember him but he was in it. There was also a butter house down along the river.
But getting back to the fair day. It was one of the best fairs in Ireland. The jobbers used to come from Sligo, Ballina, Northern Ireland and Roscommon. The fair was held on the last Wednesday of the month. We stayed in the shops and protected the outside by putting barrels and bars on the streets. These stopped the cattle coming up on the footpath and breaking the windows.
The jobber would come along and ask the farmer the price of the animal. They made the bargain and finished the thing with a slap of the hand. The deal was made. After that they’d go into the pub and have a drink.”