in photos and a poem
The Big Fair of Listowel
Now Marco Polo went to China
But I swear upon my soul
He should have come the other way
To The Big Fair in Listowel.
There he’d see what he didn’t see
At the court of Kubla Khan,
The greatest convocation ever
Since God created man.
There were bullocks in from Mortra
And cows from Carrig Island
Sheep and gosts from Graffa
And pigs from Tullahinel.
There were men with hats and caps
Of every shape and size on,
And women in brown shawls and black,
A sight to feast your eyes on.
The finest fare was to be had
In all the eating places.
A sea of soup and big meat pies,
Some left over from the Races.
Floury spuds and hairy bacon
Asleep on beds of cabbage,
To satisfy a gentleman
A cannibal or savage.
And here and there among the throng
‘tis easy spot the jobbers
Jack O’Dea from County Clare
And Owen McGrath from Nobber.
There was Ryan from Tipperary
And McGinley from Tyrone.
Since ‘twas only Kerry cattle
Could walk that distance home.
And trotting up and down the street
Were frisky mares and stallions,
While here and there in little groups
Drinking porter by the gallons
Were all the travelling people,
The Carthys and the Connors,
The Maughans and the Coffeys-
Gentle folk with gentle manners.
And there you’d see old fashioned men
With moustaches like yard brushes
And more of them with beards that big
You’d take them for sloe bushes.
Up there outside the market gate
A matron old and wrinkled
Was selling salty seagrass
And little bags of winkles.
Inside the gate were country men,
Selling spuds and mangolds
While swarthy men from Egypt
Sold necklaces and bangles
And there you’ll find the laying ducks
Or broody hens for hatching,
Creels of turf and wheaten straw,
With scallops for the thatching.
Dealers down from Dublin
Did there set up their stands,
Selling boots and pinstripe suits
Both new and second hand.
Cups and saucers you could buy
Both singly or in lots,
And for your convenience late at night,
White enamel chamber pots.
If you had an ear for music
You could buy a finch or linnet,
And to bring your winter turf home
A Spanish ass or jennet.
And across at Walshe’s Corner
Stood a ballad singing fellow
Selling sheets- a penny each
Red and white and blue and yellow.
He was an old sean nós man
If you ne’er had music in you
He’s stop you in your stride, man
And you’d not begrudge the penny.
For he’d bring you back to Vinegar Hill
And to Kelly from Killane
Or you’d stand again in Thomas Street
And you’d see the darling man.
But woe alas for the singing man
The Dublin dealer and the drover,
The days of catch whatever you can
Are dead and gone and over.
Now we have fleadhs and Writers’ Weeks
And a plethora of rigmarole
But who remembers as I remember
The big fair in Listowel.
Still a Charity Shop
but now for a different charity
New Parking Sign
A Step Back in Time
Louise Galvin took a step back in time to when she wore the brown uniform herself. Louise visited Presentation Secondary School, Listowel where she was once a star pupil and a hero of the school basketball team.