Horse Fairs at Limerick

Samuel Gamble Bayne

THE important part of our trip being finished, Mr. Ross left for London to witness the second attempt at the coronation of King Edward, while I went down to see Limerick and visit its annual horse-fair. Arrived at Limerick, I found the town full of the horsiest men I had ever seen anywhere. They had the knack of horsy dressing down to a fine point. Horseshoe pins were "the thing," stuck in light-colored scarfs wound round their necks; their shanks were tightly rolled in leather, and above the knee they wore Santos-Dumont balloons in colors that would have made a rainbow look like a band of crape. Most of them had the conventional blade of grass in their mouths, a fashion started by Lord Palmerston fifty years ago and immortalized by John Leech in a celebrated Punch cartoon of the period. When looking at a horse, they tilted their hats far back into the nape of their necks, planted their feet wide apart, stuffed their hands into their pockets, and carried themselves with the general air of one who soliloquizes, "Well, I'm just looking for the photograph of a man who can get away with me on a hoss trade."

Several streets in the horsy quarter of the town were given up to showing the horses, and there were examples of every breed, size, color, and weight you can think of, including hunters, carriage-horses, racers, saddle-horses, utility nags, circus-horses, and ponies. The rushing, rearing, plunging, galloping, trotting, and loping of the horses and the shouting of the rough-riders made a kaleidoscopic scene of dust, noise, and confusion which would have caused any one suffering from nervous prostration to choose some other place for a quiet afternoon. But I was there to see it through, and I went into the spirit of the occasion for "all I was worth," trying my best to lend a helping hand in many of the trades. I was on the successful side twice, and had a glass of Limerick ale at a neighboring bar with the elated buyers. The dealing, "swapping," and buying were carried on in true artistic style, while the rough-riding when showing the animals can only be seen in Ireland. It takes a buyer, a seller, and about three "cappers" on each side to close a trade; they almost pull the clothes off the back of the owner, and slap him violently on various parts of his body when "splitting differences." A buyer always bids about five pounds more than he will really give, stipulating that he shall have the five pounds returned to him after the purchase; this swells the apparent value of the nag and pleases the owner. He tells his neighbors that he sold his horse for the larger amount; but they know that he didn't get it, so there is no harm done.

A dealer suddenly slapped me on the back and said, "Why don't yer buy a foine pair for yersilf and take 'em to the States wid ye?"

"Oh, the horse is not 'in it' any longer in America; the automobile is king."

"Ach! the divil burn the oightymoobiles annyhow; no dacent man will roide in wan av 'em if he can get a sate behind a harse," was his prompt reply.

Young, well-matched carriage pairs brought one hundred and fifty guineas readily, during the afternoon. "Why don't you ship some of these teams to America? You could get three thousand dollars for them in New York," was a question I put to another dealer.

"I know it, sir, but the risk and expense are too big; 'twould break me up in the long run." And I suppose he was right.

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On an Irish jaunting Car through Donegal and Connemara

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Samuel Gamble Bayne was born in Ramelton, County Donegal, and educated at Queen's University in Belfast. At the age of twenty-five he left for America with a view to making his fortune. He invested in an oil well in Pennsylvania and later founded a bank which subsequently came to be the JP Morgan Chase bank in New York. By the time this book was written he was wealthy enough to be referred to as a billionaire. His account of the tour through the north, west and south of Ireland is a pleasant snapshot of how that part of the country was in the early part of the 20th century. He describes what is to be seen, gives some background history and, through the illustrations especially, provides wonderful glimpses of the area's social history.

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