The annual Ballinasloe Horse Fair is in full swing this week and I for one am delighted by this. Not because I get to go, unfortunately, but because I get to talk about one of my favourite collections from the Irish PhotoArchive.
The Ballinasloe Fair is one of the oldest fairs in Europe. It is now known as the best place to get yourself a horse, but it was a general agricultural fair for most of its existence, with each day being dedicated to a different animal; sheep, cows, horses. However, as the development of the railway system made the transportation of livestock easier, regional cattle marts siphoned off the huge crowds from Ballinasloe. It was the concerted efforts of the Ballinasloe committee, which instigated a carnival to coincide with the fair, that helped keep the event alive and as popular as it is today.
|Waiting for a buyer.|
The Lensmen photographers were requested to capture the events at the fair in 1952 – the first year of their photographic agency being in operation. They went to Ballinasloe, wandered the streets and took photos of the crowds, the horses and the deals being struck around them.
Our photographers also took pictures of members of the travelling community that had gathered at the fair, and in particular some of the incredibly ornate bottle top wagons present. These wagons were home to many people before the white caravans took over. I cannot tell you if these wagons were either warm or comfortable to travel in, but they were most certainly beautifully decorated – a trend that was something similar to the painted trucks you will find nowadays in Pakistan.
|One of the ornate wagons.|