Posts Tagged With: Spancil Hill

Spancil Hill is……

I’ve been going to Spancil Hill Fair in Co Clare for five years now.

The Fair has been going for 300 years.  I’ve blogged on two previous occasions (2014.   2015)     So I thought I would do something a little different this time.


Spancil Hill is a spectacle. A melange.
Folk from Ireland and beyond
Travellers and settled; families and bachelors
Horses and donkeys, ironmongery and saddles
Buggies and carts, burgers and fries

Spancil Hill is sticks.
Of blackthorn, hazel, fibreglass or ash
Sticks in earnest conversation
or just to lean on
or to sit on.

There’s a man selling sticks. I bought one.

Spancil Hill is a toddler eye to eye with a pony

Spancil Hill is a runaway pony,
Horses rearing.
Until it is cornered and held safely and lovingly in a boys arms.

Spancil Hill is the Irish Cob
How do they see?
Full-maned and feathered, by buyers prodded and stroked.
Mouth pulled open and poked (I’m sure there’s a reason).
Or another pulling a buggy,
or cantering imperiously.

Spancil Hill is John Sheridan sealing the deal on a pied cob.
Slapping hands with the seller.
His family posing proudly for the camera.

Spancil Hill is Sean O’Leary standing with his pony.
Waiting all day for a buyer.
Is it the smallest in Ireland?
For this tiny equine there are many who are keen.
But will they meet his price?

Spancil Hill is a man in a beige suit,
Another without a shirt.

Spancil Hill is lorries loaded with horses.
Headed for Europe.

Spancil Hill is a giant spade.

Spancil Hill is ice creams.

Spancil Hill is John Dooley, a Feakle man sitting in his chair
Since 1946 he’s been there.
It’s his 72nd Fair
The stories he could tell.

Spancil Hill is Aisling and Paddy leading home the newest member of their family

Spancil Hill is Albert and his family selling buggy wheels.

Spancil Hill is Ireland then and Ireland now.

An apposite anachronism.

I love it. 


Spancil Hill is Sticks.  In earnest conversation


Or to lean on


Or to sit on


Spancil Hill is a giant spade


Mouth pulled open and poked.  I’m sure there’s a reason


Spancil Hill is a toddler, eye to eye with a pony.


How do they see?


There’s a man selling sticks.  I bought one.


Spancil Hill is ice creams


Or cantering imperiously I


Or cantering imperiously II


Spancil Hill is John Dooley.


Since 1946 he’s been there.  The stories he could tell.


Spancil Hill is a runaway pony


Until held safely and lovingly in a boy’s arms


Spancil Hill is a beige suit


But will they meet his price


Spancil Hill is Sean O’Leary.  Is it the smallest in Ireland?


Spancil Hill is Albert and his family selling buggy wheels


Spancil Hill is John Sheridan. Slapping hands….

Aisling and Paddy and the pony they bought

Spancil Hill is Aisling and Paddy.



Categories: My Journey, Real Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spancil Hill Again.

It’s the 23rd of June again. That means Spancil Hill Fair.

The day didn’t start too well. Sometime during the night I stubbed my foot into a chair and dislocated my little toe. Pain! It had a 90 degree bend in it and I didn’t sleep that night. I figured I would limp through the day and seek treatment later.  The Show must go on.

But I didn’t count on the magic of the Fair. As I stepped onto the hallowed ground, dodging the horse pats, I was miraculously cured. The toe clicked back into place and the pain just disappeared instantly.

Should Spancil Hill become the new Knock? Conversion on the Road to Tulla?

Can’t believe it’s a year since I was here. I blogged on it then so I won’t repeat those thoughts here as they are still entirely apposite.

Yet last time it was such a novelty. Now I feel more part of it. I was with Miriam and Linda, woofers from Germany, staying with Pakie and Irene, who have a farm near Mullagh, and they are both horsey people so they gave me more of an insight into what was going on.

And what was going on was, literally, horse-trading. This is so much a part of so many lives still here in Ireland. There was much to take in. Traveller girls dressed to the nines, men with sticks, so many sticks (and when a horse bolted in my direction I understood why), horses of all types, ponies, donkeys, carts, puppies, traders selling pretty much everything, the three-card-trick, drinking, hamsters and chickens, and more horses. I watched deals done and the apparently haphazard system results in buyers and sellers coming away happy. People, young and old, just stand there in the field with their pony or horse and potential buyers look them over and, if they like it, agree a price and take their purchase away.  No spruiking or pressure.  Horse traders from Britain in particular arrive in droves, buy them up cheap and take them back to sell to riding schools or wherever.  It’s been thus for hundreds of years.

As the crowd thinned people gravitated to the Spancil Hill Inn where I was persuaded to sing. I sang half a dozen songs. That was a real buzz. Afterwards wind down sessions at the recently reopened Brogans and then Ennistymon on the way home. A day that started at 9am and finished at 1 am.

The Sunday before the Fair was a family fun day at Duggan’s Pub, with a donkey derby (bookmaker and all), tractor balancing, wellington boot throwing and musical chairs with donkeys and with bikes for the kids. You had to be there.

I decided to use black and white on many of these photos. Just thought it gives a more timeless aspect to the images.


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Categories: Real Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Spancil Hill – “It being the 23rd of June”

Yesterday I found myself at the Cross of Spancil Hill. I wasn’t dreaming and I wasn’t in California. Look all you like and you won’t see a Cross, which I always imagined in my mind’s eye as I sung the song that made the place famous. In Ireland, as I soon discovered, ‘crossroads’ are simply called a ‘cross’ and it just refers to this.

The Fair at the Cross of Spancil Hill was one of the most important in Ireland during the 1800s and was of course made famous by Michael Considine’s wonderful song which referred to above. It still is one of Ireland’s largest horse fairs. Have a listen to the full version sung by Robbie McMahon.

Differs considerably to that made popular by the Dubliners.

It is like stepping back to an older Ireland way before the Celtic Tiger pounced and even before the motor car. A world of horses, donkeys and chickens, of blackthorn sticks and buggys. There are obvious changes of course with everyone seemingly on the end of a mobile phone and burgers and curry chips the standard fare at the Fair.

I had been warned by numerous people to watch out because of the travelling people but I didn’t have any problems. Not that I would recognise one from us ‘stationary’ people.

The original song has the following verse.
“It being on the twenty third of June, the day before the fair,
Sure Erin’s sons and daughters, they all assembled there.
The young, the old, the stout and the bold, they came to sport and kill,
What a curious combination, at the Fair of Spancilhill. “

There seems some confusion as to the date but the fair is always on the 23rd unless it is a Sunday in which case it is the next day. Hence the “day before the fair” as the song relates event that occurred on the sabbath.

I’ve attached some photos which I hope capture a bit of the “curious combination at the Fair of Spancilhill”.

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Categories: Real Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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