The Farming Society of Ireland

As early as 1800 the Farming Society of Ireland was established and held its shows at Ballinasloe and Smithfield Market in Dublin. Its show yard was in Garvey's premises in Main St. and the inscription on a door lintel is still there. This society continued until 1827 to give prizes in the various classes of livestock during the October Fair. To detail its activities would take too much space, but it is relevant to mention the kind of stock which appeared in Ballinasloe in those days.

The longhorn breed of cattle were the dominant strain. They were commonly called "black cattle" through not necessarily black in colour, and were divided into the Bakewell or English breed and the old Irish type, the latter being the principal breed up to about 1840. They grew to a great size but took four or five years to come to perfection. Their hides were of great value being when tanned up to half an inch thick. They were bad milkers. Lesser breeds were the old Irish cow of small statute, long in the back and with moderate sized wide spreading horns slightly elevated colour principally black or red. They were famous milkers. Secondly there was the Kerry Cow and thirdly the maol which was dun in colour. There were no shorthorns in Ireland in 1827 but between that and 1842 they became Ireland's premier breed.

All that and much more is part of the history of Ballinasloe fair which continued to increase in size until the sixties. The enormous figure of 20,000 cattle and 99,658 sheep was reached in 1856. After this time due to the depression of the late seventies, the increased transport and the establishment of smaller fairs the great October fair became the ghost of its former self. Nevertheless it still remains the most important fair in Ireland.

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