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Last Fairs of Clonroad

The urban district councils, when they were established in 1898, were empowered to purchase the patents of fairs and markets still in private ownership. In 1906 Ennis Urban District Council purchased the fairs and markets of Ennis from Lord Lecondsfield at a cost of £3,300. [51] Martin Moylan, the owner of the Clonroad fairs, died in 1916. [52] He devised the fairs on his four sons: Michael Moylan of Cahertigue, Newmarket-on-Fergus, John Moylan of Ballycorick, Ballynacally, Thomas Moylan of Keevagh, Quin and James Moylan of Ballymahony, Kilfenora. [53] However, due to its indebtedness Ennis Urban Council was unable to purchase the fairs of Clonroad. The urban council was suspended in 1926 on account of the gross mismanagement of its financial affairs. Mr. P.J. Meghen B.E., B.Sc. of the Department of Local government, was appointed commissioner for administrating the affairs of the town, a situation that prevailed until 1934. [54] In December of 1931 Mr. P.J. Meghen finally purchased the patent of Clonroad fairs from the Moylan brothers. The sale price, regrettably, was not recorded in the registered deed of sale. [55]

Unfortunately, we cannot say precisely when the fairs at Clonroad green ended. By 1931, it would appear that the Clonroad cattle fairs were no longer being held on the green of Clonroad, but had moved to Ennis. By an order of the urban district council, sometime prior to 1926, the fairs, although held on the same dates, had been transferred to the streets of Ennis. There were a number of reasons for this. The monthly fairs of Ennis had previously been compelled to move to the fair green on the edge of the town. Shopkeepers and publicans objected to the fairs being moved off the streets as it damaged their business. To compensate for the loss of trade, the urban council decreed that the four Clonroad fairs would in future be held on the streets of the town. The horse and sheep fairs of Clonroad had long been held on the streets of Ennis but on the order of the urban council the cattle fairs also moved into the streets of the town.

In 1935, when the urban council had been re-instated, a letter of complaint was received from the Irish Stock Exporters and Traders Association of Dublin, concerning the manner in which the Clonroad Fair of 14 October had been conducted. The stock exporters complained that many of their members, who had been at the fair, described the conditions as appalling. Owing to the distribution of the cattle in the narrow streets, many traders did not see half the fair. The association could not see any good reason for changing the fair from the fair green, where it had always been held, and requested that all future fairs, both Clonroad and Ennis, should be held on the fair green. The Ennis shopkeepers responded to the criticism as being unfounded and unjust. It was an old established practice to hold the fairs on the streets and they requested the urban council to adhere to their order, directing that the fairs of Clonroad be held on the streets of the town. [56]

The government, however, at its own expense, decided to erect a cattle-weighing machine in Ennis, so that the weight of animals could be established at the point of sale. Shopkeepers lobbied for the machine to be set up in the old markets area of the town, but the government insisted that the weighing machine be erected on the fair green of Ennis. [57] To avail of the facility of the weighing machine the Stock Exporters Association eventually succeeded in having all fairs transferred to the fair green. In Old Moor’s Almanack, the well known farmers’ directory that listed all the livestock fairs of the country, the four Clonroad fairs continued to be advertised on their traditional dates up until 1947, the last year on which the famous fairs were advertised. However, by then the fairs had long ceased to be held at Clonroad and had moved instead to the fair-green of Ennis.

The Ennis livestock mart opened for business in 1957. The mart was built beside the railway station on the ground adjacent to where the old fairs of Clonroad were held. Initially boycotted by cattle buyers, the mart business grew slowly in the early years. But by 1968 the company trading as Clare Co-operative Livestock Mart Ltd. was selling 25,000 head of cattle valued at £1.5 million per year. [58] By 1988, one of Clare mart’s best years in operation, 91,998 cattle were sold for a total of £48.88 million. [59] It can be truly said, therefore, that no other piece of ground in county Clare has witnessed the sale of so much livestock over the centuries than the old fair green of Clonroad.

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