Exiles Forum

Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland



All the fun of the Fair


Author May Blair with John Kelly President of the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society and Vaughan Byrne who acted as compère at the recent launch at the King's Hall Conference Centre.

Author May Blair with John Kelly President of the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society and Vaughan Byrne who acted as compère at the recent launch at the King's Hall Conference Centre.

The cover of the new book (Hiring Fairs and Market Places))THE story of a way of life which could be from another planet, and yet is still within living memory, is recounted in the latest book by Lisburn author May Blair.

May recently launched `Hiring Fairs and Market Places' at an event hosted by the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society.

"Research for this book began around twenty years ago and many of the people who I interviewed are no longer with us," she explained. "They were just ordinary country people who gathered potatoes, milked cows by hand, threshed corn and :horned butter.

"All of those jobs can be done by machine and the memories of the people who did it in the old way needed to be recorded before they disappeared completely. I am so glad to have met all these people - both those who hired and those who employed them - and to have told their story.

"Many of the people I met gave me photographs from their own albums and collections and many have never been published before."

Much of the atmosphere of the old-time fairs is captured in the songs and poems of the age and many of these have been published for the first time in Hiring Fairs and Market Places.

May continues: "The people I interviewed would start to recite the poems and songs that they remembered hearing at the hiring fairs and markets or which family members had written.

"People tend to forget that fairs were a source of major entertainment as well as commerce in the country and the songs reveal a lot about the times."

Bill Yarr, a previous Chief Executive of the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society has written the foreword and said: "Everyone who reads this book will find it fascinating. Despite the problems facing agriculture we are fortunate to be living in the relative comfort of the 21st century."

Lisburn's market brought back to life

A Horse Fair at Market Place in Lisburn

A Horse Fair at Market Place in Lisburn

RENOWNED as a 'market town' it is riot surprising that Lisburn features prominently in 'Hiring Fairs and Market Places'.

In her book May writes of the importance of Lisburn and brings to life the bustling market town of years gone by.

Reminiscing about his first visit to Lisburn to sell a bullock in 1929, Morgan Greer remembers: "The very first animal I had was a black cross-bred bullock. I reared him and fattened him on turnips and yellow meal. I brought him to Smithfield to sell him. Jacob Green bought him.


"Wee pigs were sold in Smithfield too. I think pigs were sold every Tuesday. Cattle would have been only once a month; horses every two months."

May provides a. fascinating insight into life in Lisburn in the 19th and 20th century, with many interesting and previously unknown facts about the town and its people.

"The provision market continued For centuries at the Market House in Market Square," she writes.


"Here you could buy hen eggs, duck eggs, onions, cheese, clothes, socks, stockings, china, tin-ware, earthenware, books, pig troughs, potato baskets, stable brooms, hatchets, shovels, spades, rakes, hemp ropes, bee skeps, cabbage plants, wash tubs, tables, chairs, churns, saddlery, old spinning wheels. Many items could be bought at a penny or less and hardly anything cost more than a few shillings."

Hiring Fairs and Market Places is published, by Appletree Press and is on sale now priced £14.99


Ulster Star