History of the Ballinasloe Horse Fair

by Damian Mac Con Uladh

The Ballinasloe October Fair is one of the oldest fairs in Ireland, at one stage renowned as the largest and greatest in all of Europe. While now predominantly associated with the horse, in its heyday the October Fair was an agricultural event of much greater significance, serving as a market for the sale of cattle and sheep by the farmers of the West to their counterparts in the East of Ireland. Indeed, in the London Times of 1801 and 1804, the October Fair was referred to as the “Great Cattle Fair” of Ballinasloe. It is only since the early twentieth century that the fair has become exclusively associated with the horse.

Very little is known about the origins of the Ballinasloe October Fair, as there is little in terms of documentary evidence referring to its early development. In the past, fairs and markets were such a common feature of life in Ireland that contemporary observers perhaps felt little need to make special reference to them.

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The Story of the Great October Fair

by Barry Lally

A local hotel has a restaurant called Marengo. Diners who happen to be historians may wonder what a battle fought in northern Italy between the French and the Austrians on 14th June 1800 has to do with the town of Ballinasloe.

The explanation is that the French who won the day were led by Napoleon Bonaparte who re-named the charger he had ridden in the field Marengo, a horse that was later to carry him to victory at the battles of Austerlitz, Jena and Wagram. Legend has it that Marengo had been bought at the Ballinasloe October Fair.

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