I was reading an a first hand account of an Irish country boy who was a teenager in the late 1940's... and not for the first time contrasting his daily life with that of a lad of around the same age...fourteen...nowadays.

Fair Days were the narrators favourite times...he and his Father would rise at dawn to collect together the cattle they'd be hopefully selling at the Fair...they'd walk them seven miles down the narrow laneways until they reached the small town where the lad found a space in the street for the Fathers cattle and a small boy willing to guard them from straying for a sixpence.

Then his Da would go to the 'pub for a pint of Porter and to see how the sales were likely to go...chatting among the other farmers would give him a likely idea of the market and the prices being offered...while the lad met up with his friends and they'd dare each other to visit the fortune telling gipsy...listen to the travelling fiddle player play a tune and eye up the girls who'd come to sell the wool they'd spent the winter spinning at home.

There were horses and ponies for sale as well...little stout Connemaras and painted horses ready and willing to pull a harrow...shouts from the sellers as they made their sales with a spit in the hand and luck money to the buyer and the general hustle of the Travellers selling tin buckets and wooden clothes pegs...lengths of pretty lace and real linen hankies dyed bright scarlet to tuck into a top pocket...

Dogs tied to the lamposts with a bit of string guarenteed to bring back straying cattle...cheap at one punt each. Take two why don't you and Bless you sir...they'll eat the heel of the loaf so they will...

There were chickens in wooden crates and turkeys to fatten for the Christmas and hissing geese tethered by one leg...and bonhams just from the mother and ready enough...

The narrator of the article thought little of walking seven miles to town...he didn't think it was a hardship, rather it was a day to anticipate and look forward to. He met with his friends who had also walked miles with the Da's cattle and ate a hot baked potato washed down with pint of Porter for the dinner and thought little of beefburgers and crisps and Subway rolls...he peed in back alleys and flirted with barefoot girls from outlying farms and promised to meet them at the next monthly dance...God willing.

At the end of the day...cattle sold to the highest bidder and a pocketful of coins in the Da's back pocket, it was time to make the journey home...hitching a lift in the back of a neighbours cart they'd sing and tell stories about the Faerie and frighten themselves silly over rustles in the reeds...back to a welcoming fire in the hearth and a piping hot stew in the pot...

I've taken this story from a first hand account of such a day in the life of a fourteen year old lad who lived on a small farm in Co.Sligo. He is still active and has written many accounts of his life as a small farmers son in the late 1940's.

And while I read his stories...and write them down for you to read...I think of teenage lads nowadays who have some device plugged into one ear and think walking 500 yards a penance. Who, if one were to suggest, however well put, that they rise at dawn tomorrow morning and walk behind a group of wayward and awkward cows for seven miles would think you were having a laugh...

Times have changed...

Explanation....A Bonham is a baby pig...a painted horse is one who is black and white or brown and white in relatively even patches. Beloved by the Irish Travellers, they sell for unbeliveable amounts of money today...
The heel of the bread is simply the crust...it was, and still is, the tradition to feed the cattle dog with the heel of the bread.
Luck money is still exchanged today at the sales and in personal sales as well...if I were to buy a donkey at the November Fair then the seller would give me back five euro...as luck money. It shows he is hoping I'll have luck with the purchase I've made
There are some who say you ought never spend the luck money you are given...better to save it than spend it, other wise your luck will simply run out....

The Fairs and the marts of today have changed little since the 1940's...but now the cattle arrive in a float or a horsebox...but you can still buy a Bonham or a gobbling turkey...you still have to side step carefully around the hissing geese...you can buy a broken down ancient donkey or a stunning high stepping horse who'll pull your gig and win you prizes...there are the placid and beautiful painted horses with their feathered feet and gentle ways and sales are still made with much discussion and a spit in the hand...no-one is barefoot anymore nor do the men wear a scarlet hankie tucked into their jacket pocket...but everyone has the glass of Porter in the 'pubs and little boys playing hookey from school are still paid a small amount for watching over the ponies...

The tin smiths and the fortune tellers in their elaborate caravans, park on the car park now but you can still buy cheap tin buckets and have your fortune told by a geniune seventh sister of a seventh sister...

And there are still the cattle dogs to be had...though they cost more than a punt nowadays and mindful of the animal rights people, they don't have a heel of the bread anymore...now it's a tin of Chum and proper dog biscuit. But if you want a puppy or a goat...if you really can't live without a little fat pony who bites and kicks...wait until the end of the day when everyone has gone home to watch Coronation Street...then you can put the little fat pony who no-one wants into the boot of your car...you can find room in the back seat for the dog left behind because he has one blue eye...gather up that sorry looking goat and stuff her in the front seat on your lap...

I imagine that happened back in the 1940's...but maybe people were not quite so concerned then...

And I've digressed yet again...should pay heed to my English teacher who always said...beginning...middle...end...and don't go off on a tangent!