Galway was a busy place when it came to fairs and markets. These were occasions when Town met Country - when rural people came into Galway with their produce, and tried to convert it into cash. Some of this money would be spent on various necessities which were available in the city, some was probably spent on porter, and the rest saved for a rainy day.
In the mid-nineteenth century, there were regular cattle fairs at Fairhill in the Claddagh. Later they moved to Eyre Square, where they often spilled onto adjoining streets like Williamsgate Street or Forster Street. Later again, these fairs moved to the Fairgreen. The Square also hosted pig fairs, horse fairs and sheep fairs, and remember, if the farmer did not sell, he had to drive the animals all the way home again. Haymarkets were major events in the Square, at a time when the city people moved around on horseback, or in carriages. The large weighing scales were regularly used to measure and weigh cartloads of hay.
The Fishmarket was built especially to cater for Claddagh fishermen and their catches, or more specifically the Claddagh women who sold the fish. They would congregate there with all kinds of baskets of fish and sell to the townspeople. Some of these women would wander through the town, or out to Salthill with scibs on their heads callingout "Fresh fish, fresh mackerel, fresh cod" etc. selling from door to door. They would have each have had their own pitch.
The fruit and vegetable and poultry market has been a feature of Galway life for generations now. Time was when the Christmas fowl market was one of the busiest trading days in Galway as people bought their Christmas turkeys and potatoes and vegetables .Attached to this was a small egg and salted country butter market, usually along Church Street, where countrywomen sold buttermilk as well. The character of the market began to change in the fifties when some families came to sell crockery and cutlery (often seconds). Their ways of calling out the product and distracting passersby added considerably to the atmosphere. You can still buy your spuds here but now you can get crepes and cheeses and curries and other exotics.
The turf market was another important event. Townspeople needed fuel to cook with and heat their homes, so there were special days when cartloads of turf were sold in Eyre Square and also at Raven Terrace.
There was a regular potatoe market in Woodquay, to which many travelled down the river by boat to sell their produce. There was also a basket market here on a Saturday where they sold baskets of various shapes and sizes, many being made in Moycullen. There was also a potatoe market at The Small Crane where the large weighing scales were much used as farmers from Barna or Rahoon sold to shopkeepers or individual customers.
The worst kind of fair was that which dealt in humans�.the hiring fair.Groups of labourers known as Spailpins gathered at the railings opposite the Skeff in the Square, offering themselves for hire to farmers from east or south of the city, or to oyster growers from Clarinbridge. There can't have been much dignity there.
Today's photograph is of a sock market in Eyre Square. Country women knitted strong warm comfortable woollen men's socks, and sold them from here, or from a pitch outside Joe Young's in Eglinton Street, the monies collected being vital to their home economics. Just imagine all the bartering and bargaining that went on!
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