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Cahirmee Horse Fair

Cahirmee Horse Fair is held on 12 July every year in the town of Buttevant, County Cork, Ireland.

The ancient horse fair was originally held at the Fair Field of Cahirmee, some two miles to the East of the town. In 1921 it was transferred into the town and is still held on 12 July every year.

M. P. Linehan in My Heart Remembers How[1] notes the following:

Cahirmee fair has a history, but I fear it is history that has never been written, or written so long ago that it has been lost. I have told already how the fair green straddles a hill under which Boherbwee, 'the yellow road' of Manaan MacLir's cows, passes; how it looks across to the bloody battlefield of Cnocanaar; how it is crowned with a mighty lios which is credited with being the burial ground of the Fianna. It was part of the ancient parish of Cahirduggan in the still more ancient Barony of Fermuighe.
I have pointed out that a few miles to the north-east is Rossach, traditionally the burial ground of the Kings of Fermuighe. Was Cahirmee the stone fort of these same kings and is "mee" in Cahirmee the same word as "moy" in Fermoy? Duggan is supposed to have been a direct descendant of Mogh Ruith and a Duggan, King of Fermoy, was one of Brian Boru's lieutenants to be killed at the battle of Clontarf. O'Duggan held that kingship until he was ousted from it by the Eoganacht O'Keeffes.
We know that the old Irish aonachs began as funeral games when the heroes of a battle were buried, and that horse-racing was a feature of these games; that the games tended to become annual events at which courts of justice were held and laws enacted embodying the traditional customs of the clan or sept or petty kingdom; that at them marriages were solemnised and goods exchanged and bartered.
Did Cahirmee Fair begin in the halcyon day when the victims of the bloody contest of Cnocanaar were laid to rest on the brow overlooking the valley of the Awbeg? It would be plausible to give an affirmative answer. Perhaps that answer will be verified some day when our archaeologists will dig into and examine Mee's Cahir.
It is also worth remembering that in pre-Christian Ireland the last days of July were great days of hill pilgrimages and that changes in the calendar might well mean that Cahirmee Fair once fell at the end, and not in the middle, of the seventh month. However, there is no doubt that this fair was a recognised institution prior to the Cromwellian Wars, because references to the Fair Field of Cahirmee are to be found in ancient documents dating from the reign of Charles II. It would be interesting, if one could, to trace the history of many of the young colts and fillies that started out on their career of fame when they were brought to the fair-field of Cahirmee. One at least of them has achieved immortality, for he served as the throne from which a great captain-general brought a continent to his feet. He is the white charger Marengo, which Napoleon is shown as riding in Meissonier's masterpiece The Retreat from Moscow.
File:Retreat from Moscow.jpg
Meisonnier's Retreat from Moscow 1814

Coincidentally, the Duke of Wellington's horse at the Battle of Waterloo, an Irish black named Copenhagen, was also purchased at Cahirmee.[2]

The tradition of equine excellence continues in the person of Vincent O'Brien olim of Clashganiv, Churchtown, but now of Cashel fame.


  1. Linehan, M.P., My Heart Remembers How, Duffy, Dublin, 1944, pp.241-242
  2. Irish Draught Horse Studbook, Irish Horse Board web site, accessed September 10, 2006

3. Denis A. Cronin, Irish Fairs and Markets: Studies in Local History,Four Courts Press, Dublin 2001.


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