Historic East Galway

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  • Aspects of Galway City and County



Ballinasloe

Ballinasloe is a town in the east of Galway. It is built on the River Suck, a tributary of the Shannon. The spot where Ballinasloe now stands was a good place to cross the Suck in ancient times. Over time it became an important crossing point for people entering Connacht.

The Fair

In the 1700s, the wealthy Trench family, who owned most of the land in and around Ballinasloe, received a licence which allowed them to hold fairs in the town. Fairs were held throughout the year but only the October Fair is still going today.

These days the October Fair is associated with horses but in times past cattle and sheep were also traded there. The Ballinasloe fair was a very important event for farmers in the West of Ireland. They bred sheep and cattle and sold them on to farmers in the east for fattening. In 1810, a newspaper reported that over 44,000 sheep had been traded in one day. In the days before motorized vehicles, it supplied horses for the armies fighting wars in Europe.

Ballinasloe Horse Fair, 1957 For many years, Ballinasloe was a convenient central location for the sheep, cattle and horse market. When the Grand Canal was built and reached Ballinasloe, and with the arrival of trains in Ireland, livestock could be transported out of Connacht easily and at any time of the year. Like many fairs around the country, Ballinasloe October Fair began to decline.

The Ballinasloe October Horse Fair & Festival

The Ballinasloe Fair was revitalized in the 1940s due to the efforts of local people. These days it is a week long fair and festival, attracting crowds of 80,000 and more. Hundreds of horses are bought and sold. It is also an important event for the Travelling community.