Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ireland Revisited: A Fair Day

Day 25 of 35: Saturday, August 28, 2010

This day was the first of two in the Demesne devoted to the Irish Game and Country Fair, now an annual event at Birr Castle. (Birr was not yet a stop on the Great Game Fairs circuit when we last visited in 2006.) It turned out to be very enjoyable -- and a very big deal. Newspaper accounts in the following week pegged the two days' total attendance at about 35,000 people.

Since the Bothy is inside the Demesne's walls, we could watch the literally last-minute preparations and the opening of the gates (please click on any image to see it in a larger format):

Above right is the scene at the gate nearest us (there were two others, one by the Croghan Lodge at the far end of the public park part of the Demesne from the castle, and one far back in the farming area where the shooting events were held.) The arrivals were a trickle at first, but by mid-afternoon, the place was awash with people.

Things we saw during the day (in addition to many, many vendors of food and wares) included:

A demonstration of western riding techniques and clay pigeon shooting...

... terrier racing (a hoot!) and...

... lurcher racing...

... falconry, and a horse and hound display by the local Ormond Foxhounds hunt club. While the hawk pictured above was content with short flights from the falconer and his bait, his kite seemed to enjoy the afternoon as much as any human, staying aloft and circling the main arena for well over an hour with only occasional stops in nearby treetops.

Lord and Lady Rosse made a grand entrance around midday:

Lady Rosse told me the next morning at church that their carriage ride had come as a surprise ("I wasn't dressed for that at all!") The coach and pair are owned by the couple at the reins, and they rent out for weddings and such. They had volunteered their services for a similar entrance at last year's Fair, but weren't expected to do so this year.

I'm glad they did.

Many more images from the two-day event (including links for further information on some of the activities) will be linked at the end of tomorrow's post.

Next: August 29, 2010 -- A Fair Day, Too
Previous: August 27, 2010 -- Before the Fair
Beginning of the series: Prologue, August 2


Brian Fies said...

Yeah, I hate it when you step out of the house to start your day and unexpectedly find a fairy-tale carriage waiting for you, only to realize you left your carriage-sitting jodhpurs up in the north wing (third floor, fifth from the left) armoire. Happens more often than you'd think.

Sherwood Harrington said...

I hate when that happens, too, Brian.

I got the impression, though, that Lady Rosse really was a little taken aback -- I don't think she expected to be part of the formal opening ceremonies at all, and was just headed over there to blend in with the crowd while her husband gave his short speech. She really is a delightful person and would have blended in well had her cover not been blown.