Kilkeel horse sales

On market days and fair days our little streets were crowded with farm horses and carts. In the big stable yards behind the public houses the dealers sold their animals to the country men. We were much more interested …

in the horse sales than in the dealing that went on in cattle, sheep and pigs on display along the sides of the street. The hand-slapping, the offers, the walking away and the arguments in the stable yards were fiercer than elsewhere.

I never knew why buyers opened horses’ mouths and looked in while the dealing went on.

Between fairs we were always interested in the work of two clever horse trainers, or breakers, who trained young animals for saddle, cart or plough. One was my great favourite. A small, tight man, just like a jockey, he was always neatly dressed in check cap and jacket, riding breeches, gleaming leggings and boots. When breaking in young animals he walked along the side of the street, the nervous animals prancing and side-stepping at the ends of long reins.

He was happy to meet groups of people or a chugging car or noisy motor bike. It was good training for his young horse if during his progress up the brae to the upper square, he met the big steam engine puffing and crunching into town with its load of bricks and timber.

After the fairs unsold horses were roped together and driven off on the long journey to farms or another fair. Purchased cattle were herded along the coast roads to the Greencastle paddle steamer or to the railway station fourteen miles away. The drovers with their strange accents were well-known to all. They spent their lives walking the roads all over the country and were reputed to be tireless.


……… “keep the ‘hate’ in ye” ……….


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