‘BALLABUIDHE means different things to different people and, whatever your opinion of it, you certainly cannot ignore it,’ declared Con Downing, editor of The Southern Star and a Dunmanway native, when officially launching Mervyn O’Driscoll’s book, The Ascot of West Cork.
He said that the author describes it aptly in this first ever book documenting the history of Ballabuidhe Horse Fair and Races as ‘a dynamic institution.’
Mervyn O’Driscoll, himself from Dunmanway, works in the UCC School of History and the book is based on a dissertation he wrote in 1989 for his geography degree, which analyses the socio-economic impact of Ballabuidhe from its earliest years up to then.
He was persuaded to publish it now in book form and profits from the sales of it will be donated to the Ballyboy Race Company to help keep the festival going. The charter for the first Ballabuidhe Horse Fair was granted in 1615 to Randal Óg Hurley and the races were added towards the end of the 19th century.
Launching the book at the Parkway Hotel, Con Downing recalled some of his memories of Ballabuidhe – both happy and sad ones – when growing up in Dunmanway.
He made the point: ‘Probably the most important thing about it that keeps being taken for granted is Ballabuidhe itself. Without the fair and the races, the festivities around them would be rudderless, yet people seem to think that Ballabuidhe will just happen.
‘That is certainly not the case and, only for a small cohort of people that make it happen every year, we would not have Ballabuidhe.’
The book is dedicated to James Connolly for his Trojan efforts to keep Ballabuidhe going over many decades and the author presented him with a copy of the book before thanking everybody who attended and all who helped with the publication.
Rory Jackson of Tragumna showed some interesting footage of Ballabuidhe in the mid-1960s, which had been filmed by his late father, which the large crowd in attendance enjoyed immensely as they reminisced about times past.
The book, The Ascot of West Cork, is available from Healy’s SuperValu, Dunmanway Historical Association and Walsh’s Londis.