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Auld Lammas Fair as fresh as ever with bumper crowds packing town

Pan Pipers enjoying the oul Lammas fair in Ballycastle on Bank Holiday Monday.

Pan Pipers enjoying the oul Lammas fair in Ballycastle on Bank Holiday Monday.

 

Reputed to be the oldest market gathering on the island of Ireland, the Auld Lammas Fair in Ballycastle has maintained its popularity and again drew large crowds to the north coast when it opened yesterday.

Continuing today, the traditional annual event attracts thousands of people for the two-day festival of trading, busking and various forms of street entertainment.

Ballycastle UUP councillor Joan Baird enjoyed the opening day and said the fair never loses its appeal.

“I thought it was a very good day indeed.

“It was a very jolly and happy kind of a day. Lots of people were there and seemed to be having a lot of fun.

“There were the usual amusements but I didn’t try any of them out because they are a bit too daring for me, but there was quite a good variety of music this year,” Cllr Baird said.

“There were quite a few buskers and street entertainment – some of them were really splendid.

“I thought that made it all very jolly, which was nice this year, and there were also a lot of crafts. There were quite a few people doing things like wood-turning and making local products from wood which was very nice.”

One theory is that the fair began after the occupation of the area around Ballycastle by the MacDonnells of the Isles in the early part of the 16th century.

It began at Dunanyie Head – now known as Castle Point – where a holiday park is situated.

While some people say the fair started out as a sheep market, others claim it originated when Sorley Boy MacDonnell ordered a major celebration for his nephew.

Whatever its origins, the fair is now famous mainly for its dulse – the edible seaweed collected from shore and dried – and the candy product known as yellowman.

Cllr Baird said the changes made each year have people coming back again and again.

“I think it has changed a bit. With the health and safety requirements, we as a council had to ensure there were gaps which help disperse the crowd a bit better.

“It used to be a bit jammed up but there is more space now to move about, and also to stand and enjoy things you want to look at.

“There is always something for everyone,” she said.

 

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