View of the Fair Green Navan late 19th century.

The Great Leinster Fair of Navan - Monday October 10 1859

This was the day announced for some time past, by placards and newspaper advertisements, for holding, on the spacious Fair Green of Navan, the "Great Leinster Fair", as it is termed, established in 1853, by Mr. Matthew Kealy, of this town, assisted by his friends.

The public are aware that immediately after the announcement of the fair, by Mr. Kealy, which he usually makes by having printed notices posted over the country, the Chairman of the Navan Town Commissioners, in virtue of the authority vested in him, issued counter proclamations, as a forewarning to all parties concerned to the effect that no fair would be held in this town until the 24th instant, exactly a fortnight subsequent to the day named by Mr. Kealy.

Notwithstanding the threatened opposition, the local papers of Saturday last again announced in their columns that the fair should be held on on the 10th; and further, "that on Friday last an immense number of sheep and horned cattle had arrived at the grass parks from the fairs of Moate and Ballinasloe," in anticipation of the transaction of extensive business.

These advertisements were dated the 8th instant, and were the latest which met the public eye on the subject.  On this morning the Dublin and Drogheda Railway Company started a special train, according to previous announcement, from Drogheda to Navan, stopping at the intermediate stations.  The train left Drogheda at eight o'clock a.m. thought very few buyers thought proper to come by this train, but there were some.

With reference the statement above, that an immense number of cattle, sheep, etc, had arrived from the fairs of Moate and Ballinasloe, whoever was author of that assertion, which was paid for as an advertisement has been guilty of a very censurable hoax.  I understand that there was not a single animal offered for sale that day; and, although Mr. Kealy promised to send a lot of cattle to the Green to try the right of holding the Fair, nothing of the kind appeared.

About twenty five or thirty extra men of the constabulary from the Trim, Slane and Duleek stations, in addition to the men of the Navan station, were on duty from an early hour on the Fair Green, and different roads leading into Navan; but not the slightest attempt at any disturbance took place.  The entire town and adjoining district bore the peacable appearance of an ordinary Monday, and it it sincerely to be hoped that no further wrangling will take place here, but that all may exert themselves, and assist each other for the future in their endeavours to uphold the trade and prosperity of their town, which is the best situated, I think, in the county for a cattle mart.  The next fair comes off on Monday, the 24th instant.

Navan Fair

Navan Petty Sessions, Irish Times, 23 Nov 1859

Monday, November 21, 1859 - The New Fair's Contest

The usual forthnightly sessions of this town came off on Monday, in the magistrates' sitting room, in the courthouse - the Earl of Mayo presided.

There was no other magistrate present. Sub inspector Burgess was in attendance.

The following case excited much attention, and the room was crowded to excess.

It was a complaint preferred by Matthew Kealy, T.C. (Town Commissioner) against John Reilly, Town Sergeant, inspector of nuisances, and borough rate collector, and Michael Cantwell, watchman for the Town Commissioners and the Corporation of Navan.

Thomas F. Goodman, solicitor, Trim, appeared for Mr. Kealy, and stated his case.  Mr. Kealy, it appeared got placards printed, setting forth what goods he had on hands for sale.  This he did, a week or so prior to each fair.  In these placards there was also an announcement that the fair would be held on such and such a day, according as the case might be.  These placards he posted on the walls of the town and on his own premises; and got boards prepared, and sent a man about with them.

The defendants (as it is supposed), instructed by some persons not appearing, tore down his placards, broke his boards, and tore his posters off them that his man exhibited, &c.  This case had been adjourned last Monday fortnight, at the request of the defendant.  He had no right to mix his private affairs with the placards he put forth announcing fairs, and that this court was not the proper one for him to come to; that his worship had no power to assess damages, he should bring his case before the Quarter Sessions or a superior court.

His Lordship here intimated that he had partly made up his mind on the subject.

Mr. Goodman - If so, my lord there, there is no use in my going on.

Lord Mayo - Oh! I will hear what either of you have to say; but I think that the Town Commissioners are the more fitting body to regulate the fairs.

Mr. Kealy - My lord, is my private property to be destroyed by parties before my face? and am I to ask Mr. Muller everytime I want to advertise my goods for liberty to do so?

Lord Mayo - No. But you have counsel's advice or can procure it; but at present I will dismiss the case without prejudice, that you may bring it on at the Quarter Sessions, or however you are advised.

Mr. Kealy intends bringing the case again into court, as he has the advice of the law officer of the Crown, and Mr. Coffey's opinion that he has acted legally on matters concerning the fairs.

Irish Times, November 1859

The Great Winter Fair of Navan was held on Monday last.  Compared with former fairs there was a falling off; as to the quantity and quality of the livestock exposed for sale, there was a good demand, but not at all equal to Carlanstown Fair, which was held on November 19th;

I think in a great measure owing to its being held upon Monday, principal dealers being absent attending the markets of London and Liverpool.  Now that the Town Commissioners are about changing the fairs, it would be a great advantage to both graziers and dealers if fairs were held upon Friday's instead of Mondays; by that means the great exporters would all be enabled to attend.

Any well finished cattle brought high prices.  Mr. Hopkins sold a lot of heifers at £20 each; Mr. Rothwell got £19 each; for 20 heifers; Mr P.P. Metge, £24 each for six bullocks; Mrs. Hope, £20 10 shillings each for 10 heifers, and £21 each for 8 cows; those were the principal lots sold. There was a good business done in fat pigs, but slips were in dull demand.


The Morning Post was a London daily conservative newspaper that lasted from 1772 to 1937 when it became part of  The Daily Telegraph which still survives.  On 20 August 1859 the Irish Times copied an article from the  Morning Post which included the following extract:

A guess is that the script was by Thomas Adderley Stopford, Registrar of the Diocese of Meath.  He had a letter published in The Irish Times on 20 Dec 1859 about the Goldsmiths who were related by marriage to the Beauforts.

"The Romish hierarchy and clergy have forbidden the Fair of Navan to be held on Monday 15th August.  The Fair of Navan has from time immemorial been held on the third Monday in August, but as the day fell this year on the day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary both bishop and his priests interdicted all buying or selling, all driving or penning of cattle and everything like truck or barter.

Navan be it observed, is a town in the heart of one of the most populous agricultural counties in Ireland.  In the adjacent counties of Meath and Louth, are bred thousands of heifers and sheep, agricultural and saddle horses, and multitudes of pigs and poultry.  Hundreds of dealers from England, Scotland, and even from France, frequent this fair for the purpose of purchasing.

These gentlemen, when they arrived at their inns or hostelry on Sunday and Monday last, found, to their amazement, that the fair was countermanded ... was forbidden, in fact, under severe spiritual penalties, by the Romish bishop and his priests.  Several spirited farmers, Protestant and Roman Catholic, nevertheless proceeded to open the fair, trying to sell or purchase, as the case may be.

They were interrupted ... their horses were frightened ... their hats were knocked off.  They were assaulted and maltreated by the lowest rabble, who groaned and hissed them; and for the moment the priests were triumphant.  They succeeded in postponing the fair sine die, and in sending away English, Scotch, American, and French dealers, who were prepared to lay out their money in Ireland.  Was it wise on the part of the priests ... was it rational or honest, regard being had to the interests of strangers and natives..."

Source: The Irish Times, 20 August 1859.


The Times, 10 Sept 1872 - Meath Horse Show:

There are no less than 197 entries for the Meath horse show, which is fixed for to-morrow at Navan.