Belfast Telegraph

Friends, family, tradition and all the fun of Lammas Fair


From stall owners to shoppers, Brett Campbell finds out what keeps us flocking to Ballycastle every August.

Wilma Montgomery (60) Sweet seller

My son Derek owns Flossy Treats which is an old fashioned sweet shop in Ballymena so he has me out here with the stall — he’s been sending me here for about 12 years now.

I’ve sold over 2,500 bags of Yellowman which we started making in June. It’s just glucose but you have to let it set after it’s been boiled and coloured — then it needs to be shaped, broken and bagged.

I’ve also sold plenty of honeycomb and dulse which was gathered from Carnlough. It needs to be dried out a month in advance.

But it’s all been worth it because I’m nearly sold out.

Jonny Duffy (36)

Hairdresser and charity volunteer for Riding for the Disabled

The Lammas Fair has a strong tradition when it comes to horses so I’m out raising money for the horses and ponies which help so many children with disabilities.

We’ve taken it back to the good old days and people seem to really appreciate it.

We haven’t stopped pounding the pavement but Rosie, she’s a traditional gipsy cob, is the one doing all the work.

Melanie Moorhead (31) Stable keeper

I look after about 10 horses for the RDA and they are amazing when it comes to helping people with disabilities, especially children with learning difficulties. It’s great to bring Rosie out to the Lammas Fair and give people a chance to interact with her and people seem to love it.

Roisin McGinn (34) Ballycastle

I come every year as long as I’m not on holiday.

It’s just a tradition, but there’s also a fear of missing out if you don’t come.

Its our heritage really and I love that there are horses here — it harks back to the town’s agricultural past.

It’s good to see that it’s starting to return to its roots over the past couple of years.

Niamh O’Connor (21) Loughgiel

It’s a long running tradition which keeps me coming back.

Most people remember coming when they were children, it’s interesting to keep coming and see what changes over the years and what stays the same.

There seems to be less and less stalls each year, but it doesn’t stop people from coming back.

I think the prices are a big issue for traders, but shop owners pay rates and so you can understand why they don’t want to have stalls outside their business.

Owen Cleary (46) Stall owner Limerick

I’m selling everything from washable mats to cowboy hats — the rain hasn’t been good today so I’m hoping it stays a bit drier tomorrow.

I go to fairs all over Ireland but I haven’t missed the Auld Lammas Fair in over 15 years — it’s the one that draws everyone back again.

But the rules and regulations are getting worse for traders and I think it risks spoiling the fair unless something is done.

The stall numbers are definitely in decline, which is sad because this one of the few fairs which can still draw a crowd.

Clyde Allison (69)

I was here last year and Zaggie had a two month foal with her, she’s foaling now again so we’ll have a wee one here with her next year.

She’s a 17-year-old full-bred shire and she measures 18 hands. She helps bring in the crowds — oh she’s very popular.

The Lammas Fair is all about experience and it’s great that it gives Ballycastle such a great reputation.

It’s just a fun place to be and is world famous.

Samuel Cotter (40) Sweet stall trader Newtownards

My uncle Bobby made and sold sweets here at the fair for about 40 years — his speciality was honeycomb and Yellowman.

I started doing it around 20 years ago and I’m doing three bags for £1. I expect to sell 4,000 bags of Yellowman alone.

I also have nougat and bars of rock and bags of everything which has kept people coming for two decades.

The fair is just a fantastic day out — people are usually introduced to the Fair by their grandparents and that’s them hooked.

The main change has been the number of stalls. I used to have two pitches but now it’s just the one. It’s too expensive — it would be over £300 for two days if I had two.

Mum and daughter Mary (30) and Sally Doherty (60) Donegal

Mary: We’ve been coming for a about five or six years now, mainly for the burgers — they keep us coming back.

We always come together, just the two of us so long as we are speaking.

It’s just a nice afternoon out and is worth the two-and-half hour drive.

Sally: It’s just nice to walk around and take everything in, it’s a great place to be. I’m not really a fan of the Yellowman — it’s too sore on the teeth.

Brian Donnelly (24) Ballymena

I’m here every year with my partner Gemma and our wee daughter Leah, who is now four.

I won a fish for her last year so now Elsa will has a friend — I haven’t picked a name for this one yet. It’s a great day out and it caters for everyone — you can always find something to do here. It’s also nice to get a day out together before Leah starts school.

Kenneth (79) and Mary Carson (82) Ballycastle

Kenneth: If it’s a good day we’ll be out all day. I’ve been coming since I was 12 and its changed a lot in those years — it’s not what it used to be back in the happy days but it’s still the Lammas Fair.  It’s good to see so many people in Ballycastle.

Mary: I can’t do the Yellowman anymore but I made sure I got a few bags of dulse. Years ago you would have got apples or oranges and pears but there are no fruit stalls anymore.

Stuart (85) and Mary Nicholl (85) Ballycastle

Mary: I was reared in this town and started coming here as a child.

I met my husband at this fair when we were both just 16-years-old and we’ve been married now for 61 years.

It’s the best place to meet people and bump into old friends — it’s a way of keeping in touch. It’s also a very special place for us to come back to every year.

Joey McKendry (39), wife Shauna (38), son Fionn (6) and daughter Isla (4)  Ballintoy

Joey: We’re here every year and don’t miss a thing, if it went on all week Shauna would have us at it.

It’s handy because we live so close but it’s also a great excuse for a family day out before the dark nights come in and school starts back.

We just walk round all the stalls and get some food and the kids play a lot of games — it’s a nice atmosphere and they absolutely love it.

Billy Kyle (64) Dancer

I’ve been line dancing for nearly 25 years but I’ve been coming to the Auld Lammas Fair for the past 15 to dance with the Top Stars and the Golden Boots.

We change the charity every year, this year it’s Chest Heart and Stroke.

We meet every week in a club in Ballymena, but the Fair is a good way for us all to get together. People come from all over the country to join us on what is always a special day and they are so generous.

We always raise around £1,500 over the two days.

Belfast Telegraph


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