> Steeleye Span > Songs > Galtee Farmer

Galtee Farmer / Enniscorthy Fair

[ Roud 9305 , 5312 ; Ballad Index RcEnniF ; trad.]

Bill Cassidy of Co. Wexford sang Enniscorthy Fair, a song about naive farmers and sly horsedealers, to Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie in August 1973 and June 1975. One of these recordings was included in 1986 on the EFDSS cassette Early in the Month of Spring and in 2003 on the Musical Traditions anthology of songs of Irish Travellers in England collected by Carroll and Mackenzie, From Puck to Appleby. The noted in the accompanying booklet:

Horse rearing and dealing were once among the main occupations of Irish Travellers and the skills and exploits of some with the animal are legendary. We have listened to many hours of anecdotes about men with special powers over horses; of secret cures; of horses being ‘doctored’ in preparation for sale to some unsuspecting gorgie (non-Traveller), or to another Traveller not as astute in the trade as he should be. The respect for Travellers’ skills with horses extended far beyond their own community. Farmers in West Clare have told us that they would rather go to the Travellers than to the vet with a sick horse.

We once asked a Traveller if tricks and shady deals among themselves did not cause bad feeling and strained relationships and were told that it was all part of the learning process.

Bill’s song, also known as The Galtee Farmer, or The Galtee or Rusty Mare is one commonly found in Travellers’ repertoires reflecting their enjoyment in a deal well executed.

Steeleye Span recorded Galtee Farmer in 1975 for their album Commoners Crown.

Andy Turner learned Enniscorthy Fair from Bill Cassidy's recording and from recordings by Lal Smith and by an unidentified singer found at Cecil Sharp House, and sang it as the 12 September 2015 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.


Bill Cassidy sings Enniscorthy Fair

There was an Irish farmer and he had a Galtee mare,
He brought her out to sell her down to Enniscorthy Fair.
The big son he went with her saying, “It's father I'll do my best,
I’ll engage this mare to all kind work and her trial won’t be a quest.”

Up comes a Dublin buyer and he axed the price of her.
“The price is twenty guineas and for luck I’ll give a pound.”
He paid him for the little mare and then took her away
To a stable in the Shannon he had taken for the day.

He clipped her now all over and he trimmed her mane and tail,
No less than twenty minutes she was on the fair again.
With a saddle and a bridle and a jockey on her back,
You would swear she was a racehorse that you would see on the track.

Now says the father to the son, “Here is a mare I'll buy,
She looks so style and handsome and so action in my eye.”
He’ve axed the jock the price of her, the jockey looked around;
“The price is forty guineas and for luck I'll give a pound.”

He paid him for this little mare and then took her away.
Saying who run out to meet him but his little daughter Jane,
Saying, “Mammy, the lads is coming but th'old mare they did not sell,
For she's clipped, you’d hardly know her, but you'd know her old walk well.”

“What made you get this old mare clipped; she'll surely take the cold,
Or why can she escape it for she's gone so thin and old?
Sure I'll sit down all on this chair until my temper cools,
For I'm married to you this thirty year but you're a born fool.”

Steeleye Span sing Galtee Farmer

Oh there was an old Galtee farmer and he had an old Galtee mare.
He brought her to Enniscorthy, boys, to sell her at the fair.
Said the son all to the father, “I'll do the best I can.
The price of her is twenty guineas but look I'll take one pound.”

Up comes a Dublin buyer, “For to bid I am inclined.
The price of her is twenty guineas but look I'll give one pound.”
So quickly then he paid for her before time look around
And he went into a stable and he pulled her in behind;
Put a saddle and a bridle and a jockey all on her back,
You would swear she was a racer after coming off the track.

Says the son all to the father, “There's a mare for sale close by,
She looks so bright and handsome and enticing in my eye.”
She looks so bright and handsome and the jockey turned around,
Said, “The price of her is fifty guineas but look I'll take five pounds.”

Says the son all to the father, “Now be quick and make up your mind,
The price of her is fifty guineas but look he'll take five pounds.”
So quickly then they paid for her and away from the fair they went.
And as they jogged along the road they were both well content.

When they came to the little cottage at the bottom of the lane
Who should run to meet them but the little daughter Jane.
“Mamma, mamma, here comes the lads, but the mare they did not sell.
But they've hogged her mane and docked her tail, but you'd know her old jog well.”

“Oh what did you get that mare clipped for she looks so thin and old,
What did you get that mare clipped for she'll surely catch a cold.
I'll sit down at the table and I'll let my temper cool;
I've been married to you these forty years and you're only a born fool.”

Acknowledgements and Links

Thanks to Patrick Montague for correcting the Steeleye Span lyrics.