(From Ballindine Post, Issue 14, Easter '96)
Fairs and markets have a long history in Ireland, their character in the modern period was distinctive because although it was based in English law it was fashioned by Irish practice. Permission to hold markets and fairs was granted by the crown in the form of a written patent. In return for accepting responsibility for the organisation and supervision of a market or fair, as well as for ensuring the settlement of disputes that might arise there, the owner of the franchise was permitted to charge tolls or customs on the days and at the place specified in the patent. As time passed more dates for markets and fairs were added to suit public demand. In the early 17th century patents for markets or fairs were taken out by landlords to safeguard their property and ensure that no rival could lay claim to such franchises.
During the second decade of the nineteenth century, however, there was increasing opposition in some parts of Ireland to the payments of customs and tolls at fairs and markets. As a result an act was passed in 1818 to regulate the levying of tolls. It ordained that a toll board was to display at the site of the fair charges for each commodity and the name of the individual or body that claimed the right to collect them. These schedules were lodged with the Clerk of the Peace in each county and were published in government reports in 1823, 1830 and 1843 respectively.
The Statistical survey of County Mayo published in 1802 states there were forty-six towns in the county but "By far the greatest number of towns should, from their smallness and insignificance, be styled rather villages; and in fact, the only right they can claim to the name town, is merely being the place where fairs are held.
BALLINDINE [BALLINDANGAN]: 1627 Patent to Sr. James Craig for a market and two fairs on Ascension Day and 14 August. By 1750 two more dates had been added, 1 October and 26 November. After the calendar change of 1751 they became 28 May, 22 July, 11 October and 7 December. By 1850 it was a market town, with two more fairs, on 26 August and 23 November. In latter days with the introduction of Marts very few of these fairs and markets remained although they did exist in Ballindine up to the 1950's.
The fairs were revived in the late 60's and early '70's and again in the 1990's by the Church Fundraising Committee. Long may they continue.