Council to explore support for long-standing Derry Horse Fair

Derry’s oldest horse fair has faced difficulties after being cancelled for two years due to the Covid pandemic, leading councillors to call for Derry City and Strabane council officers to look into ways to assist organisers to ensure this event continues.

Known as the June Horse Fair, the event has survived for over a century, through two world wars and the worst days of the Troubles.

Independent Derry City & Strabane DIstrict Councillor Gary Donnelly raised the matter and brought forward a proposal at June’s full council meeting on Thursday evening.

Councillor Donnelly said: “This is an event that has been happening in this city for hundreds of years and had been taking place in the Brandywell from before the First World War I’m led to believe.

A scene from a Horse Fair in the Daisyfield in bygone years, by Hugh Gallagher.

“It brought a lot of people together and it was a boost to tourism and the economy.

“In recent years it has come up against some difficulties with Covid and some other issues.

“I was wondering if I could make a proposal that this council acknowledges the benefits brought to this city and district by what has been known locally as the June Horse Fair.”

He also proposed that the Council ‘will make a commitment to do all in its power and work closely with the organisers to ensure future generations will benefit from its continuation and growth’.

James Healy pictured at the Derry Horse Fair in the Brandywell in 2008 .Pic Kevin McAuley

There was support for the proposal from all parties, with Sinn Féin Councillor Patricia Logue calling it ‘an event in the calendar we all looked forward to’.

Colr. Logue added that she hoped ‘it will be able to keep going and come back bigger and better’.

DUP Alderman Maurice Devenney called for council officers to ‘go away and do what they can to try and ensure this event does happen’. 

He added: “A number of people within the horse fraternity have spoken to me with regards to the horse fair and there is a feeling it is not going to happen.”

The proposal passed unanimously.

Traditionally the fair is held on June 17 and has been run by local equestrian enthusiasts over many generations.

The fair managed to survive war, depression and was a very rare example of continuing cross community and cross border relations during the darkest days of the troubles.

The event has remained untouched for decades – keeping the traditional Irish Horse Fair alive in the North West.

By Gillian ANderson

Local Democracy Reporter

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Derry Horse Fair cancelled for first time in over 100 years due to COVID-19