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Two photos of Mikeen McCarthy. One is a side-profile shot of him smiling in a suit. The other is a picture of him with his arm around his daughter.

The Seller to the Fair

The Ballinasloe October Fair is known for its horse-dealing, crowded streets, and roaming minstrels. In October 2017, Alan Woods joined the festivities to present an ITMA lecture on the history of ballad sheets and street singers. Find out how he used materials from the ITMA collection to prepare.

“Ye sons and daughters of Erin, Gather round poor Zozimus, yer friend; Listen boys, until yez hear, My charming song so dear.”

Michael Moran (aka Zozimus), a Dublin street singer & ballad hawker (ca. 1794–1846)
Selection of ballad sheets held in the ITMA collection.
Maura Murphy's article about ballad singers and seditious ballads featured in Ulster Folklife Magazine (vol. 25).
Mikeen McCarthy (left); Mikeen with his daughter, Jean 'Sauce' Driscoll (right; images © Pat MacKenzie).

Mikeen McCarthy speaking about selling ballads sheets (recorded 1975)

“A mob is attracted by the song, and in whatever part of the street the ballad singer pleases to take his stand, business must be suspended and the shops shut up during his stay.”

Thomas Sloane, Chief Secretary's Office Registered Papers, Outrage Reports, Cork, 1833

Mikeen McCarthy speaking about a street singer named Charlie Reilly

Mikeen McCarthy telling a story about selling ballad sheets in Listowel (recorded ca. 1976)

Alan Woods presenting his lecture in Ballinasloe library (photo © Jackie Dolan).