Chapter 7: The Fair at Pollan
The cow-park was down at a place still called Garraí an Chladaigh, and the sheep were kept in a field behind that called Áit an Aonaigh. I often heard of a man who used to come with a horse and cart with sweets and things, and on his way he kept shouting and singing: “Tá mé ag teacht, tá mé ag teacht go h-Aonach na bPollan [Im coming, Im coming to the fair of Poilan].
All the old people had a song, too, about a boy who promised his mother hed do all the turns about the house, if shed let him go to the fair of Pollan:
Colonel McNeill was a bad man who lived at Binnion. He was a Scotsman. He died in 1709. He likely got Binnion after the Reformation or after the Battle of the Boyne. I heard my father saying it was people by the name of Toland who were driven out of Binnion when it was taken over by McNeill. My father was at Cam fair one cold day in winter, and there was an old Malin fisherman taking shelter from a shower beside him. So my father remarked to him that this was a day for a topcoat. The old man said if his people had their rights, it wasnt one but two or three topcoats he could have, for it was his people who owned Binnion in the old days. He was the name of Toland from Ardmalin.
This Colonel McNeill had a very bad name and always kept a band of henchmen or yeomen about him, who helped him to evict tenants and seize girls and persecute the people. Some of them were from Crossconnell, and some from Binnion.
There was an old woman called Máiread Dhubh who lived in a sod house in Bunacrick moss with her four children. She caught salmon during the summer-time to make a living and always went into the river and caught them with her hands. One day she was in the river down at Clochwan when McNeill and his men came on her, and with their swords and bayonets they kept her in the water till she was drowned. A Tanderagee  man was going home from the Keelogs mill with a load of meal, and Máiread Dhubh called on him to save her but he drove on, and they say that Máiread cursed him and said the day would come when there wouldnt be one of his name in Tanderagee.
I heard that story told another way, where a man called Dochartach Mór na dTulcha was said to have killed Máiread Dhubh and that it wasnt McNeill at all.
Another time there was a funeral of some young woman who hadnt pleased Colonel McNeill. When they were carrying the coffin round Teampall Deas, McNeill and his men held up the funeral and took the lid off the coffin and put their swords through her. There was a girl about Crossconnell, too, and one night McNeills men came to seize her, but she got out of bed and made up the side of Rachtan and got away on them.
Some of the women who had children to him got a rood of ground for their support. There was one of these roods in Cortnahinson, and some about Ballyliffin and different parts of the parish. The Ballyliffin Hotel is built on one of McNeills roods. Some of his descendants were known in my young days, but I think they are all died out by now.
It was a common thing for women from the lower side of the parish to gather on the Binnion and Annagh hills and curse McNeill.
McNeill used to attend the fair of Pollan with,his henchmen and pick out the best looking girl at the fair and carry her off to Binnion. One June fair they were taking a girl over the hill to Binnion, and when they were crossing behind Ardagh, Séimí Airis McCole heard her screaming and calling for help. Séimí was a mentioned man with the stick. He was hanging on a pot of potatoes at the time, so he called: Cá bhfuil mo bhataigín [Where is my baton]? and grabbed his stick and made out and jumped hedges and ditches till he overtook them about Mullach and fell to them with the stick till the girl got away.
Another fair of Pollan, a fine looking girl from Urris came in with her three brothers over through Annagh. When McNeill and his men went to seize the girl, she blew a birler, a kind of a  whistle she carried, and it was heard all over the green. The brothers knew their sisters whistle and came to the rescue in time to save her. I heard, too, of a girl from Meentiagh Glen who went there for the first time. McNeill got his eye on her and arranged with her to meet him at six oclock and that hed leave her home on horseback. Some friends of hers warned her about the sort of a man he was and advised her to leave the fair at once and get home as hard as she could. She cut up through Tornabratly and over the side of Crockaughrim and got away home that way.
Things got so bad at the finish-up that some of the Ardagh men attacked McNeill one night at a place called Gallach in Annagh Hill, and felled him with a stone on the head, and Eoin Airis McCole castrated him with an old hook. His henchmen carried him home, and he lay for days before he died. The doctor maintained he would have recovered only for the blow on the head. I heard that the night he died he tore the side wall out of the house when the devil took him. The old people always said he was buried in the house at Binnion standing up, and that the corner where he is buried is built up. But there is a tombstone in the old churchyard at the corner facing Binnion with his name on it.
All the old people round this parish had a song about Pollan fair called “Pléaráca na bPollan [Pollan Revels]”. Many a time I heard it sung. It was made by a brother of Dean ODonnell. He was Denis ODonnell and died in 1778. Dean ODonnell was parish priest here about two hundred years ago, before the Bráthair na Dumhcha. This is the song as far as I remember.
[End of chap.]