Wild Wales, by George Borrow

Chapter 22

Llangollen Fair — Buyers and Sellers — The Jockey — The Greek Cap.

ON the twenty-first was held Llangollen Fair. The day was dull with occasional showers. I went to see the fair about noon. It was held in and near a little square in the south-east quarter of the town, of which square the police-station is the principal feature on the side of the west, and an inn, bearing the sign of the Grapes, on the east. The fair was a little bustling fair, attended by plenty of people from the country, and from the English border, and by some who appeared to come from a greater distance than the border. A dense row of carts extended from the police-station half across the space, these carts were filled with pigs, and had stout cord-nettings drawn over them, to prevent the animals escaping. By the sides of these carts the principal business of the fair appeared to be going on — there stood the owners male and female, higgling with Llangollen men and women, who came to buy. The pigs were all small, and the price given seemed to vary from eighteen to twenty-five shillings. Those who bought pigs generally carried them away in their arms; and then there was no little diversion; dire was the screaming of the porkers, yet the purchaser invariably appeared to know how to manage his bargain, keeping the left arm round the body of the swine and with the right hand fast gripping the ear — some few were led away by strings. There were some Welsh cattle, small of course, and the purchasers of these seemed to be Englishmen, tall burly fellows in general, far exceeding the Welsh in height and size.

Much business in the cattle-line did not seem, however, to be going on. Now and then a big fellow made an offer, and held out his hand for a little Pictish grazier to give it a slap — a cattle bargain being concluded by a slap of the hand — but the Welshman generally turned away, with a half resentful exclamation. There were a few horses and ponies in the street leading into the fair from the south.

I saw none sold, however. A tall athletic figure was striding amongst them, evidently a jockey and a stranger, looking at them and occasionally asking a slight question of one or another of their proprietors, but he did not buy. He might in age be about eight-and-twenty, and about six feet and three-quarters of an inch in height; in build he was perfection itself, a better built man I never saw. He wore a cap and a brown jockey coat, trowsers, leggings and high-lows, and sported a single spur. He had whiskers — all jockeys should have whiskers — but he had what I did not like, and what no genuine jockey should have, a moustache, which looks coxcombical and Frenchified — but most things have terribly changed since I was young. Three or four hardy-looking fellows, policemen, were gliding about in their blue coats and leather hats, holding their thin walking-sticks behind them; conspicuous amongst whom was the leader, a tall lathy North Briton with a keen eye and hard features. Now if I add there was much gabbling of Welsh round about, and here and there some slight sawing of English — that in the street leading from the north there were some stalls of gingerbread and a table at which a queer-looking being with a red Greek-looking cap on his head, sold rhubarb, herbs, and phials containing the Lord knows what, and who spoke a low vulgar English dialect — I repeat, if I add this, I think I have said all that is necessary about Llangollen Fair.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 14:50