Ballyfermot is an ode to the old Dublin. A culture which has since died out in a majority of the country still thrives there. Ballyfermot was originally established as a suburban development, during the housing crisis after the second world war. Before this Ballyfermot was largely stud and dairy farms. 

Those that moved to this area where generally of the working class. Ireland still recovering from the colonisation from its neighbour, still had an agricultural touch. While many Dubliners earned their living from the barges of Guinness, many of those working to transport coal settled in Ballyfermot. This Coal was transported by the old fashioned horse and cart. For the people of this area their livelihoods were bound to horses and through years they became accustomed to having the animals near. 

Even today, you hear the hooves on the street often. Lar, a horse owner who has “lived all me life in Ballyfermot, born in it, reared in it, starved in it.” He keeps horses within in the area. His family was one of those with the so-called ‘coal rounds’. Since he was a child his family created an atmosphere where caring for horses was not only normal but something that could not be lived without. 

To Lar it is not only the locals of Ballyfermot that are interested in keeping horses but all those people of working-class areas because “It’s taking on an animal that is stronger than yourself. It’s a strong animal and you are more or less in control.” The people of Ballyfermot to him are “more roudy-ish, strong-ish and bully-ish. There is lots of things, if you look at all them type of areas, they’re physical; not like Blanchardstown or Foxrock. They have the pen where as we have the sword.”

Lar not only rides and cares for his horses. He breeds them and takes great pride in his ability. Lar feels that breeding the horses is one of the most important features of owning horses. He has kept horses through generations, now owning far descendants of the horses he had cared for as a young man. When you breed them “you always know what it is like.” Some horses can have varying personalities, he said “horses carry it on, and you know the breeding in them and that’s the most important things.”

Too early for this!

In Ballyfermot, there is a local resource for the children who are interested in horses. It is called the equine centre. It is located in the Cherry Orchard area of Ballyfermot and this resource allows children to learn how to care and treat their horses. It gives lessons on riding and horse safety. 

The equine centre was seen as a way to curb horse ownership among youth, these horses were largely confiscated by the Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Many people within the community saw this as government over-reach, but as said by Lar a “few kids had horses that shouldn’t have probably had horses and that’s the way it was; there was too many horses at the time and horses do need looking after.”

The modernisation of the world is affecting this culture. Lar believes that the urbanisation of Dublin will leave Ballyfermot and many Dublin communities without horses within the decade. In a lot of media outlets the problems of this uniqueness are all too often spouted, however, if the country that prides itself on being different loses this culture, surely it loses a little bit of that which makes the Irish that little bit wild. Is that something we are willing to sacrifice?