The original Dunderry Fair committee from 2004. (Back row from left); Sean M Kenna, Gus Martyn, Kevin Keavney, Tom Byrne, Shane Boylan, Aidan Lightholder, Oliver Carty. (Front row from left): Pat Smith, Henry Callaghan, Jack Meeman, Eugene Smith, Cathal Smith, James Brogan, Michael Smith. Missing from the photo is the late Dinny Feeney.

‘We thought, sure it will be a bit of craic, we’ll give it a try’

“It all started as a bit of joke or that's what people thought,” recalled Tom Byrne who was the secretary on that first Dunderry Fair Day committee back in 2004.

In fact, he recalled that his brother-in-law had jokingly christened them the 'DAFT Society' with DAFT standing for 'Dunderry Annual Fair Time'

Now a major event on the Meath calendar, the fair attracts thousands from all over Meath and all over the country and is one of the first events of the year, signalling the start of the summer season.

When a group of local farmers got together to moot the idea in Geraghty's pub 20 years ago, they could never have predicted what a huge success the Dunderry Fair Day would become.

“Scurlogstown was going since the 1960s and the Royal Meath Show was also going strong and a couple of us lads got together and thought why don't we do something in Dunderry,” Tom recalled.

Tom, originally from Wicklow, had been living in the area for about four years and was asked by his neighbour to come in to a meeting in Geraghty's one Friday night.

Fourteen local farmers turned up to that first meeting held in February 2004 and many of them are still involved today.

“We thought sure it will be a bit of craic why don't we give it a try,” said Tom. There was talk of the fair days of old 150 years earlier and they decided they would try and re-enact it with a traditional street fair.

The first chairperson was Sean McKenna with Shane Boylan as assistant chairperson; Tom Byrne was secretary with Aidan Lightholder as assistant secretary; Oliver Carty was treasurer and 'Lord Mayor' Eugene Smyth was assistant treasurer. Gus Martyn was PRO.

“We had our first meeting in February 2004. I still have the minutes from the first meeting” recalled Tom who says they had no idea really how to go about organising the fair and they just asked local farmers to bring in cattle and sheep. They organised music with Black Porter and Matt Leavy playing that first year and indeed Matt Leavy has entertained the throngs at Dunderry Fair every year since.

“The Dunderry set dancers, Henry and Carmel O'Callaghan and their crew have been with us since day one as well,” said Tom.

They had no bank account and no money starting off but after the first fair day back in 2004, the committee was delighted to be able to hand out over €9,000 to local charities and groups. In 2006, they handed over a cheque for €10,000 to the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Many of the founding members are still involved today but sadly two figures who had huge association with Dunderry Fair have since passed away- Dinny Feeney in 2013 and Eugene Smyth, known as the Lord Mayor, in 2017.

Tom said it is great to see new people getting involved and bringing new ideas otherwise it would get stale and some of the older members are now able to take a back seat in the planning.