The past two Saturday’s have been great days for ducks. Grey, overcast skies have been sprinkling intermittently gentle mists and heavier showers of rain which kept people hibernating indoors, or if pushed, running from one shop to another as quick as they could.The ground stayed wet all day with plenty of puddles forming and while I wouldn’t classify the temperature as being cold, a feeling of dampness hung around and I don’t know about you, but to me, damp is far worse than cold. Regardless of the weather, if you are in Abbeyleix on a Saturday morning, there will be a small group of stall holders gathered on Market Square selling their produce from the surrounding areas. While they may charge you for their goods on sale, they won’t charge you for putting a smile on your face – no matter how bad the weather is!
Some are here for nearly 25 years, such as Paddy Lalor from Ballinakill who sells his real free-range ducks & hens eggs. When he retired from the creamery almost 30 years ago, he decided to keep a few hens as a hobby – resisting pressure to develop a large scale enterprise and has been enjoying selling at Abbeyleix since. As Paddy says about the market; “it’s as much about the social side of things” as he carried a tray of mugs of tea out to his colleagues.
Billy Gorman from Ballypickas is the man to go to for colourful potted bedding plants and pots of 3 fruit marmalade. Billy has had a stall here almost as long as Paddy so you could say they are the the two stalwarts (sorry!)
Ida & Noel Thompson from Abbeyleix have been selling their own vegetables here for almost 20 years. Today (Saturday, January 29th 2018) they had beetroot, carrots, parsnips, swede, cabbages and pickled cucumber plus potatoes from Tipperary. In the summer months their tables weighs down under courgettes, tomatoes, salad, onions, beetroot, cucumber with grapes & peppers from their greenhouse. Though they are not organically certified they use no sprays so as Ida says they are “as near to organic as you can be” with their vegetables grown the old-fashioned way.
Cakes and bakes are from Mary Lowry’s kitchen in Timahoe with her husband Jim in charge of sales here and also in Portlaoise every week.
Tony comes up from Hartley’s of Waterford with fresh seafood that has just landed at Kilmore Quay. The colour of this stall is always very exciting to landlocked Laois seafood fans! My favourite is the haddock and the sweet sole. But the herrings look really good too and the turbot, and the squid.. this is the one stall that I cannot make my mind up at!!
Not everyone has been here for years. Ludmila brings over her fresh goats milk, cheese & kefir from her 3 goats in Errill along with her neighbours garlic from Grandad’s Smelly Garlic Company. The veterans are more than happy to welcome her in and introduce her to all visitors.
Pursuing their interests and passion may have lead these food heroes to coming together and creating this market, but the friendship – between fellow stall holders and loyal customers keeps them here, I reckon anyway! On a grey and drizzly January Saturday morning, it is lovely to have this fresh local produce available to us.
After a morning at the market, you might like to take a walk through Killamuck bog on the outskirts of Abbeyleix, read about that here: