Donnybrook is a suburb of Dublin in Ireland. It is thought that St. Broc established a convent or monastery in the area in the eighth or ninth century. This was destroyed in the late ninth century by Viking invaders, but the area continued to be known as “Domnagh Broc” or the “Church of St. Broc”. Over time this morphed many times, until the middle-ages, when it took on its current name.

In the town of Doniburn (as Domnagh Broc was by then called) a Fair was established by order of King John by Royal Charter in 1204. He decreed that the fair should commence (generally, on 3 May) on the “Feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross”, and continue for eight days. In 1215 King John extended the fair from eight to fifteen days. The fair was confirmed in 1241 by King Henry III, and moved to “any date in July”. It was further confirmed by King Edward I, and moved to 26 August. The Fair continued in this form for the next 500 or so years.

Illustration of the Donnybrook Fair 1833. From the Dublin Penny Journal.

Donnybrook Fair from an illustration in the “Dublin Penny Journal” of November 1833.

The purpose of the Fair was to bring together sellers and buyers of all manner of farm animals. It also included the selling of farm produce, and manufactured goods. Also at the Fair was entertainment, such as; folk singers and dancers, games of chance, sporting games, etc.

However, alcohol was also sold, and many overindulged to the point of collapsing. With so many people in attendance, there were always differences of opinion, accusations of theft, fights between clans, and ethnic or religious conflict. Some people were just plain belligerent, and picked fights with anyone for any perceived reason. This behaviour continued to escalate over the years, until it became so socially unacceptable that many called for the termination of the Fair.

By the late 18th century, the Fair had degenerated into a wild and debauched gathering where everyone and everything was fair game. In late August 1778 a writer to the “Freemans Journal”, complained; “How irksome it was to friends of the industry and well-being of Society to hear that upwards of 50,000 persons visited the fair on the previous Sunday, and returned to the city like intoxicated savages.”

The license to hold the Fair had long ago passed from the Dublin Town Council, to private hands, and had been on-sold several times for increasing prices. From about 1812, several unsuccessful efforts were made to close the Fair permanently. In 1824, the Lord Mayor succeeded in having the Fair closed on Sundays, thus reducing its duration to 14 days, but this had little effect. Eventually, in 1842, the license was  sold to Peter and John Madden for a sum of £750 ($1,600,000 in 2020). In 1855, their sons agreed to sell the rights for the princely sum of £3000 ($2,728,000 in 2020), to the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Joseph Boyce, under the auspices of the Council. With this, the Donnybrook Fair ended.

Today the word “Donnybrook” is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as: “A scene of uproar and disorder; a heated argument.” It can also mean: a free-for-all brawl, or a quarrel or dispute usually in a public place.

There are also several towns in Australia called Donnybrook. The most well-known Donnybrook (pop. 2,824) is that on the South Western Highway, 210 kilometres  south of Perth, Western Australia. It was named by the first settler, George Nash in 1842 after his hometown near Dublin, Ireland.

Donnybrook (pop. 461) is also a coastal town near Bribie Island, Queensland. The name appears to be derived from a corroboree site, or because of fights amongst oyster gatherers at weekend camps.

Donnybrook (pop. 169) is also suburb of Melbourne, located 32 kilometres north of the city. It was likely named after Donnybrook, near Dublin.

There is also a locality of Donnybrook (pop. less than 20) in South Australia, located near the west coast of the Eyre Peninsula about 160 kilometres northwest of Port Lincoln, and 10 kilometres northeast of Elliston.

As well as the original Donnybrook in Dublin, Ireland, there are also other towns overseas called Donnybrook. These are in: North Dakota (pop. 59) and Oregon (one private home), United States; Ontario (un-inhabited since 1999), Canada; KwaZulu-Natal (pop, 4,683), South Africa; a suburb of Douglas, County Cork, Ireland, and the Donnybrook Quarter, in the East End of London, England.

REFERENCES:

Kelly, R. J. (1919). Donnybrook-Origin of Name: Its Famous Fair. The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 9(2), 136–148. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25514536

Wikipedia contributors. (2021, September 16). Donnybrook Fair. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 05:50, October 7, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Donnybrook_Fair&oldid=1044755565

Alphadictionary, https://www.alphadictionary.com/goodword/word/donnybrook, Retrieved 5 October, 2021.

Robin Elliott, https://relliott.tripod.com/index.html , Retrieved 5 October, 2021.

Wikipedia contributors. (2021, September 17). Donnybrook, Western Australia. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 05:57, October 7, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Donnybrook,_Western_Australia&oldid=1044812508

Wikipedia contributors. (2021, February 26). Donnybrook, Queensland. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 05:59, October 7, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Donnybrook,_Queensland&oldid=1008997673

Wikipedia contributors. (2021, April 12). Donnybrook, Victoria. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 10:04, October 7, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Donnybrook,_Victoria&oldid=1017473090

Wikipedia contributors. (2021, April 19). Donnybrook. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 10:39, October 7, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Donnybrook&oldid=1018721081

Diane Hutchinson and Florian Ploeckl, “Five Ways to Compute the Relative Value of Australian Amounts, 1828 to the Present”, MeasuringWorth, 2021 URL:www.measuringworth.com/australiacompare