Breakfast the Night Before

Recollections of an Irish Horse Dealer

By: Marjorie Quarton

Publication Date: November 2000

(4 customer reviews)


Breakfast the Night Before: Recollections of an Irish Horse Dealer by Marjorie Quarton

This sparkling memoir gives a personal view of Irish rural life from the Economic War of the 1930s to the farming boom and recession of the 1970s. It describes the upbringing of a Protestant only child on a farm near Nenagh in north Tipperary-an idyll interrupted by school in Dublin during the 1940s. Taking over the farm on her father’s death, working the land and animals (dogs, sheep, horses, cattle), the author recounts with great humour, acuity and poignancy her dealings, from the age of seventeen, at fairs throughout the country-Limerick, Kilrush, Cahirmee, Thurles, Ballinasloe, Spancilhill, Clonmel-a lone woman in a man’s world.

With rare brio and eye for character, incident and idiosyncrasy, Marjorie Quarton lovingly documents a world of country people, eccentric relatives, home cures and recipes, and unaffected living. Breakfast the Night Before is both entertaining and enduring.

“I defy anyone, even the non-horsy minded, to dip into Breakfast the Night Before and put it down without reading to the end. This special blend of humour crosses the divides of age, sex, religion and social standing.” —The Irish Times

“It makes riveting reading and I was desperately disappointed when I reached the final page all too soon. Marjorie Quarton is a natural storyteller.” —Grania Willis, The Irish Field

“Mrs Quarton writes with wit. Her experiences are related in a lovely, dry style which does not conceal her deep love for horses and understanding of that strange animal which is the human being. Breakfast the Night Before is a passport to another world that anyone can enjoy, and I recommend it highly.” —Morgan Llwelyn, author of Lion of Ireland and The Horse Goddess

‘Plenty [of] information, great characters and lively scenes make this a good read for anyone who wants a look at the past in Ireland.’ Customer review


Marjorie Quarton, née Smethwick, was born in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary in 1930 and educated in Dublin. Her novels include Renegade (1991), Corporal Jack (1988) and No Harp Like My Own (1987). She has written short stories, children’s books and standard works on border collies and other animals. Her memoir Breakfast the Night Before was published by Lilliput in 2000. Read more here.


Also available as an ebook

4 reviews for Breakfast the Night Before

  1. Lilliput Press

    “A great read – providing an insight into Ireland’s social history, boarding school, farming, training horses, selling animals at fairs, eccentric relatives, Breakfast The Night Before is a fascinating memoir showing how a pampered little girl became a well respected and successful horse dealer, dog trainer and author. The book covers many decades and provides an insight into life during the Economic War of the 1930s, post war Ireland and beyond. Told with wit, this is an enlightening and amusing memoir.” LORNA SIXSMITH

  2. Lilliput Press

    “I enjoyed this read. Marjorie grew up with horses and early became a horse dealer, and in those slow-paced days that sometimes meant walking and riding half through the night in order to get to a town with a horse fair. Once there she had no time to stop and eat so she had to have had her breakfast the night before.

    She talks of learning to ask if a mare could be in foal, and of the dodgy horses brought from sale to sale in the hope of selling to a newcomer. The Swiss Army at the time liked to buy Irish horses as every soldier (service was compulsory for men) went home after a few years with his horse and his rifle. The Irish hunters were strong enough for the mountains. Black horses only were bought by these buyers and they wanted the mane and tail cut very short at the market. So if you saw a black horse with short mane and tail for sale elsewhere it meant the Swiss had rejected it.

    Plenty more such information, great characters and lively scenes make this a good read for anyone who wants a look at the past in Ireland.” CLARA O’BEARA

  3. Lilliput Press

    “I bought this because last year I met the author while staying at her daughter’s airbnb in Tipperary and enjoyed a thoroughly good night in the local pub with Marjorie, chatting above the sound of musicians. It’s a lovely and atmospheric account of her time as one of the only female horse traders in the Ireland of the 1940s and 50s, full of incidents and characters. Loved it so much I also bought a copy for my 92-year-old mother – the last book she read.” SALLY RIVINGTON

  4. Lilliput Press

    “Breakfast The Night Before. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. In fact I found it a delight. It made me laugh, it made me feel good and evoked memories of a boyhood, mainly happy ones, spent on a farm and of characters – people and animals – and of a way of life that in England at least is gone. As to whether that way of life still exists in Ireland I do not know. But if it does not then this book is priceless because it tells it just it as it was. I think the author, Ms Quarton, a quite remarkable woman. She had a very limited formal education and the brief time she did spend at school she disliked yet her power with the pen is top class. I intend to read more of her work” D A BARKER

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Weight 0.5 kg
Dimensions 156 × 234 mm
Publication Date

November 2000


Paperback, 224pp