If you find yourself travelling through Killorglin over the 10th, 11th & 12th August make sure you stop and take a wander through Puck Fair Festival. Being born into Killorglin, Puck Fair is in our blood and every year is one of the main calendar events for the town. Everyone comes home for Puck or Christmas!
To be able to describe Puck Fair in a nut shell is near to impossible as really it needs to be experienced to be believed. Puck Fair – in Irish this is Aonach an Phoic, meaning “Fair of the He-Goat” is one of Ireland’s oldest fairs. Every year a goatcatcher goes up into the mountains to catch a wild goat. The goat is brought back to the town and the Queen of Puck, traditionally a young school girl from one of the local primary schools, crowns him King Puck. This signifies that the festivities may begin! On the 3rd day – minus his crown – he is brought down to be led back to his mountain home. During the 3 days the town is alive with entertainment, street trading, horse and cattle fairs, craft fairs, funfair, eateries as well as its locals and visitors catching up or getting to know each other over a sociable pint or two.
There are many legends that suggest an origin for the Fair, many of which are wildly inventive, but there is no written record stating when the Fair started. The origins of the fair have thus been lost in the mists of antiquity, and various commissions set up over the past two hundred years have tried in vain to date them. Evidence suggests that the fair existed long before written record of everyday occurrences were kept. Making it even more mysterious and curious!
One of the theories that I like best centres around a widely mentioned story that associates King Puck to English Ironside Leader Oliver Cromwell. It is related that while the “Roundheads” were pillaging the countryside around Shanara and Kilgobnet at the foot of the McGillycuddy Reeks, they routed a herd of goats grazing on the upland. The animals took flight before the raiders, and the he-goat or “Puck” broke away on his own and lost contact with the herd. While the other goats headed for the mountains, “Puck” went towards Cill Orglain (Killorglin) on the banks of the Laune. His arrival there in a state of semi-exhaustion alerted the inhabitants of the approaching danger and they immediately set about protecting themselves and their stock. It is said that in recognition of the service rendered by the goat, the people decided to institute a special festival in his honour and this festival has been held ever since.
So whether you just happen upon it or add it to your to do list, do stop and take in a most unusual and bizarre festival that brings the town of Killorglin together for 3 days of the year before the end of the summer each year.