Seven things you should know about Ireland's Puck Fair, the 400 year old festival dedicated to a goat
News

Seven things you should know about Ireland's Puck Fair, the 400 year old festival dedicated to a goat

KILLORGLIN in Kerry will welcome thousands to the area today to kick off the 203rd Puck Fair.  

The fair, which crowns a goat as king for three days before dethroning him, will run from August 10 to August 12.

The fair is over 400 years old and is worth an estimated £4.9m (€7m) to the town each year. But what else do you know about the fair?

1. Oldest of the lot

The festival, which originated in 1613, is Ireland's oldest 'Gathering Festival'. According to the official website the origins of this famous festival date back to William Cromwell. It's believed that the 'Roundheads' were pillaging the countryside around areas at the foot of the McGillycuddy Reeks when they came across a herd of goats grazing on the upland. The animals took off before the raiders, and the he-goat or “Puck” broke away on his own and lost contact with the herd.

Advertisement

While some goats headed for the mountains he went towards Cill Orglain (Killorglin) on the banks of the Laune.

When he got there, in a state of exhaustion, he alerted the inhabitants of the approaching danger and they immediately set about protecting themselves and their stock.

In recognition of the goat's service, the people decided to institute a special festival in his honour and this festival has been held ever since.

Alll the fun of the fair. Picture: Photocall Ireland Alll the fun of the fair. Picture: Photocall Ireland

2. Haggle for a horse?

As well as music, pints and a small bit of craic, the horse fair is also a must see. The fair is the oldest running horse fair in the Ireland, and it originally took place on the streets of Killorglin, as was the tradition of many of the fairs in times gone by, but it has since moved to a very large green-field site within walking distance of the town centre. One legend of the fair has it that a horse bought at the fair was ridden by Marshall Ney at the Battle of Waterloo!

Advertisement

4. Gathering Day

The first day of proceedings is known as the 'Gathering Day', which is called as such to welcome people to the festival, a wild male mountain goat is paraded through the town to the welcome of the large crowd.

5. Scattering Day

On the evening of the third day known as the 'Scattering Day' due to the amount of different nationalities that descend on Killorglin, the king of the fair is dethroned and becomes a mere goat once again. The goat is paraded through the streets before he is let loose in the mountains of Kerry once again.

Fair's fair at Killorglin's Puck Fair. Picture: Photocall Ireland Fair's fair at Killorglin's Puck Fair. Picture: Photocall Ireland

6. Queen of the puck

Advertisement

As tradition goes before the festival kicks off the queen of the fair has to be picked as well.  The Queen must be twelve years of age and is chosen from the local school girls who are asked to write a short essay on why they would like to be Queen of Puck. Her primary duty is to deliver the Puck Fair Proclamation which welcomes both the emigrants and the visitors to the Fair.

7. Not everyone's a fan

Animal activists, who argue the treatment of the Puck goat is cruel, are not happy with the festival organisers.

This year, ARAN (Animal Rights Action Network) plan to wear blindfolds whilst holding signs reading, ‘Killorglin Puck Fair: Blind to Animal Suffering’.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the activists John Carmody blasted the continuing use of the goat for entertainments purpose.

He said: "We are delighted the Puck Fair is still taking place but saddened that a real animal must remain as part of this tradition.

"People’s opinions on using animals for entertainment is changing fast in this day and age, and to that end, we urge the organizers to commit to taking the live animal out and replacing him with something more artistic and humane that reflects the spirit and beauty of the animal, that way everyone can have fun in what is otherwise a brilliant event."

Advertisement