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Puck Fair

Puck Fair is one of Ireland's oldest celebrated festivals taking place for three days and nights of August. There is many stories of how the Fair originated but there is no definitive record. The most widely mentioned story relating to the origin of King Puck, associates him with the English Ironside Leader Oliver Cromwell. It is said that while the Roundheads were pillaging the countryside 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 others headed for the mountains he 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. 

Other legends regarding the origin of King Puck relates to the time of Daniel O'Connell, who in 1808 was an unknown barrister. It seems that before that year, the August fair held in Killorglin had been a toll fair, but an Act of the British Parliament empowered the Viceroy or Lord Lieutenant in Dublin to make an order, at his own discretion, making it unlawful to levy tolls at cattle, horse or sheep fairs. Tolls in Killorglin at this time were collected by the local landlord - Mr Harman Blennerhassett - who had fallen into bad graces with the authorities in Dublin Castle and as a result the Viceroy robbed him of his right to levy tolls. Blennerhassett enlisted the services of the young Daniel O'Connell, who in an effort to reverse the decision decided that goats were not covered by the document and that the landlord would be legally entitled to hold a goat fair, and levy his tolls as usual. Thus the fair was promptly advertised as taking place on August 10th, 1808, and on that day a goat was hoisted on a stage to show to all attending that the fair was indeed a goat fair - thus Blennerhassett collected his toll money and Killorglin gained a King.

Whatever its origins, the fair has long been and continues to be the main social, economic and cultural event in the Killorglin Calendar. It is a time when old friends meet, when new friendships are forged and the cares of everyday living are put on hold. The main events of the festival include the traditional horse fair, parade and coronation ceremony of King Puck, open air night concerts, fireworks display, children's competitions, street entertainers and dancing displays.

On the first day of the festival, Gathering Day, a traditional horse fair, is held in the early morning hours. Then King Puck is paraded through the town in a lively procession to the main square where he meets his queen. The Queen of Puck Fair is a local school girl, selected for the role based on a short essay submitted about the fair. 

For many years, the local pubs were open all day and night for the duration of the festival. Though that is no longer the case, they do remain open until 3:00 a.m., so no festival-goer misses the chance to toast The Puck.

The second day, Fair Day, is the heart of the festival. It draws vendors selling everything from jewelry to Jack Russell puppies. 

King Puck is relieved of his duties on the third day, Scattering Day. On the evening of August 12th, the crowd gathered once again in the main square to salute the Queen and King, who parades back through the streets. As always, the goat who was king is released back into the mountains, but the celebrations continue late into the night.

The fair attracts visitors and performers from all over Ireland and the world. In 2013, Puck Fair will celebrate its 400th anniversary, and the festivities are sure to be epic.



 

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