In the South Kerry wilderness this morning, one of Ireland’s most unusual quests is in full swing. Across rocky outcrops and misty valleys, a determined individual pursues a cunning prey through the tongue-twisting urban areas of Gortrelig, Treengarrive, Machanamoinge and Muingaphuca.
The prize offered is the capture of a king – a royal deity adorned with cleft feet and horns four feet in diameter. Because only the best is enough for the throne of the billy goat.
The first week of August is prime time for this age-old competition – the royal creature must be caught well before the annual Puck Fair on the 10th, 11th and 12th. Ruler of all he surveys, this King of Killorglin will feast on the finest nuts and berries during his 72 hours of reign while lying on a straw-laden throne hoisted 40 feet in the air.
“If wild goats knew how well they were being treated, they would line up to go to Puck Fair,” Michael Healy-Rae told animal rights activists a few years ago.
In a county that prides itself on constantly reinventing tourism, Puck Fair is a unique example of if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. At the country’s oldest festival, Killorglin embraces 400 years of tradition as the lifeline of an ancient past that cannot be broken.
The three-day fair is the focal point of the year for locals, a timekeeping defined as either “before puck or after puck” – phrases heard constantly throughout the other 51 weeks. Bringing Sam Maguire home last week was a big event of 2022 – but reviving Puck’s magic after a two-year absence from Covid is an even bigger deal. For young and old, the fair is an exciting journey through the mists of time to the way we were before Netflix and Amazon caged the imagination.
In her memoirs from the 1960s the orgyAmerican writer Muriel Rukeyser best summed up the atmosphere: “The goat in his tower, bottles of Powers and pints of Guinness, dancing in the streets, the eroticism of bodies and language, flowing rivers of manure, horse-dealing, brawls, the press of Fellow travelers, new companions, birth and death.”
Above all, the goat rules, a connection to pagan days when divided deities ruled over superstitious masses. The harvest was in, the cattle sold, when virgin youth danced horn-pipes above the carousing crowd.
Depending on your age, Puck has served as a mecca for the freaks or a happy summer outing for juniors. Thrust into the mix of noisy merriment, cotton candy flavors and cattle dung, a crowd of travellers, badass mountain farmers and awestruck visitors collide in a crowd that shuffles, moves and sways through the narrow streets.
The roar of barter, the wit of business, spit in hand—all part of a cultural palette deeply embedded in the city’s DNA.
Puck Fair is an unchanged state of mind in a turbulent world, a place where the song will always remain the same.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/dancing-a-timeless-hornpipe-of-history-at-the-ancient-puck-fair-41881316.html Dance a timeless hornpipe of history at the old Puck Fair