Sunday 28 December 2014

No kidding, new book explores Puck's pagan roots

Published 02/08/2014 | 02:30

Michael ‘Butty’ Sugrue, once Ireland’s strongest man, as a goatcatcher in Killorglin.  Killorglin Archive Societ
Michael ‘Butty’ Sugrue, once Ireland’s strongest man, as a goatcatcher in Killorglin. Killorglin Archive Societ

IT is Ireland's oldest traditional fair but the well-known annual Puck gathering goes back way further than the recorded 401 years.

A new book on the Killorglin festival that takes place from August 10-12 explores Puck's pagan roots that its author believes dates back to the 4th Century.

Growing up just six kilometres away in Glenbeigh, Co Kerry, Jerry Mulvihill (28) has only missed one Puck Fair and that was when he was travelling in Australia.

Like most people in the area, Puck is a part of life for him and a time when a lot of emigrants choose to visit home rather than at Christmastime.

His new book, 'The Puck Fair – Ireland's Oldest Celebration' is a salute to the event.

"If you're from Kerry, and especially near Killorglin, it's a very exciting time and a real reunion," said Jerry who has been working on the book for the last two years and has used old photographs from Killorglin Archive Society and MacMonagles in Killarney, a family-owned agency that has captured Puck for three generations.

In the lead-up to the festival, a feral goat must be caught from the MacGillycuddy Reeks.

One of the best-known goat catchers was Michael 'Butty' Sugrue, once known as Ireland's strongest man.

Mulvihill also claims that Puck enjoys Ireland's longest bar exemptions, up to 3am for each day of the fair.

Up until 1967, there was 72 hours of non-stop drinking allowed in Killorglin during Puck Fair.

Nowadays, District Court James O'Connor defends the tradition by granting an exemption to public houses in the town up to 3am, despite garda objections.

As for King Puck, who will spend the three days holding forth from his platform 15-metres above Market Square, he fares better than his peers of old.

According to Mulvihill, back in pagan times, the goat was ritually sacrificed. Nowadays he's released back into the wilds.

Irish Independent

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