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Wednesday 27 August 2014

Old Man's New Year goes global

Published 25/12/2013 | 05:36

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The village of Portmagee has one of the world's most unique New Year's Eve traditions, which has a quirky French connection and involves the ceremonial death of an elderly man, who is then replaced by a younger to symbolise the rebirth a new year affords.

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The village of Portmagee has one of the world's most unique New Year's Eve traditions, which has a quirky French connection and involves the ceremonial death of an elderly man, who is then replaced by a younger to symbolise the rebirth a new year affords.

This year, to celebrate The Gathering, the Portmagee event will be streamed live on the internet, giving those living away from home the opportunity to join in the festivities.

Local man John Murphy explains the tradition dates back to 1727, when a French boat carrying smuggled cargo docked at the village's port on New Year's Eve.

"A strange noise was heard coming from the pier. Many thought it was the banshee, but through the thick fog the crew of the French vessel, led by a piper, were marching towards the village. They were carrying an old man, who looked as though he was on his last legs."

"They marched him through the town, before a shot rang out. The old man laid down as if dead – only for a younger man to appear from nowhere," John explained.

The young French man then made a speech explaining to the villagers that what they had witnessed symbolised the passing of the old and the birth of the new – the perfect metaphor to welcome a new year. And so it was that the custom of the 'Old Year' began in Portmagee. Starting the very next year, the locals re-enacted the custom in honour of the strange men who had so entertained them the previous year. The tradition has been carried out by locals ever since, and has attracted international interest in recent years.

Last December, Portmagee was chosen as Ireland's first ever recipient of Fáilte Ireland's Top Tourism Town award, so locals are describing this as being the 'icing on the cake' to a fantastic year for the area.

Starting at 10pm, the broadcast will capture the event and all the other goings-on around South West Kerry from 2013. Viewers are invited to send in their Tweets, emails, and can even send in a pre-recorded video message that will be broadcast on the big screen in the village to say hello to their friends at home in Kerry.

The live stream, by CR Videos and Productions of Cahersiveen, will be available at www.crvlive.com and those wishing to pre-record a video are required to contact the production team by email: oldyearportmagee@gmail.com.

For more contact Gerard O'Sullivan on 087 212 8195.

Kerryman

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