Monday 22 January 2018

Thousands welcome King Puck Goat to his perch for 413th recorded Puck Fair

Killorglin’s King Puck is well-treated and well-fed
Killorglin’s King Puck is well-treated and well-fed

Graham Clifford, in Killorglin

On a balmy summer’s evening in Killorglin yesterday festival goers turned out in their thousands to welcome the King Puck Goat to his perch overlooking the town for the 413th recorded celebration of Puck Fair.

The Queen of the Fair, local schoolgirl, Kerry Lynch crowned the goat in the town’s famous square.

Organisers believe the crowds were significantly up on previous years as revellers flocked to the town from early in the day.

“The sunshine has really helped us out. We had the horse fair today and crowds thronged to the venue. Now that the Puck (Goat) is in place the mardi gras can begin in earnest,” said Declan Mangan, the Chairman of the festival.

It’s estimated that over the course of the three-day street festival in excess of 70,000 people will visit Killorglin bringing in an estimated €8m to the Ring of Kerry town.

Honeymooners Craig and Melissa Fisher from Indiana said when they first heard of the festival they thought perhaps someone was pulling their leg.

“We were travelling in Galway last week and someone in a pub told us about Puck Fair and the fact a goat is worshipped for three days. How could we have possibly gone home without seeing that? It’s a fantastic festival and the buzz here in the town is electric,” said Craig.

Gerry Dooney from Reading in England told the Irish Independent: “Can you imagine this kind of festival anywhere else? Something about it is very Irish and the craic is superb.”

Last year Animal Rights protestors threatened to mount a protest at the start of the festival but the action was called off.

Declan Mangan said his organising committee had not received any such notifications this year though there was a scaled down protest by the Animal Rights Group ARAN at the bridge in Killorglin where four people held signs saying people were 'blind to the animal's suffering'.

“We haven’t heard from any protestors but if they wish to come and protest that’s their right and we would respect that. The fact is the goat is treated extremely well and not only do we have a vet who attends to him a number of times a day but also Department of Agriculture officials have been on hand during the planning process to ensure the goat, and all other animals involved in the festival, is properly cared for,” he said.

And head goat-catcher John McGrath said the goat, captured on the hills at Kells, between Glenbeigh and Cahersiveen, was in fine form.

“We’ve been told that he’s actually put on weight since we captured him a number of weeks back. During the course of the festival our vet will visit him in his vantage point a number of times a day to make sure all is well and that he has enough food and water,” explained John.

He added: “And then when it’s all over we’ll return him back to his flock on the mountain where he can tell them all about his holidays to Killorglin.”

On each day of the fair 12 hours of free entertainment is provided on the streets of the town with acts such as country and western artist Mike Denver to play to the crowds.

“It’s a well-oiled machine at this stage,” explains Declan Mangan.

“After hosting the festival for over 400 years it’d want to be by now. It’s a unique festival and one that keeps the people coming. It’s been passed down to us by the generations before us and we want to do the same for those who come after us. The festival has both a traditional and contemporary feel, a touch of the old and new. And, as always, King Puck oversees the festivities and watches a lot of people actually acting the goat themselves.”

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