Cattle markets, horse-trading, a goat king, lots of Guinness and three days of music and revelry. Puck Fair, in the town of Killorglin in Co. Kerry , is one of the oldest festivals in Ireland .
Each year from the 10th to the 12th of August, the quiet market town of Killorglin on the banks of the River Laune hosts Aonach an Phoic - Puck Fair.
A palpable sense of euphoria descends on Killorglin as some 100,000 people gather in the small town over the three days to celebrate the crowning of King Puck, a goat from the mountains. As strange as it sounds this is the essence of Puck Fair, where a goat is crowned as king of the Killorglin and hoisted onto a platform 30ft in the air, while the town celebrates in earnest for three days and it's a tradition that dates back centuries.
An August market fair has been held in Killorglin since before Christian times, but the act of crowning a goat is believed to be Cromwellian in origin. When the British forces of Oliver Cromwell were ransacking the nearby countryside in the 17th Century a herd of mountain goats grazing in the McGillycuddy Reeks nearby were disturbed. The male goat or puck broke from the herd and ran to Killorglin and when the town's folk saw his state of exhaustion, they secured their stock and protected themselves from the oncoming marauders. Ever since, in gratitude to the puck, they have crowned a goat as king of Killorglin and held the fair in his honour.
The first day of the fair is traditionally known as Gathering Day, when traders from the travelling community come to the horse fair followed by the Coronation Parade around the tall platform in the centre of town with processions from member of the local community before King Puck is crowned. On the second day cattle markets are held and the third day - the Scattering sees the dethronement of King Puck as people celebrate the closing day of Puck Fair.
Throughout the three days, the pubs in the town are filled to the rafters and live music from traditional to modern flows through the streets. The fiddles are singing, the bodhrans are pounding and the Guinness is flowing as the townspeople mix with those from all over Kerry, Ireland and indeed the world. Amid the camaraderie, old friendships are toasted and new ones are forged.
The people of Killorglin offer visitors a Cead Mile Failte go dti Aonach an Phoic - a hundred thousand welcomes to Puck Fair, Ireland's oldest traditional Fair.
For more information check the official website for Puck Fair