King Puck is crowned as revellers party on

COLOURFUL Puck Fair, in Killorglin, Co Kerry, has a long-earned reputation for madcap acts and wild boozing, but it’s place where you can also learn how to behave yourself.

Just ask a cheeky teenager who’s this morning nursing a bruise on the inside of his right arm.

At the horse fair on Saturday, the lad started to mess with a tiny, two-month old foal, not realising how protective and hot-tempered the mother, a Shetland pony, was.

Without warning, the pony snapped at him, catching him just inside the sleeve of his tee-shirt.

“That’ll teach you manners,’’ commented the mare’s owner, Michael Teahan, of Glenbeigh, Co Kerry.

This year, the fair moved out of the town centre to Evans’ field, on the Tralee road, and the change of venue was welcomed by equine folk.

“I think the field is a great job. There’s plenty of space compared to what was happening when it was held in the town,’’ commented Michael Farrell, of Keel, Co Kerry.

“The fair used to be crushed into a very tight space and it had also become very dangerous. Many of the better buyers lost interest in coming here, as a result.

“With the present location, you could see the buyers, especially those from Northern Ireland, coming back again and the quality of the horses here might also improve,’’ he said.

Trading was reported to be slow, with most people claiming that quality of horses on offer was poor overall.

But, there were plenty of ponies and donkeys. A pony foal was seen to fetch 650 early in the day. The asking price for a smart donkey foal was 800, with a price of 1,400 on his mother.

Space for galloping and jumping the horses, on rising ground at the top of Evans’ field was welcomed by buyers. Former Tanaiste Dick Spring was among the crowd.

Bright sunshine lifted the atmosphere and traders in the field, selling everything from saddles to hats to holy pictures, seemed to be doing well.

Publicans in the town, however, missed having the fair outside their doors and premises which would normally be packed on fair morning were practically empty. But that situation changed when the fair finished in the afternoon and crowds drifted back in over the Laune bridge.

A spokesman for Guinness, sponsors of the event, estimated that around 150,000 pints are quaffed during the three-day festival, attended by upwards of 60,000 people and reckoned to be worth 2m.

Gardai had no incidents to report, yesterday.

In accordance with time-honoured tradition, a long-horned, male mountain goat was ‘crowned’ King Puck, on Saturday evening. The goat was ceremoniously hoisted onto a 50 ft pedestal overlooking the town square, as thousands of his ‘subjects’ looked up from the bustling, stall-lined streets.

Some things have changed in the once boisterous Puck, however, as a fair queen of 50 years ago, Rhetta McSwiney (nee O’Shea), recalled..

“It has improved immensely and is very family-orientated now. Crowds are bigger and there’s far more entertainment with plenty of music and fun on the streets,’’ she said.

“It’s still an important event in the life of Killorglin and brings a lot of business to the town. Nearly everyone here depends on it to some extent.

“In the old days, publicans used to say that Puck helped pay the rates, but it now pays more than the rates,’’ Rhetta, a third generation publican in Langford Street, continued happily.

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