A wild mountain goat, crowned as king last night at one of Ireland’s oldest pageants, has been named after the Taoiseach because they have a similar hair colour.
But locals insist that not even an unlikely visit from the Fine Gael leader himself would take the spotlight from the feisty horned and bearded creature that will remain on top of a giant platform in the town square until Friday evening.
The fair-haired monarch was the toast of Killorglin at the opening of the three-day Puck Fair as rain dominated conversations on the drenched streets of the Kerry town all day. But the downpour didn’t ruin all the fun as people made the most of one of the oldest festivals of its kind in the world.
“It wouldn’t be Puck without the rain,” shrugged John O’Connor from Killarney, as he waited patiently for traffic congestion to ease.
Behind him at the town bridge the colourful coronation parade was in full swing, with King Puck led through the streets by the Laune Pipe and Drum Band, which has reformed after a lapse of 50 years.
Sons and daughters of many of the original band members now feature in the ranks and an even more direct link with the past is provided by Willie Fitzgerald, a drummer with the original marching band.
Puck Fair committee chairman Declan Mangan said: “The band had been practising for this all year and this was their first parade since they reformed. They were looking forward to it with excited trepidation.”
King Enda was formally crowned by 13-year-old Queen of Puck, Muireann Arthurs, from Caragh Lake, who was in full ceremonial attire as she read the official declara-tion, announcing that the festival was officially open.
Up to 60,000 people will visit Puck this year, with a €5 million spin-off for the local economy.
There was an early start to proceedings with a traditional horse fair getting under way at Evans’ field, on the main Killorglin-Milltown road, shortly after 7am. But horses were not the only animals on offer as donkeys, prancing terrier pups and goats were all being parted with if the price was right.
However, Michael O’Brien from New-castlewest, Co Limerick had little success in flogging two horses. “It’s terribly slow. The crowd is well down. The rain ruins it,” he said.
There was no complaining, however, from the weather-proofed musicians and dancers who took to the streets to display their talents later in the morning and throughout the afternoon.
Their skills were appreciated by onlookers Daniel and Anke Werner from Berlin, who are enjoying their first visit to Ireland. “This is like Riverdance. It is so lively and wonderful. They do not seem to mind the rain,” Anke said.
Tim and Liz Horgan from Carrigaline, Co Cork, are no strangers to Puck Fair but it was a first visit to Killorglin for their 3-year-old son Joshua.
“We were here a few times before and we always enjoy it. It’s great fun and there’s great characters everywhere,” Tim said, as he recalled celebrating his Leaving Cert results with friends at the festival in the mid-1990s.
Presidential candidate Gay Mitchell followed the crowds to Killorglin and went walkabout in the rain after an impromptu photo call in the packed Bianconi Inn.
Around the corner in a packed Falvey’s Bar, meanwhile, a trad session was in full swing, with the five local musicians in the corner leaving onlookers in no doubt that Puck was well under way.