Trading slow but spirits high as Puck kicks off

“D’you see that fine mare over there. Wouldn’t you know she was special from the way she stands out,” nudged the man with a funny hat, pointing his stick in the direction of a grand grey in the middle of the field.

“Just like a good looking woman,” he added quickly, a roguish glint in his eye.

Quality animals, however, were scarce at Puck Fair in Killorglin, Co Kerry, yesterday as equine men, with weather-beaten faces shaded by a variety of headgear, were fast to report.

Trading was also slow, but pensioner John Myers, from the Aghadoe area of Killarney and attending the fair since 1945, put things in perspective.

The elderly farmer, who has learned to live with every economic situation, declared: “It depends on the man who’s selling. If he wants to sell and the price being offered is right, he should sell and no more about it.”

Bright sunshine lifted spirits but there was general agreement that the attendance, human and animal, at the age-old fair in Evans’ Field, was down on previous years.

Benny O’Donovan, of Clonakilty, Co Cork, brought a seven-year-old coloured cob in classy tackle and thought the fair reflected the overall state of the nation.

“The fair is poor and things are getting worse. Bad weather and a scarcity of fodder facing into the winter are slowing down everything. There’s also the cost of coming here with the high price of petrol,” he said.

Benny walked a few metres to chat with Niamh O’Callaghan from Bantry, Co Cork, sitting on her eight-year-old mare, Buttons, which she described as a traditional cob. She shared Benny’s view that people were trying to get rid of animals prior to the winter, due to the fodder scarcity.

Closely observing the action was John O’Connor from the Rathmore area near the Cork/Kerry border.

“I’m not buying, only looking,” he asserted. “I know it’s easy to end up buying something but I’ve 25 or 27 horses at home. I’ve lost count.”

A horse-lover to the core, he philosophised: “There’s soul in a horse but money in a cow.”

According to John, the latest buzzword in equine circles, is “sports horse” or an all-round animal that can be used for many purposes. Sure enough, one of the most contented looking people at the fair was Timmy McCarthy, from Two-mile School, Killarney. He admitted to being satisfied with the price — which he was not prepared to reveal — for his sports horse.

Roscommon man Tom Regan sat in a quiet corner patiently awaiting offers for his miniature Shetland ponies. A familiar figure at fairs, he said there was still demand for the docile little ponies as children’s pets.

Television coverage of the Olympics became a sideshow to the thousands in Killorglin for the start of the three-day festival, as the banter drowned out the cheers in London for the Irish boxers. The fair will celebrate its 400th anniversary next year.

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