There was no epic chase, this year, on the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks for the 400th anniversary of Ireland’s oldest festival-fair — as this was “a prince in waiting”, according to veteran goat catcher Frank Joy.
He has been goat catcher for the fair for almost a quarter of a century.
Mr Joy and his son Francis caught the King near their farm outside Glenbeigh.
The black, white, and brown goat will simply be known as “King”, unlike other years when goats have been called after well-known people — including a local judge who allowed the fair’s late night bar exemptions to continue as normal.
He is a true feral goat and from his build, and his straight horns, Mr Joy recognises him as one of the old work goats.
There are few enough of them now, he said, but along the west coast they were mounted with panniers and used to carry turf or “scads” from the mountains.
Mountainous people often did not have turberry rights and were forced to collect the scads from the mountains, with the goat bringing home the turf down sheer cliff faces, Mr Joy explained.
King Puck the 400th is a very special royal — not only will he reign over a Kingdom that’s had more royal leaders than any other on the globe, but he’s also been the first ever prince in waiting in Ireland’s most famous monarchy, Mr Joy said.
He was spotted three years ago on the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks as being the finest specimen on the mountains and the Puck worthy of holding the throne for the 400 year celebrations.
And yesterday, Mr Joy revealed he has been coaxing the goat ever since.
As a result, no chase was needed this year and it walked right up to the Joys. “It was unbelievable; we can be weeks tracking the goats to catch the right animal but he just calmly walked right up to us. It was as if he knew he was the ‘chosen one’ and was answering his calling.”
He will be crowned on Saturday next, Gathering Day, and ritually dethroned on Monday after a three-day reign.
The festival this year is a four-day affair and begins on Friday with a welcome to cyclists who began last week at Trafalgar Square in London.
The festival is to mark the “greatest Gathering ever of the diaspora”, said committee chairman Declan Mangan.
Up to 100,000 people traditionally flood into the town of Killorglin every August to see a goat crowned king and a kingdom declared for the duration of the fair.
Puck Fair’s origins are believed to go well beyond 400 years ago but the first written reference is a charter from James I in 1613 which grants Jenkins Conway, the local landlord at the time, the right to collect a sum for every animal brought to the August Fair held in the town. This would suggest the Fair was already well established.
Passports will be for sale both online and at the fair.
* For details of Puck Fair 400+, see www.puckfair.ie