Friday, 7 June, 2013

Travelling through West Kerry in August 1906, John Millington Synge wrote: “On the main roads, for many days past, I have been falling in with tramps and trick characters of all kinds, sometimes single and sometimes in parties of four or five… A crowd is as exciting as champagne to these lonely people, who live in long glens among the mountains… At the foot of the platform, where the crowd was thickest, a young ballad-singer was howling in honour of Puck, making one think of the early Greek festivals, since the time of which, it is possible, the goat has been exalted yearly in Killorglin.”

Synge was describing Puck Fair, an event that stretches back to pagan times and which revolves around the crowning of a wild goat that reigns as King Puck from atop a three-story high platform in the middle of Killorglin town. In her wonderful 1965 travelogue, The Orgy, American poet Muriel Rukeyser offers a Synge-similar description of her pilgrimage to Puck Fair, which she declared to be a carnival of debauchery:

“Killorglin looks like a drab little Victorian town. And is, except for three days of the year, in August… All this time people from all over are converging on the town — all over Kerry, of course, all over the country, and from Persia, they say, and Spain, and Europe, and cops in New York save up all year to go to Puck. The night before the Fair, all the little shops around the square, that sell all the things little shops sell — they close, and in the morning when they open, each one is a pub. The goat is crowned king — they say the tinkers choose their king there, too, but that of course is done in secret. The town is wide open, they say. It’s the last of the goat festivals: Greece, Spain, Scotland, England — the last.”

Last night, Kevin Barry’s City of Bohane, a thriller set in a futuristic west of Ireland, won the Impac literary award and €100,000. The final chapter is titled “On the Night of the August Fair”, an event that resembles Puck Fair.

Puck Fair

Comments (3)

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  1. Henry Barth says:

    Great photo of several Americans returned for “The Gathering!”

  2. Thanks, Henry. Loved that phone call!