Horse Fair/Donkey Fair
This picture is of the first day of the three-day Puck Fair of 1970 which was held on 9th, 10th and 11th August. The festival known as the Puck Fair takes place annually in Killorglin, Co. Kerry.
The origins of the Puck Fair are uncertain, but written records from the 17th century refer to the fair at that time and it has been suggested that the fair’s origins are even pre-Christian.
Each year, a wild male goat is captured locally and crowned King Puck in the town of Killorglin by a schoolgirl in her role as the Queen of Puck. The crowning signifies the beginning of the festivities. What is certain is that the Puck Fair has survived for centuries, because of a resilient people’s drive to overcome every obstacle humanity and nature has put in their way.
Even during Ireland’s most trying times, the Puck Fair took place with good attendances reported. This annual fair took place throughout the Great Famine of 1845-51. It would appear that the hardship inflicted on Killorglin and the whole county of Kerry seemed to only encourage the turnout, as people possibly sought comfort in meeting family and friends in the light atmosphere of the fair. The fair of 1845 was described as ‘the best fair ever held in Killorglin’. The fair of 1846 was well attended, and business boomed in 1847 as ponies and pigs were in big demand.
The success of the fair in 1847 is remarkable when one considers that year, known as Black ’47, was the worst of the Famine. With Famine still scarring the land and the people, and a cholera outbreak spreading rapidly toward western counties in 1848, the Puck Fair nevertheless proved too strong for both challenges and was held as usual in August that year. 1849 was no different as sellers, buyers and the curious packed into Killorglin to see the crowning of the goat.
The fair took place every year during the Great War (1914-18) and fears that the politically-charged atmosphere following the 1916 Rising might upset the event were not realised, though a situation did arise that August. At the 1916 fair, it was noticed that among the usual flags flown for the festival was the flag used by the rebels in Easter Week. The RIC were called and the flag was cut down and removed. The following year King Puck himself was decorated with ‘Sinn Féin flags’.
The Puck Fair festival continues to attract thousands of people to the town of Killorglin over three days each August.