The centrepiece of this festival is a goat (not any old goat but a puck goat). A monument to this infamous goat can be seen by the bank of the river Laune just before the bridge.
History of Puck Fair Killorglin
The origins of this fair or festival are like all things in Kerry subject to debate and discussion. Some of the more commonly recited stories are as follows (these are not necessarily the most plausible);
During the time of the Cromwellian forces (1600’s) when Cromwell and his cronies were pillaging the countryside at the foot of the Macgillycuddy Reeks, they routed a herd of goats grazing on the uplands. The animals took flight before the raiders, and the he-goat or "Puck" broke away on his own and lost contact with the herd. The goat eventually arrived in Cill Orglain (Killorglin) on the banks of the Laune. His arrival there in a state of semi exhaustion alerted the inhabitants of the approaching danger and they immediately set about protecting themselves and their stock. It is said that in recognition of the service rendered by the goat, the people decided to institute a special festival in his honor and this festival has been held ever since.
That the fair is linked to pre-Christian celebrations of a fruitful harvest and that the male goat or "Puck" was a pagan symbol of fertility, like the pagan god Pan.
Other legends regarding the origin of "King Puck" relates to the time of Daniel O'Connell (the liberator), who in the early 1800’s was an unknown barrister. It is reputed that O’ Connell established his reputation as a layer by taking on a case here for the local landlord Mr. Harman Blennerhassett. The landlord had fallen out of favor with the authorities in Dublin castle and as a result he was not allowed to place a toll at cattle, sheep and horse fairs. This resulted in a huge financial disadvantage to Blennerhassett who hired O’ Connell to take a case on his behalf. O’ Connell decided that goats were not covered by the decree from Dublin castle and that the landlord would be legally entitled to hold a goat fair, and levy his tolls as usual. Thus the fair begun and a puck goat was hoisted on a stage to show to all attending that the fair was indeed a goat fair.
The festival or fair at Puck lasts three days, the 10th, 11th and 12th of August each year. The first day of Puck is known as “the gathering”. On this day the Puck goat is enthroned on a stand in the town square and the horse fair is held. The second day of Puck is known as the “Fair day”. On this day a general cattle fair is held. The third and last day of Puck is known as the “scattering” day and on this day the goat is removed from his stand and his reign as king Puck ends and he is returned to the wild Kerry mountains.