Memories Of Puck
By: Patrick O`Sullivan

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Going to Puck Fair in Killorglin was one of the great delights of summer in the old days. 

As the time of the fair drew nearer and nearer again, we looked forward to it with that relish, that anticipation with which another might have looked forward to the return of some long lost friend from some far and distant shore.

It had that kind of feel to it, the place where friendships were restored and renewed, the memories relived again. “Welll, are ye going to Puck this year?” This was a question posed to young and old alike. “Well have to give some run, I suppose. Sure we`d think we`d miss something otherwise,” the familiar refrain from the older generation by way of reply.

We often took a shortcut to Puck by walking up the strand, the tide lapping at our feet in the early evening time, the swans going by on the sunlit stream. We passed the old stone cabin, once used by the bailiffs, the cliffs of old red sandstone garrisoned behind.

The horse fair was held in the fair field in those days, chestnuts, bays and greys as well as spirited piebalds, massed in every part. Many of the piebalds had the look of the hills about them the craggy slopes the shining streams; redolent as they were of all of those black and white westerns, so popular then, when the Indians came streaming over the ridge on their flighty piebalds.

Part of the field though was given over to Bird’s Amusements the familiar merry-go-round and chair-a-planes etched against the streetscape beyond. There was nothing that the older people liked better than to stand a while and buy a few tickets at the bazaar.

Here everything from the pious to the practical was on offer as prizes. There were holy pictures and china, statues and saucepans and so much more besides; a shaft with pointed tip spinning above the numbers that made a great circle around the table.

We stood and watched it go round and round until at last it came to rest above the winning number. checked, there was the familiar refrain “Winner alright and we’re off again.”

There were very few dressers in those days that did not have some token, some memento, of Bird’s bazaar: china made in Arklow or Carrigaline the most familiar of all. My father regularly won a set of ware, one with & motif of narcissuses given pride of place on the dresser for years, the pristine white of the flowers and buds the perfect foil for the green of the stems.

These were the cups that were used at the Stations one time, the time when one of the elderly women of the place insisted on cooking the priest’s breakfast over the open fire, despite the fact that we had just invested in a new gas cooker.

Looking back it was as if she was the matriarch for the day, appropriating to herself, as she did, complete control of the frying pan and its contents.

Birds were not the only bazaar at Puck, however. There was another, the American Bazaar as it was called, literally in the shadow of the Puck Fair stand in the town square. This was essentially a wheel of fortune and Patrick Daly from County Limerick was its genial host.

He, too, had his catchphrases, phrases that will still be remembered by those of a certain vintage. “Watch your number while she’s rolling, while she’s strolling on the American Bazaar. You can pick, choose or select any prize you like.”

No visit to Puck would have been complete without a visit to the American Bazaar, the noisy spinning of the wheel very much part of its appeal, the hiss and bustle of the fair on every side.

It was one of my grandmother’s first ports of call when she went to Puck. I think she liked the atmosphere of the place and she was lucky enough to win a prize now and then into the bargain.

There was a time when the train brought visitors from far and near to Puck. The train served Killorglin between the years 1885 and 1960 when the line closed at last. During Its heyday, the Great Southern Railway offered “special trains and cheap tickets from all towns in Munster to this unique gathering.”

A regatta was often held in conjunction with the fair, a fitting acknowledgement of the town’s historic links with the beautiful river Laune. Still it was the passing of the train that filled so many with nostalgia when they looked back on the Pucks of old.

Special bus services replaced the train in the 1960’s but nothing could replace the romance of the railways. The rhythmic chug of the engine over the railway bridge, the sounding of the whistle when the station was in view.

I still have some of the cups that my father won years ago in Puck and when I take one in my hand I am glad of the memories still. Days of sunshine and delight when going to Puck were part of the magic of summer.

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