Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Puck Fair August 10, 1977 - When I met Hector Piggott


I have seen quite a bit in my three score years on the old Terra-  phones went off the wall and into my pocket, slide-rules became calculators, televisions won't work unless I pay not only my light bill, but a fee to a cable company.  Yes, it has been one interesting glide on the old pavement. Shucks, in no time at all Governor Pat Quinn will sign legislation that Noel Coward could have used with Clifton Webb ( both gents were gayer than 1890 picnics) to start having little Noel Webbs, or Clifton Cowards and singing show tunes around the Steinway in the parlor.

Wild stuff. Now, I have been to three Puck Fairs, fourteen Kankakee County Fairs, three hog call contests, but I have never seen anything like Hector Piggott.

 Ah, the The Puck Fair - packed pubs and plethorae pints; food items that would sicken a starving goat - like King Puck Himself. Voila! Black Pudding Eggs

Puck Fairs, you ask?  The Puck Fair* takes place in the town of Killorglin, in County Kerry Ireland.  I have been to three as I stated.  The Puck Fair is a wild festival notable for the hosting of Travellers from all over the British Isles. The Travellers are gypsies - folks who move about in Caravans, or recreational rolling homes - campers, RVs. They tend to be adept in the roguish arts -three card Monte, con games, bucket drop artists and the odd thief, or twenty in a score.

The Puck Fair is named for King Puck - a goat who is placed in a tower for the three days of the fair.  You will see fire walkers, bearded ladies and beardless laddies, snake charmers and charming snakes on two legs or less.  It is quite fun.

In 1977, after my sophomore of teaching high school, I went Ireland.  On August 10th I went to my sophomore Puck Fair - my freshman year Puck Fair took place in 1974, the year I took my Artium Baccalaureus from Loyola University, but had not encountered the Prodigious Hector Piggott, it was Golden '77 that this encounter took place.

I had a good time at the fair and generally kept my wits about me ; being a Catholic high school teacher blessed me with impecunity and thus, a small level of restraint as far as potent potables. I took in the sights and sounds and smells and generally avoided over-indulgence and occasions of getting my ass-kicked by the Pikeys, or the locals.  I was not lured to games of chance by Hibernian Hucksters nor gulled into an unseemly amorous ambush by the slatternly sirens who seemed to crowd out the causeway. Lovely samplings, but I declined.

It was a sign proclaiming - The Prodigious Piggott in the Tent Beyond -Absolutely NO Women Allowed, Clergy Included that hooked this fish.

For an entry fee of three Shillings, about $1.75 at the 1977 rate of exchange, I had to witness this marvel. Within a shabby and wind-torn canvas, there were no seats and barely room for man and boy, but wedged in as the show began.

A man in an Edwardian black cape that fair covered his naked ankles stood before the scores of gawkers. He was toothless, unshavenly homely and stood a full 6' tall.  With a flourish he opened the cape to reveal himself in his full Adam suit.   

The man of sixty years was gifted with Wedding Tackle that unprovoked and limp defied the hem of the cloak for mastership of his ankles.

"Them Canadian Mounties'd have no task trackin' this Yoke in the frozen North!"

" Cupid's Howitzer, so!"

"Aye, So! The Good Lord sh'pent long week plannin' that bosthun's pudding."

However, the Prodigious Piggott coaxed this appendage into full charge with a deft manipulation of his fingers and . . .. Behold Leviathan Itself!

The tent gasped in manly admiration and universal acclaim.  However, Piggott was not done.  With the Leviathan Rampant he managed to place three walnuts on a table and then proceeded to pummel each with a single stroke of Flesh Made Steel.

Sir Georg Solti never heard an applause like the one I added to in that tent.

In 1998, I returned to Ireland and the Puck Fair.  I was into the marrow of mid-life and recently widowed.  The entertainment afforded in Killorglin might knock the cobwebs from my soul.   I was astonished to see a sign pointing my path to a tent shrouding the majesty of  The Prodigious Hector Piggott.  I had to see this; my God, the man must be all of ninety.  He was.

He was yet a marvel of God's gift to man and talisman of the species.  Ninety years old and change and in his fullest of powers!

This time, however, once he had whaled the langer into full charge like a fire hose at 2/11 blaze, Hector Piggott placed three huge coconuts on the table and executed each one's demise with a single bludgeon from his Leviathan, sending chunks and bits of them brown hairy fruit in wide arches about the tent.

When the awed tent of Kerrymen retreated to Puck Fair Causeway, I had to ask The Prodigious Piggott - "Sir, why at your age did you select a larger and more robust target for your equipment?"

Drawing himself to his fullest height and the Edwardian Black Cape about himself, Hector Piggot cocked an eyebrow and offered,  " Me eyes ain't so good these days, Yank."

There by hangs this Tale.

*Puck Fair:1613 to TodayThere are many legends which suggest an origin for the Fair, many of which are wildly inventive, but there is no written record stating when the Fair started. It can however be traced back to a charter from 1603 by King James I granting legal status to the existing fair in Killorglin.
It has been suggested that it 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.
The origins of the fair have thus been lost in the midst of antiquity, and various commissions set up over the past two hundred years have tried in vain to date them. Evidence suggests that the fair existed long before written record of everyday occurrences were kept as there is one written reference from the 17th Century in existence which grants Jenkins Conway, the local landlord at the time, the right to collect a sum for every animal brought to the August Fair. This would suggest that the Fair was something already well established in the local community.
With special thanks to Max Weismann

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