Page 16 - The Kerry News 2019
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KERRY NEWS CHRISTMAS 2019
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Over the years a local person will dress up as the old man and wear a mask to hide his identity. He appears disheveled and bent over and has straw inside his clothes.
A younger local is selected to be the ‘New Year’ by Gerard, and another member of a local committee charged with running the festival. Gerard said locals only get one opportunity to be the ‘New Year’ and the chosen person will not be known until the ‘Old Year’ has been apparently shot. “It’s a lovely tradition. Everyone lines the streets and cheers him on.
BOYS
A pipe band and torch men will walk him through the village until he is ‘shot’. It creates a lot of local excitement with locals trying to figure out who will be the ‘New Year’, which is always an honour to be asked to do it. They are expected to give a talk about the New Year and the good things coming up. Then they go around to the houses and wish everyone a happy New Year.”
Ireland’s Oldest New Year’s
292 years of New Year celebration continues in Portmagee when the local community and hundreds of visitors to the picturesque village, ring in the New Year in their own unique way.
They will recreate the scene of a French landing at the pier 292 years ago. The “Old Year” festival, the oldest in the country, is based on the story of a Kinsale brig, flying a French flag, that landed in the area in 1727, three days after Christmas. It had sailed from Nantes, France. The boat’s mission was a cargo that was not in the interest of the British taxpayer, as smuggling on this coast was a familiar feature.
The boat remained until the New Year and following a series of unusual happenings life for the people of Portmagee on New Year’s Eve 1727 was set to change their little village for evermore. “As the locals were retiring
for the night, they heard a strange noise coming from the pier. Many thought it was the banshee,” said Gerard Kennedy, one of the festival organisers. “When they looked down to the pier, they saw the ships crew marching with torches and led by a piper making their way up towards the village.
They marched through the village and in the middle of the soldiers and crew was a shaggy old man who was staggering and was swaying as if his time on this earth was up. Just then a shot rang out and the old man fell to the ground, lifeless. Naturally the locals in the village were stunned into silence.”
Suddenly a younger man, smartly dressed in a swallowtail coat and top hat, arrived on the scene to wish everyone a happy New Year.
It was then explained to the locals and shocked community by the younger
man, that the old man was symbolic of the Old Year and that as of midnight, he was no more.
The younger man represented the New Year and symbolized youth and vitality. That scene has been recreated in the centre of Portmagee every year since that first historic enactment in 1727.
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