By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA
A local authority has unveiled a “magnificent” statue in north Co Clare, inspired by the Irish folklore figure An Puca and the area’s equine heritage.
The Puca statue, which was commissioned by Clare County Council in 2021 and made by Kilkenny artist Aidan Harte, was initially meant to be placed in Ennistymon, Co Clare.
But after some locals objected to two-metre tall bronze art piece due to its appearance, with a priest denouncing it during Sunday mass, the statue has been unveiled in a new location.
The Michael Cusack Centre is located in Carron, in an area historically named as ‘Poll a Phuca’ in Irish, which translates as ‘lair of the Puca’.
This was selected as the artwork’s home following an expressions-of-interest process held earlier this year and managed by Clare County Council.
Now located at the thatched-cottage exhibition centre near the Burren National Park, the statue is hoped to be a “significant draw” for visitors, Clare County Council said.
Chairman of the board of the Michael Cusack Centre Donal O hAinifein said: “We are delighted to be selected to host the Puca.
“We are thrilled that the fantastic Puca artwork is coming home.
“The Michael Cusack Centre is a most appropriate setting for this magnificent figure.”
Mr O hAinifein confirmed that there are advanced plans to develop an annual event celebrating the Puca.
“The annual Samhain/Puca Storytelling Festival on November 1st will celebrate the folklore around the Puca with a programme of events ranging from the academic to children’s art,” he said.
The inaugural event is to be held later this year, and will also coincide with the 175th anniversary of the birth of Michael Cusack in Carron, who is the founder of the GAA (the Gaelic Athletic Association).
Leonard Cleary, director of rural development with Clare County Council, described the Michael Cusack Centre as “a fitting home for the Puca and will add value to both the installation and the community-run visitor attraction”.
The statue’s creator Aidan Harte said: “I want to thank the people of Carron and the Burren for making this scallywag welcome.
“I couldn’t pick a better backdrop. The Puca has come home. A wild place for a wild thing.”
Mr Harte described the Puca as one of Irish folklore’s great characters.
“Douglas Hyde, the first president of Ireland, described ‘a terrible steed’ carrying mortals to fairyland on his back,” he said.
“Catch him in the right mood, said Hyde, and the Puca tells fortunes and grants wishes.
“People who never heard these stories want to know if the Puca is bad or good. He’s neither.
“Like the rest of us, he’s inconsistent.”