The 17th of March signifies so much for me; obviously being Irish it’s filled with all the razzmatazz of our national holiday. However although it wasn’t always the glitzy affair of today, the proverbial pot of gold that attracts foreign visitors to our shores, it was very special.
1965 Dublin Parade
When I was a kid we viewed St. Patrick’s Day as a welcome break in the sweet and sugar drought that was the forty long days and nights of Lent. Starting on Ash Wednesday, we carefully stashed sugary treats in a box for opening on Easter Sunday. The church (or at least so we had convinced our pre-teen selves) granted a special dispensation in honour of St. Patrick and ordained a pause in the purgatory of Lenten sacrifice. If Easter was late, the stash of goodies would have time to appreciate into the sizable hoard. The best result was to be found in the years when the 17th of March fell in the middle of Lent. The worst was when it fell on the candy-desert that is Good Friday or even worse the pre-stash Ash Wednesday!
The parade wasn’t central to my St Patrick’s Day; Croke Park and the finals of the Club Championships were far more important. (photo shows a croke Park of the 1970s)
When my own two kids came along, I really enjoyed laying down a St. Patrick’s Day traditions for them to build upon. They had spent a lot of time in school preparing for the day, making flags complete with shamrocks, learning the life story of St. Patrick and lamenting the torture he endured while tending sheep on those cold barren slopes of Sliabh Mis. I can’t remember which of them spoke in serious tones of the role Niall of the “Nine Sausages” played in the epic story.
We’d hit off early for Dublin (Naas didn’t have a parade) garbed in green (the skies were usually grey!), loaded with sandwiches and sweets and a step ladder. Anyone who has ever brought children to a non-seated event will know that a tall person will ALWAYS stand in front of you and so will appreciate the value of the steps! It gave two kids an amazing vantage point on Dames Street to see all that was happening. Of course there were some who had access to upper windows on the street but we were happy with our “step ladder” view!
As well as that we were among the crowd to hear all the jokes and comments that only Dubs can come up with. We might also touch hands with some of the puppets or catch some of the goodies being thrown from the floats. The parade of the 1980s was still a bit raggle-taggle, like a local parade of today rather than the commercial and artistic “themed” display of the capital’s parade. There were many local enterprises with their displays on flat-back trucks and small neighbourhood bands.
The American Marching Band was beginning to appear and their polished and uniformed appearance and sound thrilled us all.
Their majorettes were from the world of TV.
I thrilled my pair with stories of Helen and Carmel playing in an accordion band on the back of a flat-back, mortified in case someone would spot them and remind them of the spectacle at school the next day! Mine had no understanding of that kind of embarrassment as they looked with envy on the marchers.
Croke Park regained its Paddy’s Day supremacy in my life when the nineties came along. At this stage attending matches especially on Hill 16 with uncles and their friends was way more exciting for my two lads and so the Parade was something we watched on TV that night “Highlights of the day – the Dublin Parade and parades around the country”. I had never realised that parades occurred all over the country.
But very soon I was to be immersed in one such local parade myself! Kilcock formed a parades committee and local clubs and enterprises were encouraged to enter. Scoil Choca staff and students and of course parents all lent their talents and labour to preparing a float, costumes and a marching routine.
Particularly memorable were:
- 2009 Ireland Past and Present which featured a giant Bull of Cooley.
- 2015 Mama Mia with our giant wedding party
3. 2010 Our Kilcock with our Giant Chinese Dragon and over 30 representative costumes – I know there are photos somewhere?
4. 2015 -T-shirts for parading and a revamped St Pat
This year I was invited by the Parade Committee to be GRAND MARSHAL (“auspicious”) of the Kilcock Parade. Dressed in thermals and green I sat on the viewing platform with dignitaries and organisers.
I was introduced to the crowd and a brief bio of my life in Kilcock was presented. Particular mention of my teaching and leadership in Scoil Choca and my involvement in community especially sport was described. It was nice to be reminded of managing a camogie team in Croke Park on the first night hurling was played under lights and the beating of teams from Kilkenny and Wexford in a Leinster Blitz.
The rain arrived just as the parade was about to start but spirits were undaunted and crowds gathered with their painted faces, orange wigs, flags, leprechaun hats and umbrellas.
The floats were brilliant – I particularly enjoyed the wit of the GAA and their wall-building to keep out the Dub footballers and the men’s shed comment on the health system.
Naturally my favourite was Scoil Choca – all the friends from over the years singing Louise Goggin’s composition. Just like with my own 2 lads, I’d like to think I started a GREEN PARADING tradition in Scoil Choca.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day where ever you are in the world and I hope the ties that bind you to this tradition enrich your life with the sense of belonging to this most diverse and dynamic of tribes.
Beanachtaí na Féile Pádraig!