St Patrick's Day memories - Galwegians share their memories of St Patrick's from years gone by

Galway St Patrick's Day memories from Lisa Regan, Joanne Murphy, Aisling Dolan, Sean Canney, Brid Ni Chonghoile and Brendan Smith

ST PATRICK'S Day will be an online celebration this year. So as we have to do without the parade, the pageantry, and the festivities, we have asked a number of Galwegians to share their memories of St Patrick's Day parades from years gone by.

Get set for some humour, some great memories, some craic, and some unashamed nostalgia brought to you by The Galway Advertiser and Galway City Council.

Lisa Regan

Lisa Regan, PR and Marketing guru

St Patrick's Day was also an exciting day for us growing up, we headed into the westend to The Atlantia Hotel on Dominick Street to watch the parade. I always loved being in here as it reminds me of my Granny who ran Taylors Bar on Dominick Street.

The day was all about colour, spectacle and being honest, penny sweets. My love for a penny sweets started young with my best Friend Claire Feeney and stayed with us both well into our 20s.

St Patrick's Day in Galway was also full of families, fun and the parade was actually secondary to the excitement of coming to town, sitting on the kerb and being around loads of people. Oh and of course the sweets. Again showing us all that it's people and a connection to place that we all crave and need the most.

Growing up in a small parish called Ballinora in Co Cork, my most vivid memories of St Patrick’s Day are of going to mass in the morning, kitted out in my best clothes, wearing my homemade St Patricks Day badge. I think we used to make the badges in school when we were young. We’d always have green, white and gold ribbons in our hair and surprisingly, on St Patrick’s Day we never struggled to get out of bed for mass, unlike many a Sunday during the year. After mass we’d head into the city to watch the parade and marvel at the floats, the colours and pagentry of the day.

Joanne_Murphy

Joanne Murphy, event commentator and businesswoman

As children, St Patrick’s Day was the one day that we were allowed to break the Lenten Fast to have some sweet treats. This was one of the highlights of the day, getting to pick a treat from the stash that we had saved up throughout Lent. Dad used to give us money to go to the shop too to buy a treat, so it was a double win.

If St Patrick’s Day fell close to the weekend, we would take a trip to Galway to see mum’s Family in Bushypark or to Graiguenmanagh in Kilkenny to see dad’s family. We used to love travelling the country in our yellow Metro. I loved heading off on our family road trips it was always such a fun adventure.

In Galway we would head into the city after Mass to watch the parade and I remember in one particular year, being on Dad's shoulders watching the parade on Shop Street. It was a miserable day but it was so much fun. Another year in Graiguenamangh, I’m not sure how we managed it, but I ended up on a float, Irish dancing on the back of a tractor and trailer.

I have some fond memories of St Patrick's Day as a child, however in March 2010 we travelled to New York and embraced our Irishness to the max. It was so much fun watching the parade, kitted out with our Irish flags and leprechaun hats chatting to complete strangers who just loved the Irish accent and to be honest, who doesn’t love the Irish accent?

Sen Aisling Dolan

Aisling Dolan, Senator

When I was young, my Dad would make sure we had some shamrock from the garden so it would be the usual hunt for safety pins. We would also try and wear something green! As kids we would be dying to get down early after Mass to see the parade in Ballinasloe and see the floats.

The parade always had a great turn-out in town – we were so lucky to have a Town Band, Musical Society, Civil Defence. It was a sense of real pride. And then the Gig rig with some music and the dignitaries giving out medals – it was just magic!

When I lived in Dublin I always tried to make it onto O’Connell St or Parnell Square as I was living in the Northside.

When I lived abroad – I felt even felt more Irish. Again there such a sense of pride in our country and achievements. I remember working in Paris after college and on St Patrick’s Day it was the Six Nations and Ireland playing France – this was a long time ago. Everyone told us we shouldn’t bother going … it had been something crazy like 35 years since Ireland had beaten France in Paris…

Well myself and my friend Eleanor got up and went along to this massive Stade de France. I must admit I didn’t know a lot about rugby. The stadium was quite empty and we were offered sets of free tickets on the way in. And that’s when we got to see this amazing player Brian O’Driscoll in action – hat-trick of tries later and the French knew all about it. No word of a lie there were grown men shedding tears and I think there was an Englishman too! There was such a celebration and we even got captured on French TV as part of the Irish contingent.

When we were running our campaign for Ballinasloe Says No – we put a float together to show how important it was to protect our town from hundreds of trucks as well as protect our environment and the bogland areas. To think that was my first-time in a St Patrick’s Day parade back in 2018, and we won a community prize.

Sean Canney

Sean Canney, TD Galway East

As a young child living in Claretuam on a small family farm, St. Patrick’s Day marked the high point of the lambing season.

I remember going out picking the shamrock in the field, bringing it in to my mother who would wash it and pin it to our jackets before we’d go to Mass.

Obviously the dinner on St. Patrick’s Day was a big occasion with my parents and six siblings sitting around the table and listening to the radio for the Railway Cup finals (we had no television then )

One abiding memory I have is after coming from Mass, I was asked by my father to check on the ewes out in the field who were due to lamb. To my delight I had found that a ewe had given birth to triplets, the first time I had ever seen this.

I spent the day making sure that the triplets were cared for and had sufficient milk to drink. I also made sure that we had a shed ready and bedded for the sheep to be put in so that we could look after the three lambs together.

At that time we didn’t go to parades and the day was spent at home. If it was a fine day we would be out kicking a ball around the field. It was nothing exciting, but very much involved with nature and farming.

Brid Ni Chonghoile

Brid Ni Chonghoile, Gaillimh Le Gaeilge

As a child, Lá Fhéile Pádraig was all about having the biggest bunch of 'seamróg' on your lapel ... a day off from ‘an Carghas’ (Lent ) and going to mass that morning to sing ‘Dóchas Linn Naomh Pádraig’ with pride and gusto.

We had no parades or 'Seachtain na Gaeilge'. My family home is in Ceathrú na gCloch, which is located in the north-west Mayo Gaeltacht. We spoke Irish all year round. I left home at 12 years of age to attend boarding school and I was shocked to find that everyone did not speak Irish outside my village. (I didn’t leave it very often! )

On Saint Patrick’s morning, we all got up early to go outside (weather seemed always ok then ) to pick some seamróg for the household. Everyone wore the seamróg with pride. Badges were frowned upon; a bunch of the freshly picked, glossy green 3 leaf seamróg always had more status. I remember us girls in the family (I have five sisters ) made an extra effort to wear green on the day as well.

We all went to Mass and afterwards, we visited the neighbours in the village who couldn’t attend Mass; we gave them some seamróg that was blessed by the priest earlier. We would have the 'seanchas' with them - usually about who was at Mass and was there any great style, who was home from England for the celebrations and who would be the first to the pub to ‘break out’. They would comment on the seamróg that you wore – “cén gharraí a bhfuair tú an tseamróg sin ann, tá sé ganc féimiúil” (what field did you find that shamrock in, it looks mighty ). You would be so proud of that and of course, disappointed if they didn’t comment on it!

We have a family pub at home which opened officially for the first time on Saint Patricks Day (58 years ago ). So March 17 has a special significance for us as a family and indeed for our customers, who are our extended family. I always loved and still do, hearing stories about our grandfather and grandmother who came back from America and opened the pub and how it brought life back into the village.

I worked alongside my Uncle Johnny, beannacht Dé leis. Some of our customers who gave up the drink for ‘an Carghas’, 'broke out' that day. The regulars named 'Pádraig' were treated as if it were their own birthday and for some of them, it was! There was a lot of singing and a sense of good things to come. There was also a lot of toasting “Sláinte agus beannacht Dé leo” for those who were no longer with us.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig will be different in Mayo this year as it will be for everyone all over Ireland - ach tá dóchas le haireachtáil san aer go bhfuil an taoide ag casadh. Beimid i dteannta a chéile arís ag ceiliúradh agus ag seanchas le cúnamh Dé. Go dtí sin, Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona le gach duine agus fanaigí slán agus sábháilte! (- but there is hope to be felt in the air that the tide is turning. We will be together again celebrating and chatting with God's help. Until then, happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone and stay safe and well! )

Brendan Smith St Patrick's Day

Brendan Smith, Education & Public Engagement Officer

A St. Patrick’s Day in my childhood was a somewhat sombre affair. Except for a sprig of shamrock or a small ribbon pinned on the lapel of a jacket or coat, there was no colour ‘green’ to be seen in any town or city the length and breadth of Ireland on our national holiday. Yes, there were indeed a few brave souls that had the temerity to ostentatiously cover themselves from head-to-toe with garish bright green garb to merrily and proudly walk the streets with a spring in their steps. These folk though were probably under the illusion they were wearing the standard patriotic dress code for the day that was in it.

Yet the majority of the native population seemed to frown on their behaviour and refer to them as over-the-top Yanks on holiday. Whereas many of the rest of us put on our traditional conservative Sunday best and went as a family to solemn Mass to give solemn thanks to glorious St. Patrick. Of course being little kids we would then love to run along to the main street and push ourselves to the front of the crowd in anticipation of seeing all the fun and excitement of a boisterous street parade. But oftentimes there was little of either.

Even the biggest parade in Dublin was extremely dull compared to today’s colourful diverse affair. Yes, there were indeed some fantastic musical nuggets that I still have cherished memories off, namely the marching bands of school children playing on the tin whistles, the factory workers’ musical brass instruments belting out some classical tunes, the céilí dancers doing a jig on the back of an open truck, and especially the stirring rebel airs of the ‘Minstrel Boy’ or ‘Roddy McCorley’ emanating from an army pipe band.

But amazingly there was hardly a smile between all of the musicians on parade, chaperoned as they were by very stern looked heavy-coated stewards. The floats that took up much of the procession were too often bland trailers, tractors or lorries with a few big hoardings promoting local businesses. In my experiences, art, comedy, creativity and sparkle were not themes associated with a St. Patrick’s Day in the mid 1960s to early 1970s.

No special food dishes or traditions were enjoyed at home by our family. Television though was my saviour revealing to me that the Irish could celebrate the national holiday with gusto and pride. Either that night but more likely the following evening thrilling scenes that seemed straight out of a Hollywood musical would appear magically onscreen showing huge enthusiastic crowds of people waving flags and covered in shamrocks and leprechauns regalia along Fifth Avenue in New York City watching lines and lines of wonderfully dressed smiling cops and fire brigade crews, lavishly ornate floats, beautiful female majorettes performing synchronised steps, and large college bands playing with energy and enthusiasm.

Big banners proclaimed a love for the ‘old sod’ and a desire for it to be united, prosperous and free. Some may say it was too paddywhackery or nationalistic. Not me. I really could relate to those emotions and a sense of pride in the ‘wearing of the green’ shown by our American cousins whose ancestors too often had to overcome injustice and discrimination. It was the Irish in America who invented the delightful college marching bands and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade which we have since adopted and enriched by their animated up-tempo Irish music and dance styles, ornate Celtic symbolism and family-friendly festivals.

Jakub Kostanski

Jakub Kostanski (19 ), Youth Advisory Committee member Youth Work Ireland Galway and Social Care Student.

I have always loved St Patrick’s Day, I have taken part in the parade for years. I started when I was in the Claddagh National school and marched with them until I went to secondary school in St. Enda’s. In 2016 I started marching with the Polish Community in Galway, I was dressed as the snake in 2016 & 17 then in 2018 I decided to give everyone a good laugh so I dressed up as Sponge Bob and in 2019 I was St. Patrick himself.

But 2020 was so different for me, I was in Leaving Cert year, I was worried and stressed preparing for my music practical. 2020 was my first year I haven't taken part in because there was no Paddy's Day. It felt so weird not going to practise and being part of something fun and exciting for everyone. It was a break from school and study and a time to have a bit of craic and just enjoy the day with friends and family. It's just this one day you feel it's ok to not to think about studying or college or school and just let yourself go into a world of fun and laughter. But instead of having that break, that got away, and I buried myself into more books and notes just to forget about this pandemic and try to get through the worst year of my life. Who would have thought that a global pandemic would interrupt my Leaving Cert.

This year I am in my first year in college, so I hope it will be less stressful and I am looking forward to celebrating the day without books this year, but with my friends in whatever form the Covid restrictions allow.

Read our full St Patrick's Day feature in our Digital Edition.

See also Galway St Patrick's Day memories from Mayor Mike Cubbard, Tracy Bruen, Fergal McGrath, Kevin Higgins, and Keith Wallace.

Tune in on our social media page for a #StPatrickTakeover on March 17th 2021 for more St Patrick's Day festivities!

 

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