St Patrick’s Day- Memories

Growing up in Roscommon Town St Patrick’s Day was always different to most other county towns in Ireland as our annual parade did not take place until Easter Sunday.
My earliest memories were of going to morning mass. Most of the adults and particularly the men were wearing the shamrock. Some of the shamrock was nice and neat on the lapels of the jackets but some people had big lumps of greenery which looked comical. Other people wore little badges with the tri-colour on. The priest always said mass in Irish too we hadn’t a clue what he was saying for the most part but we could say the ‘Our Father’ in Irish.
Many years ago I know my late father used to go to the Railway Cup finals in Croke Park. It is very hard to explain to a young GAA fan now that big crowds used to attend the Interprovincial finals on our national holiday. But as the interest in the ‘Railway Cup’ waned, the GAA replaced the St Patrick’s Day programme with the club finals in hurling ad football and it was a great idea. Now there are 25 to 40 thousand people there every St Patrick’s Day.
Indeed I have spent our national holiday in Croker at least 10 times over the years. Clann na nGael fans won’t need me to remind them that they were there four years in a row in the late 80’s and early 90’s and never won a title unfortunately. St Brigid’s were there twice and won memorably in 2013. But club finals day is a great day out for any GAA fan.
In my Shannonside days I used to cover St Patrick’s Day parades in local towns like Boyle, Ballaghaderreen, Carrick on Shannon, and Cloonfad among others. The effort that the local communities put into these parades never ceases to amaze me, and it continues to this day. Although I have to admit that my memories were of St Patrick’s Day being almost always cold and wet and not very nice weather wise. It didn’t matter to local people who turned out in force regardless of the conditions.
I know that there have been so many changes in the fabric of Irish society over the years but St Patricks Day used to be great fun in pubs and bars throughout the country, There was always an effort to put on Irish music and even in recent years the rock and dance music would be of the Irish variety. However there has been a such a change in the way Irish people socialise, and not all of it for the better either. However this year St Patrick’s Day falls on Saturday and hopefully local towns and villages will be busy.
There is one thing that I will have to do some of these years and that is to attend the big parade in Dublin. I have never been at it and it looks a spectacular event. It’s on the bucket list.
I have often felt that people outside of Ireland celebrate St Patrick’s Day with more gusto than we do here. I was in San Fransisco for the celebrations one year and it was probably the most enjoyable one I can remember. Literally everyone was Irish for the day. Anyone who has been to New York on our national holiday say that the city comes alive.
That our Taoiseach can go to Washington and have a private meeting with the American President on St Patrick’s Day is a sign of just how important the Irish connection is viewed. However one wonders what Donald Trump makes of it all!
We have a lot to be proud of in this little country of ours. I know we have many problems too but despite everything that has happened especially in recent years there is a basic decency in most Irish people and our influence has reached far and wide, Just look at the community spirit that we saw during the recent storms. We may need to stick together more than ever in the coming years as the effects of Brexit are felt but Irish people are resilient and we will come through it.
Enjoy the day, It’s good to be Irish!

(From The Roscommon People)