Photo Essay: St. Patrick’s Day in Cork

Happy Paddy's Day to you!  Hope yours was green, lively, safe, and fun.  Here are a few – OK, a bunch of – snaps of the local goings on here in Cork, Ireland.  Enjoy!


Part 1: Before the Madness

Play "Call to the Dairy Cows" from the William Tell Overture, or maybe Edvard Grieg's "Morning" to get a sense of the lovely idyll that is Sunday Morning in Cork.  People are either at church or sleeping off the bender from the night before, and the streets are gloriously empty…


Morning idyll in Cork

You can almost hear the birdies chirping…


Instagram brand of calm

Smacks of tea and scones while reading the morning paper, no?



Barriers up!  No Balrogs need apply.


Wee and green :)

Aleesha featured with permission.  I hope her mammy likes this pic.  :)


My friend, Emily, and I had previously scouted out a restaurant with a good view of the festivities.  We got there when they opened, 2 hours before the parade, to get a good seat.  It was only us for an hour or so, but then families began to join.  One particularly cute addition to the crowd was a tiny person who fit on the counter.


2nd best seat in the house.  Maybe.

Our spot was considerably more comfortable.


9 windows and a 4-faced liar

Church of St. Anne Shandon peeks around the corner.


There were other enterprising folks who had nice observation spots above the parade route.  While the view from our giant, picture windows couldn't be beat, being able to open them and hear the music would have been nice.  Perhaps next year we'll inquire at the dress hire shop like these folks.  I'm quite fond of this photo, however, as it features one of my favorite Cork landmarks, the clock tower of St. Anne Shandon, known as "The Four-Faced Liar," on account of all four clocks showing different times.


Let the Festivities Begin!

Spectators had arrived and taken their stations.  Parts of the parade arrived, too, but only in fits and starts.  There is a bit of a pacing issue with this small town trying on the big kid pants.  Speaking of big kid pants, the first large group to appear included the real fighting Irish.


More authentic than Notre Dame.

The members of Ireland's armed forces march like their feet hurt.  And their heads.
Which, given the day, perhaps they do.


Pipe band numero uno

A rare sighting.


The first time I heard bagpipes in Ireland, I was in my apartment.  I was so excited I immediately threw open the window and poked my head outside to see where the music was coming from.  Much to my chagrin, I realized it was for a funeral procession.  My sheepish withdrawal soon followed…  Yes, not as many bagpipes in Erin as you might think.


Rosary dosary do!

"Fiddle with your rosaries…"


It wouldn't be an Irish parade without some Catholic representation.  Although Rome's influence has been waning in recent years, it's still a deeply embedded part of the culture.  I'm too iconoclastic to really dive head on into any set religion, but learning about the struggles for Catholic emancipation here were really eye opening.  The right to worship – or not – as you choose is a struggle that's been played out on many a world stage.


Can't see the video?  Watch it on YouTube:


However, as this blog is about cheerful gaiety, and this particular post is about a feel good event like a parade, I would like to interject a bit of irreverent cheer, courtesy of Tom Lehrer.


Two island nations living in karate-bound harmony.

Land of the Rising Sun meets Land of the Rarely Seen Sun.


Despite the underlying Irishness of it all, Cork's parade has become decidedly multicultural.  Immigrant organizations make a fair showing, as do a number of sports and martial arts groups, some of whom carry the flag of the country where their particular discipline originated.



Steamed fish.


The Cork Community Art Link always brings fun and interesting critters to life.  I know of them mainly from the fantastic Dragon of Shandon Samhain Parade, but I always look forward to seeing their work.


Spirit of the Lee-ish.  Or something.

"That white thing was great.  Whatever it was!"
(overheard at the window)


This piece, which may or may not be titled "The Spirit of the Lee", is made out of out of Sellotape and featured occasional water spouts from the top of the umbrella.  One of the three older ladies who joined us at the window thought she'd heard something about Cork Community Art Link doing something with that title.  I think maybe we didn't pick up on it at first because there were no shopping trolleys (carts) on the sculpture.  The river is a bit of a hoarder when it comes to trolleys, you see, but you can only view them when the tide is out.  Otherwise, they are kept hidden and secret as a treat for the fish.


sting of the young hurlers

Do not mess with young hurlers: they look like wasps and bear weapons.


One of the things I LOVE about the youth sports teams in Ireland is how there are just as many girls as boys.  If anything, the Na Piarsaigh hurling and football club appears to have more girls than boys.  Such cheerful little hard chargers, all of 'em, dressed in their black and yellow and carrying hurleys.


happy day!  more pipers!  :D

Two groups of pipers is two more than I've seen in the last year.


Women make up a significant portion of the piping community, too, it would seem.  Nice!


Sudanese folks

Sudanese Community Association of Cork Ireland.  Who knew?


This year I counted four African countries/groups: Republic of Congo, the Sudanese community, Ghana, and Nigeria.  I seem to recall there were more at the first St. Patrick's Day parade I attended, but can't be sure.  I wonder if there was only one Sudan when some of these folks moved to Ireland.  As an expat, I wonder how I'd feel about my home country dividing up into two separate nations while I was away.  Well, it would probably be Texas vs. everyone else, so I guess it wouldn't be too much of a shock.


Golden Dragon is not a buffet

The golden dragon circles Father Mathew.  I shall name it "Temperance"…


The picture of the dragon doesn't do it justice.  It was not just yellow, it was golden – and lovely!  I suppose it speaks volumes that the two things that occur to me when I think "golden dragon" are: 1) restaurant name, and 2) World of Warcraft


I think I can see the end from here...

Nearly finished.


There were groups from the Philippines, more marching bands, belly dancers, theater groups, fire trucks, dance troupes, and several groups I was unable to identify because they either had no sign or had it half rolled up.  The Americans I know tend to find it rather ho-hum after a while, but based on what the three older ladies sitting with us said, it's really quite an upgrade from parades past.  20 or 30 years ago it was "…advertisements for alcohol, tobacco, or coal.  And all on lorries!*"  I think the technical aspects could use some tuning up – pacing, banners identifying the groups, more interaction with the crowd – but all in all found it a lovely expression of community spirit.  It still feels very small town and friendly, which I really like.



The Aftermath

Emily told me she was quite shocked how our relatively tidy little city becomes a mountain of rubbish after the parade, especially in the vicinity of certain fast food joints with Scottish-sounding names.  Ahem.  It's true, there was trash on the street, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I'd feared.  The city cleaners had it all straightened out in relatively short order.


all gone!

About 10 minutes after the parade was over.  Everyone's off for tea!


parade evidence

Forensics shows that this is rubbish from a St. Patrick's Day parade in Ireland.


People vacated the parade route in very short order.  Probably because down on Grand Parade (a street name, not another event), there were a series of food and goods booths set up.  One of the best known tea brands in Ireland is Barrys.  On St. Patrick's Day, they give out free cups of tea, so naturally everyone gets in line (or "queue", as they say here).  The default tea in Ireland is no frills, basic, black.  However, their line of green teas was the special of the day.  Naturally.


Authentically Irish, of course.

It's a lovely hat.


There has been a picture making the rounds on Facebook and other social media of crazy, green clad, beer drinking Americans celebrating St. Patrick's Day.  It is juxtaposed against a photo of Irish people, calmly drinking in a pub enjoying the craic.  The second photo is overlaid with the text, "Meanwhile in Ireland…"  The implication being that only Americans completely lose all sense of decorum and fashion sense on the 17th of March. 

I am here to tell you that this is not the case.  The craze is catching and came back across the Atlantic some time ago.  Heck, this tendency for Irish cosplay has spread around the world.  It appears to be growing here and, frankly, I think that's OK.  I'm a little sad when a great native tradition gets replaced by name brands and flashy commercialism.  But to hear my Irish friends tell it, St. Patrick's Day was rarely more than "meh" in recent memory.  Indeed, the name brands on their lorries have been pushed out of the parade in favor of local art groups – how cool is that?  So go ahead and paint yourself green, put on a silly hat and a false beard, and raise a glass to St. Patrick.  Then bless the Irish for giving you this reason to celebrate!

Until next year…

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


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