In 1975 Mam was even more glad than usual to see us off for the day, as she was heavily pregnant with her fifth child. Dad had arranged to meet a long-lost American cousin of his in town, who was here ‘doing’ Ireland and the St Patrick’s festivities. The look on my mother’s face when he dragged this cousin home for tea, unannounced, was memorable.
Dad, a traditional Irish man, brought the honoured guest into the ‘good’ room to entertain her while tea was prepared by his nine-months-pregnant Mrs. But unbeknownst to them, the Mrs was already in labour. Not wanting to make a fuss in front of the guest – God forbid that we wouldn’t show her some Irish hospitality! – Mam called me into the kitchen where I found her grimacing in pain. Womanfully making the tea between contractions, she instructed me to run to a neighbour up the road and ask her to mind us while she went to the hospital. This I did, tea was served, and it was explained to our American relative that Mam and Dad were unfortunately required to absent themselves.
Off they went to Holles Street, arriving barely ten minutes before our only brother made his appearance. Everyone said they’d have to call him Patrick, for the day that was in it. But having waited so long for a boy, they had two other names in mind.
So, Raymond Xavier Patrick Boyle it was. Catherine Crichton
There are advantages to living in a small town in East Galway; one of them is the Paddy’s Day Parade. I grew up in Dublin and quickly learnt that watching the parade on the telly was better than going to it: you weren’t jostled by tall people; you could actually see what was going on; you weren’t wet from the rain.
Where I live now, the local parade may not have fantastical floats or twirling, exotic American bands, but it’s real and sweet and half the people marching in it are your own kids, friends and/or neighbours. There is watching-room for everyone and it’s a genuinely happy and positive event in what can often be a dull market town. Last year the parade of vintage tractors was outstanding, as was the sight of a hundred kids tap dancing down the main street.
I grew out of the need to get drunk on Paddy’s Day years ago but I do love the party atmosphere that the day encourages and I always wear green clothes and a bunch of shamrock. I even forego my usual rice and pasta for a plate of spuds.
I like that Paddy’s Day endures and that mostly it hasn’t gone all glossy on us. It’s a great day to put ordinary concerns aside and just wallow in some of the positive things about being Irish, one of which is that we like a celebration and are happy to invite the whole world to the party. Nuala Ní Chonchúir
I don’t go to the St Patrick’s Day parade much these days, having slightly overdosed as a child. But this year, for the third time, we (two adults, two children) are taking part in the St Patrick’s Festival Treasure Hunt. This is a brilliant event which has you crisscrossing Dublin city on foot to various museums and historical sites. At each spot you have to answer a question and get a card stamped – once you’ve all of them completed, it’s a race back to City Hall. We were shattered last year and the year before, struggling back from maybe ten locations after a good three hours, stunned and disappointed to find we were nowhere near the winning time.
One of the things I’ve liked about the treasure hunt is that it’s a great way for children – or someone unfamiliar with Dublin – to get a feel for the geography of the city. Though my children live in the suburbs, I want them to grow up knowing the city, feeling part of it and at home in it. They’re going to have to walk it, and often, to get that.
Anyone else thinking of doing the treasure hunt? This year’s has a literary theme, so we can probably have a good stab at what the destinations will be. And I’m also thinking that Dublin Bikes would be a good way of getting around – though not, alas, for us, with a two-year-old who needs a seat.
Oh – but if I see your team out on Saturday, I may have to trip you up.
PS Have a look in the RTE archive footage of St Patrick’s Days past if you want to try and spot an eight-year-old you lining the streets or twirling a baton, spot the Abel Alarm floats of the eighties, or remind yourself of the 1999 parade of 25 yards in Dripsey, Cork. Antonia Hart