It’s a very different kind of St Patrick’s weekend this year. Because of what happened last year it’ll always have an extra resonance now
One day – one special day and certainly a welcome national break in the middle of the week – that’s what St Patrick’s Day was in our neck of the woods years ago. It wasn’t a long weekend bloated by excess on any front really. A cake with green icing was often made in our house and shamrock for your school lapel was found for the day before, of course, if you were lucky enough to find some of the ‘little clover’ after what could be long looking. Statements like ‘that’s only clover, you eejit!’ spring to mind…
I don’t remember it being a very holy day either but I remember knowing that knowing the story of St Patrick was important. In national school we were always well drilled in his story and it was the sort of story that would have you sitting up straight in your desk, ears cocked – pirates, kidnapping, slaves, a person not much older than you being forced into minding sheep on the side of a hill for years (the thought of it!) and then dreams and an exciting escape and education and more dreams and coming back in way better straits to change the thinking of the baddies that had held him captive years before – and more along with them.
I was particularly appreciative of the banishing snakes’ achievement. Those snakes (particularly the rattle tailed ones) looked terrible in the cowboy films that we saw so many of back then – even in black and white.
I remember thinking Patrick must have been a great preacher to be able to use talk to change people’s thinking like that and how clever he was to use a simple item that was available locally to illustrate complicated three-in-one concepts. You’d have to hand it to him on the communications front. I suppose being on the side of a hill for four years gave him a lot of time to think even if he hadn’t a smartphone to record his notes. Maybe that was the point of the isolation in the first place…
I don’t remember attending any parades as a child. There were none close and people didn’t have the resources for travelling big distances with big families on such days then, I think, but we always looked at the Dublin parade on the telly. My memories are of high-stepping Americans, fleets of Irish dancers in ornate dresses and President De Valera in an open car and top hat, possibly, looking regal, and all trying to smile even though a raw wind was probably cutting the face off them and possibly waves of rain or sleet accompanying it as well. St Patrick’s Day parade participants should get medals even today. This weekend looks no different in the sense of it being only for the hardy but we live in hope!
More recently Wexford town has been the nearest parade to go to and it’s always good to see all the community organizations that take part. Huge effort is put into the preparation and the show goes on rain, hail, sleet or snow which is hugely commendable and which brings me to St Patrick’s weekend last year and why St Patrick’s Day will never be quite the same again.
My mother died on Friday, March 16th last year so while the hospital in Waterford had the green bunting flying, our minds weren’t on anything like that. And the snow threat made everything worse with a burial planned for the Monday. The Beast from the East had hit on March 1st (one birthday I can definitely write off) and here was the snow again, coming between us and coping with a sad situation. Would it even be possible to get to the church along narrow Wicklow rural roads for the funeral, we wondered? Diggers even came into conversations…
In the end it all worked out, thankfully. The County Council, fair dues and thanks, played a blinder gritting the roads so it all came to pass without incident in the end even though the Sunday, the day before the burial, was a dark day when the world went completely white.
That’s why, then, that St Patrick’s Day this year is a bit more emotional than before, you see, but c’est la vie and hey, maybe a simple cake decorated with green icing would be a thing to do today – for old memories’ sake.
Photo credit : Cake image used