Mar 17 2011Happy St Patrick’s Day
Did you start today with a pint of green guinness?
If you did, you may be surprised to know that you are participating in an Australian tradition dating back 200 years! (if you didn’t – why not?)
In 1810, Governor Lachlan Macquarie declared St Patrick’s Day, March 17th, as an official day of celebration. Australia has been celebrating that day ever since.
The Irish have had a very significant impact on Australian history. There were, of course, Irish convicts in the First Fleet, and Irish people remained enormously over-represented throughout the history of transportation.
Many of the Irish convicts and free settlers were political activists, and people of Irish heritage have played a key role in Australian politics.They were keen proponents of a distinct Australian identity, rather than British. For 26 of the fist 50 years of federation, Australia’s Prime Minister had an Irish background. At the time of the Second World War, about one third of Australians identified as being of Irish heritage.
The St Patrick’s Day parade in Sydney is the second largest in the world, after New York. This year it will this year take place next Sunday. Sixty floats participate, one of which will be made up of residents of St Johns College, Sydney University. This is a tradition going back to before I was a resident there (which is a long time)
Luckily, on St Patrick’s Day one gets official dispensation from one’s Lenten fast. (ie you can have whatever you gave up for Lent)
Of course, we would start the day with a green guinness or two – at the White Horse Hotel, Parramatta Rd – before marching in our academic gowns to the parade. Freshers would have had weeks of choir practice during which Irish rebel songs and homesick laments were drummed into us by the senior choir master. So, having drunk a socially inappropriate number of beers, and armed with an arsenal of politically inappropriate songs, we would serenade the Irish community of Sydney.
“Fight Mickey Fight, and don’t you be afraid, tomorrow you’ll be marching in the Sinn Fein parade…..”
“If you ever go across the sea to Ireland, then maybe at the closing of your day, you will sit and watch the moon rise over Claddagh, or see the sun go down on Galway Bay”
“It seems like only yesterday I sailed from out of Cork, I wanderer from Erin’s Isle I landed in New York”
“Its a long way to Tipperary, its a long way to go”
“What do we want – England out of Ireland, When do we want it – Now”
“Oh my name is MacNamara, I’m the leader of the band”
“In Dublin’s fair city, where the girls are so pretty, I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone”
And every pretty policewoman or Irish colleen we came across would be serenaded by 100 kneeling young men with
“You come on like a dream, Peaches and Cream, Lips like Strawberry Wine – You’re Sixteen, You’re Beautiful and you’re mine”.
It shows what good sports the Irish are that they let St Johns continue to participate in the parade.
Johns goes all Hogwarts for the St Patrick’s Day Ball
An exhibition about the Irish in Australia called ‘Not Just Ned’ opens today at the National Museum of Australia.
Happy St Patricks Day (especailly to my Father-In-Law, Paddy Houlahan, who had a guinness or two today – to be sure, to be sure)