Nostalgia: St Patrick's Day in Cork through the decades

Nostalgia: St Patrick's Day in Cork through the decades

Patrick's Day parade in Cork, 1973

ALTHOUGH the traditional St Patrick's Day parade has once again been scuppered by the Covid-19 pandemic, preparations are underway to ensure the day does not go unmarked. 

This year's national St Patrick's Festival will take place virtually from March 12-17 with Cork actress, comedian and writer Tara Flynn at the helm of the celebrations. 

The 1916 St Patrick's Day parade makes its way along Grand Parade and onto South Mall. 
The 1916 St Patrick's Day parade makes its way along Grand Parade and onto South Mall. 

A new dedicated TV channel will offer more than 100 free events during the festival in celebration of Ireland's patron saint.

SPF TV will broadcast to 1.1 million homes in Ireland through the Oireachtas TV channel and will stream globally at stpatricksfestival.ie, every day from 9:30am through to late night.

The Players Please float which appeared in the St Patrick's Day parade pictured at Academy Street, Cork in 1956.
The Players Please float which appeared in the St Patrick's Day parade pictured at Academy Street, Cork in 1956.

Landmark buildings and monuments across Cork and further afield will also be illuminated green to mark Ireland's national holiday.

Pictures in The Echo archives underscore the joy of previous St Patrick's Day parades in Cork, which historian and Independent councillor Kieran McCarthy said may have commenced in 1872, albeit with a different focus.

Picking shamrock at Keohane's, Union Hall, 1956.
Picking shamrock at Keohane's, Union Hall, 1956.

"The earliest reported parade on St Patrick's Day in Cork is 1872 in The Cork Examiner, but it was a parade by the Nationalist Party in Cork calling for amnesty for Fenian prisoners to be released - but thousands of people turned out and paraded in the city centre," he said.

"The 1872 gig wasn't continued the following year and there is nothing recorded in The Cork Examiner or in the Evening Echo in depth till the 1910s and the Volunteer parades from 1916-1921.

Patrick's Day parade in Cork, 1982.
Patrick's Day parade in Cork, 1982.

"In the early 1920s, The Cork Examiner and Evening Echo records Irish Free State Army parades, and then nothing till 1955.

"The Cork Examiner reports on March 18, 1955, that Cork had its the first parade in over 30 years.

"It may have been the military aspect attached to the parade that stopped it for 30 years as well as the advent of the Second World War," he continued.

St Patrick's Day parade in Cork, 1956.
St Patrick's Day parade in Cork, 1956.

From 1955, Cork has enjoyed St Patrick's Day parades annually until Covid-19 put a halt to them.

Over the decades there have been several notable St Patrick's Day parades, such as the one in 1985 which was a resounding success. 

There was a special purpose to the parade as it marked 100 years since Cork was granted a charter by Prince John in 1185.

The Defence Forces turned out to mark the occasion and the Air Corps honoured the city with a flypast.

Every year, the highly anticipated annual event has a unique theme.

Previous years have celebrated things like the centenary of women securing the right to vote (2018), Irish myths and legends (2014) and Maritime Culture (2010).

'Dúisigh Eire! Awaken Ireland!' is the theme for this year's festival, which organisers say is a "clarion call to the Irish across the world to throw off the long, dark months and rise to embrace the brighter days ahead."

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