It’s been a long time since I have seen a St. Patricks Day parade and I really only saw this one by accident and only half of it at that. I was walking in to Tramore to collect my car which I had abandoned at the start of a vigorous night out and feeling not a little fragile when I came across the parade at the top of Gallweys hill and stopped to take it in. I was immediately captivated by the exuberance, colour and good humour of the parade and the crowd.
Back in the 1980s when growing media coverage of glitzier spectacles began to make Irish parades look dull with their ragged processions of vans and trucks advertising various uninteresting businesses and the inevitably sodden troops of scouts and Irish dancers I stopped bothering with them much. Of course in the mean time many have made sterling efforts locally and nationally but I have missed much of it.
This parade was a lot bigger than I expected. There were the shiny cars, vans and ambulances of our Coastguard(in their smart uniforms) and the Sea Cliff Rescue. Smiling tractor drivers on their colourful tractors and classic cars carefully polished to reflect the surprising sunshine. Local businesses with floats and vans, TCRFM and their sexy red convertible and Tramore Tourism and their retro caravan. Even the Pope was there in his Popemobile. There were many more participants who I missed, including my pals at T-Bay Surf Club who won best float with their big funky bus and hawaiian shirts and then there were the bands, the scouts, the taekwondo club, the dancers, the athletes and all the various clubs and groups that make up a community.
Maybe I have grown up a little or maybe I was still the worse for wear but todays parade really touched me. Gatherings of people make me emotional anyway but to see these people, the exuberant leprechauns with sacks of free goodies, the crowd with their balloons and wigs and flags, Rocky Mills rocking out, the pirates in their wee boat and my own favourite, the Metal Man, had a real affect on me, sort of broke my heart a little.
There is a lot about my country I don’t like and it has been a long time since I was proud of my nationality. We Irish have put up with so much in recent years, often too much, without fighting back. We are, many of us( but not all), so poor now that everyday life is a constant battle and the future with its promised new taxes is weighing heavy on our minds. Yet there we were in the sun together smiling and laughing along with the people who bothered to make an effort, who bothered to dress up, to wash their cars and tractors, to show off with pride their hobbies, their acheivements.
The biggest change for me, in me, while watching the parade, was that this time, when I saw a van or a truck passing that merely displayed the name of a business, or someone with their family carrying a sign for their enterprise, I could not fail to think of all the businesses who have not made it this far, who have been crucified, who are being crucified, by the stupidity and greed of our leaders and it was hard not to see these survivors as some kind of every day heroes and I felt the first stirrings of Irish pride I have felt in a while along with a sudden burning fury at the burdens we are being made carry so others may live high on the hog.
I hope one day we stand up as a people and fight back. In the mean time I have begun to fully realise that my own short comings in not being able to get more dug in, to make a difference, makes it hard for me to criticise my countrymen and so in order to be able to give out about people I have been tending vaguely in the direction of involvement.
My progress is glacial and my contribution so far has been paltry but seeing the parade today gave me some kind of hope or at least a reason to keep trying, a reason that is less about having the moral high ground from which to rant about everybody and more about being a person who might like the idea of being Irish again.
Then again it could be the hangover….
In the mean time take note of the more prosaic message of the day:keep it local. Don’t buy your hurleys in Lidl, go to Peter Flanagan hurley maker. Why go to Woodys when McCormacks hardware is just down the town?Tramore Butchers, Tramore oil, Philips barbers, Tramores Health Shop and on and on and on. We need to support eachother to keep us all afloat long enough to fight another day.
Really, really well done to all involved.