St. Patrick’s Day in Limerick (1912-1913)

Depiction of St. Patrick (c. 1872) Source: Library of Congress
St. Patrick (Source: Library of Congress, 1872)

Did you know?

The celebration of St. Patrick’s Day as a National Holiday in Ireland was first practised in Limerick in 1902? To mark this the shops and pubs in the city were closed. In 1903 there was a Ball held at Sarsfield Barracks, and the Limerick Pipers’ Club played at an ‘Irish Night’ concert at the Athenaeum. By 1912 the day was well established on the local calendar.

An account of St. Patrick’s Day in Limerick (Limerick Chronicle, 1912)

There is a dual celebration this year, owing to the day falling on a Sunday. All the large business houses in the city are closed and employees are thus enabled to enjoy a little relaxation from the toils of business.

The day is being observed with becoming fitness. The weather is exceptionally fine, and large numbers are abroad enjoying the sunshine which lights up the atmosphere. Everyone, young and old, are sporting the shamrock, and the day is being honoured in the best possible fashion. In the various churches of all denominations, special services in honour of the Patron Saint are being held and are attended by large numbers.

At St. Mary’s Cathedral, where the Union Jack flies from the Tower, the song being sung is “The Hymn of St. Patrick” (Muspratt) The day is being observed by all classes. The ships in port are dressed in celebration of the day. In the evening at St. Michael’s Parochial Church, the Rev. G. Nolan, Professor of Irish at Maynooth, will be preaching to a large congregation. A few showers are beginning to fall. The sobriety of the people is remarkable. Due to the coal strike, the Railway Company will not be running any excursions, but many plan to journey out of town by one or other of the ordinary trains. The principal attraction outside the city being the Point-to-Point Races at Newmarket-on-Fergus which will be well attended.

Paternalistic editorial in the (Unionist) Limerick Chronicle (1912)

Royal Munster Fusiliers, on St. Patrick's Day (1912) - Plaque inscription includes "A Few Paddies" (Source: Limerick City Museum)
Royal Munster Fusiliers, on St. Patrick’s Day (1912) – Plaque inscription includes “A Few Paddies” (Source: Limerick City Museum)

A few years back the State paid tribute to Ireland’s Patron Saint by making the day a Bank Holiday, a secular dignity which some may think was not entirely needed, although it afforded a further illustration of how completely the old order is changing into the altogether new.

This State recognition gave us yesterday’s holiday which would not be otherwise forthcoming, and one may question very few will grumble, however political or religious feelings may run, that it should be so. The change all the same, marks a striking contrast to past St. Patrick’s Day celebrations a change not confined to one solitary instance, notable as it is, but to many, which each of us will recall. Happily the contrasts are all indications of the great progress which has been made towards sanity and sobriety of view in such matters.

The Union Jack flew from St. Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (St. Patrick’s Day, 1912)

The emblem of Ireland’s Patron Saint is no longer taboo with the authorities, and the display of the shamrock in profusion on the 17th March each year has been found to cause no rocking of the State through the exhibition of an increased and increasing number of sprigs of trefoil in button-hole, cap or shoulder-strap on St. Patricks’ Day, however it may stimulate civic and individual patriotism, or what makes for such. The “drowning” of the shamrock, too, has mercifully gone with the past and all things considered the change that has come with regard to St. Patrick’s Day is full of hope for a peaceful settling down of the people to the ways of method, temperance, and good order in the near future.

The Limerick Leader did not cover the events of the day but instead spoke in hopeful tones in terms of the realisation of the Home Rule Bill.

Limerick Chronicle (March 1912)
The Limerick diaspora were sent fresh Shamrocks (Limerick Chronicle, 1912)

A Sober Holiday? (1913)

This might be a surprise to many but it appears that the city was sober for most of the day. The Limerick City Police Court confirmed that there were no arrests for drunkenness in Limerick on St. Patrick’s Day in 1913. The judge described the day as a  “Sober Holiday.”

How the different strands of Nationalism spent St. Patrick’s Day in Limerick (1913)

In Rathkeale, a huge crowd attended the St. Patrick’s Day parade. This parade was also an overtly political, pro-Home Rule rally which was organised by the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH). In a speech at the rally Mr. William Phelan credited “the brilliant” Tom Kettle with planting “the seed of Hibernianism in Limerick.” Meanwhile in Limerick City, Na Fianna Eireann celebrated the day in a very different fashion. Among their guest speakers was the IRB leader Tom Clarke. While the speeches at the AOH parade sounded like a group on the cusp of a long fought victory for Home Rule, the tone of Na Fianna Eireann is very different.

Tom Clarke
Tom Clarke (1857-1916)

Tom Clarke’s speech did not refer to Home Rule at all, instead he stressed Ireland’s right to separate nationhood. He appealed to the Fianna to study the Irish language and history so that they will be “fit to carry on the struggle for independence.” The proceedings were brought to a close, by all present standing to attention and singing “A Nation Once Again.”

Nenagh was quiet (1913)

The description of how St. Patrick’s Day was marked in Nenagh shows that the celebration was not yet fully embraced countrywide.

“Nothing shops were notice taken..except six or seven musicians [who] played around the town.”

Industrial School Band perform at Glin (1913)

“A procession of children of the parish and the Industrial Schools paraded the town. Banners of St. Patrick and other saints were borne at the head of each contingent. The Industrial School Band played appropriate music.”

St. Patrick's converting the Irish (1874) Source: Library of Congress
St. Patrick’s converting the Irish “aborigines” and the Irish Court (Source: Library of Congress, 1874)

St. Patrick the Censor?

20th March 1913: The Freeman’s Journal published an article on St. Patrick that lamented his “Literary Censorship.”  It says that his committee

U.S. Postcard (1939) via NYPL
U.S. Postcard (1939) via NYPL

subjected the ancient poetry and works of the Druids to a severe scrutiny and it was so fascinating, the Apostle feared the reading of it would cause some to relapse into the Druid system. With his own hands he burned hundreds of volumes of Druidical poetry and prose, an example that was zealously followed through Ireland.

The article does not list any references..

Weather forecast

1913: The weather forecast for St. Patrick’s Day? Snow showers, sleet and sub zero are temperatures expected across the country.  🙂

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