St Patrick’s Day Parade

Ennis, County Clare, Ireland: 10:00 am Sunday 3/17/13 – Saint Patrick’s Day

The forty plus entries in the Parade are gathering here in the large parking lot just off “New Street”. The street and place names along the parade route reflect an ancient city of historical, religious, political and commercial importance: “New Street” to “Newbridge” and over the “River Fergus” onto “Abbey Street”, passing under the towering monument and watchful eye of Daniel O’Connell, Ireland’s “Great Liberator”, then proceeding up “O’Connell Street” and finally finishing at “Market Place”.

My wife, Betty and I had made several trips to Ireland in the past and had often talked about going over for Saint Patrick’s Day. Hearing that the Saint Mary’s High School Band, here in Phoenix, had been invited to march in this year’s parade in Ennis, we decided to join them. To honor its sister city, Ennis declared the seven days around Saint Patrick’s weekend as “Phoenix Week“. As the host city, Ennis sponsored numerous events and cultural exchanges for the Saint Mary’s students and their parents/chaperones as well as hosting a large contingent representing the sister city of Phoenix including city councilman and Vice-Mayor Michael Johnson. Among the many activities were concerts, visits to local schools, sightseeing at the Cliffs of Moher and a visit to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park.

I, my wife Betty and several others from Phoenix marched with the Saint Mary’s Band, proudly waving our Arizona, American, and Irish flags to the cheers of the people lining the sidewalks. What a thrill to hear our band play our school song (“Forward Saint Mary’s”)! Who could have imagined listening to that tune on the narrow, winding, cobblestone streets of Ennis, Ireland in County Clare. They also played a rousing tune called “The Rising of the Moon” to the cheers of the crowd. On Saturday evening, before the parade the band had performed at the Mass in Saint Peter & Paul’s Cathedral and at the conclusion, the celebrant, Father Fergal O’Neill walked over and asked for an encore! Congratulations to our own Carol Mellis and the remarkable job she and the band accomplished.

The city of Ennis has recently received recognition as “The Friendliest City in Ireland”. High praise, and well-deserved for a city in a country that is arguably the “friendliest country in the world”. A very special “thank you” to the people of Ennis who took such great care of us during an unforgettable experience.

Footnote: Jim was a teacher/coach and administrator at Saint Mary’s High School for 41 years before retiring in 2007