The fifties held a promise of excitement and adventure. A defining
childhood experience of St Patrick’s Day was the yearly Point to Point Horse Race.
Caricklee, a townland on the border of Tyrone and Donegal was the venue for the
yearly steeplechase. The races were run under the stewardship of the Master of the
Foxhounds, who patrolled the races in his finery and fine horse. A Fair accompanied
the races, with dice and card tables, around which we children would gather, with a
dream of riches, in finding a lost penny on the ground.
The late sixties saw the decline in the point-to-point races in Ireland.
The Cariclee races were cancelled in the early seventies. The sound of the horse’s
hooves pounding over the racecourse was replaced with the sound of gunfire. As
teenagers, we listened to the cracking of weapons fire for the first time on the
border between Tyrone and Donegal, at Strabane one St Patrick’s Day. “The
Troubles” had begun. The horses were never to race again.
The St Patrick’s Day of the seventies were marred with violence in the
North of Ireland, celebrations were muted, the March nights long and unsafe. St
Patrick’s Day was celebrated across the border in Donegal or in Dublin City.
The St Patrick’s Days of the eighties and nineties were spent out of
Ireland, in different countries and cities. Good people worked to bring together
artists and writers, musicians and poets, where groups of Irish people met up to
share the day. One isolated and isolating experience of a St Patrick’s Day was in Sri
Lanka, in the Indian Ocean. That year, no other Irish person was to be found to
share the day with, it made for an experience of dislocation and pure loneliness.
The new century in Ireland sees St Patrick’s Day being celebrated in
Peace. Children born on the border of North and Southern Ireland this new decade
experience St Patrick’s Day without the sound of gunfire.
People of all nations now celebrate St Patrick’s Day throughout the world. The major
cities in many countries have their own official St Patrick’s Day parade. New
traditions are being made, and they are welcomed.
Happy St Patricks Day.
©2006 Clare O Hagan