Waterford Parade Winners Announced

The 2023 Waterford St Patrick’s Day Parade truly saw the Best of Waterford with an impressive array of floats and participants taking part in the march from the Quay to the Mall and each represented their respective clubs, groups and communities, and indeed Waterford as a whole, immensely with more than 2,000 people and 70 floats braving the heavy rain and wind to celebrate our National Holiday.

However, there were a number of entries into this year’s parade which were especially memorable and were selected by the judges to be the winners in the following categories; the Overall Winners Award, the Community Float Award and the Theatre Award.

Overall Winners- Southland Sirens Roller Derby

Photo by Colin Shanahan – DigiCol Photography (c) 2023 – http://www.digicolphotography.com

The Overall Winners of this year’s parade is the Southland Siren’s Roller Derby, whose entry paid tribute to the Copper Coast miners of Bonmahon and saw their participants skate from the Quay to the Mall, where they would later “detonate” a mine.

Community Float Award- Waterford C.U/City of Waterford Brass (Joint Award)

Photo by Colin Shanahan – DigiCol Photography (c) 2023 – http://www.digicolphotography.com
Photo by Colin Shanahan – DigiCol Photography (c) 2023 – http://www.digicolphotography.com

The joint entry was selected as a winner of the Community Float Award and its float “Honeycomb” was created by Spraoi to celebrate Waterford CU’s 60th anniversary. The float was accompanied by the City of Waterford Brass Band who marched behind wearing bee-stripes.

Community Float Award- Waterford Filipino-Irish Community (Joint Award)

Photo by Colin Shanahan – DigiCol Photography (c) 2023 – http://www.digicolphotography.com

The Waterford Filipino-Irish Community were selected as a winner of the Community Float Award after their entry treated the spectators present to a wonderful display of Filipino culture through their colourful traditional costumes as well as their dancing and performances.

The Theatre Award- Waterford Youth Arts

Photo by Colin Shanahan – DigiCol Photography (c) 2023 – http://www.digicolphotography.com
Photo by Colin Shanahan – DigiCol Photography (c) 2023 – http://www.digicolphotography.com

The winners of the Theatre Award were Waterford Youth Arts, whose entry saw a number of their participants wear elaborate bird masks which was followed by an impressive nest-float.

Maewyn Succat – Patricius – St. Patrick.

Following his conquest of Gaul, Julius Caesar led two legions to Britain in 55 BC, in 54 BC he returned with five legions believing the land to be rich in silver. Caesar’s expeditions had limited success and it wasn’t until 43 AD that Claudius established a stronger presence which would continue to grow for two centuries. The conquest however would never be complete, northern Caledonia in particular, would remain both wild and remote as would Hibernia, an island to the west. The Roman Empire’s presence in Britain began to dwindle in the latter half of the 4th century, the growing menace of Germanic barbarian tribes, amongst other factors, precipitated the contraction of Roman influence. It is during this period of decline that the son of ‘Calpornius’ comes to our attention.

St. Patrick is a subject where most researchers, academics and scholars tend to differ. Interestingly Translatio Corporis or ‘Canonization’ never occurred, his status as a saint was endorsed by public opinion only. In mid-17th century however, when compiling the liturgical calendar in Rome, a Franciscan Friar from Waterford by the name of Luke Wadding would consolidate public opinion by listing 17th March as St. Patrick’s Day, formal recognition as a Saint was therefore established forevermore. Scholars continue to debate on many aspects of St. Patrick’s story but what is of substance is the collective admission that we are dealing with a man that did exist. His first biographer, Muirchu, commenced work over two hundred years posthumously. Patrick’s death is thought to be mid-5th century (17th March) and date of birth somewhere between 370 and 390 AD. Wales, Scotland and Cumbria are often thought to be the place of birth with the former being referenced most often. Britain’s first towns emerged during Roman occupation and Chester (Deva) in North Wales was a major Roman settlement. Patrick left two documents written by his own hand and both texts are consistent with the style of 5th century Latin which would have been used in colonized Britain. The documents, known as ‘Confessio’ and ‘Epistola’, give great insight into Patrick’s character. The existences of these two documents means that more is known about St. Patrick than any other 5th century figure from the region and it is in these documents that the authentic story is most likely to be found.

In ‘Confessio’ (Confessions) Patrick tells us that “My father was Calpornius. He was a deacon; his father was Potitus, a priest, who lived at Bannavem Taburniae. That is where I was taken prisoner”. Calpornius and Conchesca Succat are thought to be the parents and their son Maewyn would go on to adopt a new name in time. The village was likely to be on the west coast of Britain where raiding parties would ply their trade. Separation from his family, to whom he seemed very close, would of course be very difficult for a youngster and his writings certainly corroborate this “So I am first of all a simple country person, a refugee, and unlearned. I do not know how to provide for the future. But this I know for certain, that before I was brought low, I was like a stone lying deep in the mud”.  He declares himself to be ‘peccator rusticissimus’ a ‘simple countryman and a sinner’. Maewyn was in no way partial to religion during his formative years despite there being a deacon and a priest in the family. The collective trauma of kidnap, separation, isolation and hardship tending livestock in the wild (possibly on Mount Slemish County Antrim) caused a spiritual awakening in the youngster “So I turned with all my heart to the Lord my God, and he looked down on my lowliness and had mercy on my youthful ignorance. He guarded me before I knew him, and before I came to wisdom and could distinguish between good and evil” Indeed he believed that his abduction was a form of divine retribution, punishment for his initial lack of faith “I was taken into captivity in Ireland, along with thousands of others. We deserved this, because we had gone away from God, and did not keep his commandments. We would not listen to our priests, who advised us about how we could be saved. The Lord brought his strong anger upon us, and scattered us among many nations even to the ends of the earth”.

Maewyn escaped from captivity and found passage to the continent and eventually back to Britain where he was reunited with his family, he states that “they welcomed me as a son and pleaded with me never to leave them again”. He claims that he was informed by way of a ‘dream’ that a boat was waiting for him on the coast and so he decided to make his escape. The call to flee was not the only nocturnal message that he was to receive, Maewyn claims that when back in Britain he was summoned, during his slumber, to walk among the Irish once more and to spread the word of God, ‘they cried out in one voice’ he states. He later claims to have been tempted by the Devil also as he slept. Upon returning home to Britain Maewyn decided to devote himself to the service of God and the study of Christianity, it was at this point that he adopted the name ‘Patricius’ meaning father figure. Maewyn mentions that he was challenged by some church superiors in later years regarding a terrible sin that he had committed (a sin that he had once confessed to a friend). Thomas Cahill postulates that the only ‘sin’ that could persistently haunt him to middle age and beyond would have to be the greatest sin of them all: ‘murder’. He claims he was fifteen and that time of this terrible sin, he also claims that he was sixteen when he was abducted therefore the ‘sin’ took place before he arrived in Ireland and before he found his faith in God.

Episotla’ was, presumably, written much earlier than ‘Confessio’. It is a letter to the warlord ‘Coroticus’ who had kidnapped and enslaved a party of newly christened converts. Patrick is scathing in this letter.

“I declare that I, Patrick — an unlearned sinner indeed — have been established a bishop of Ireland.”

“With my own hand I have written and put together these words to be given and handed on and sent to the soldiers of Coroticus.”

“I cannot say that they are my fellow-citizens, nor fellow-citizens of the saints of Rome, but fellow-citizens of demons, because of their evil works. By their hostile ways they live in death, allies of the apostate Scots and Picts. They are blood-stained: blood-stained with the blood of innocent Christians, whose numbers I have given birth to in God and confirmed in Christ.

With the Roman legions returning home to Italy, law and order was on the decline and tribal Kings were at liberty to pillage and plunder, given Patrick’s personal experience of slavery it is of course no wonder that he would be so enraged.

It is interesting to note the things that do not appear in either ‘Epistola’ or ‘Confessio’. There is no mention of shamrocks, snakes, Paschal Fire or King Loíguire. The only events mentioned in these writings which borderline the supernatural are the messages he received by way of dreams, he also claims that it was by virtue of prayer that the sailors agreed to take him when he escaped and that they were starving when they landed on a deserted part of the continent but his faith was rewarded when a herd of pigs appeared. It’s difficult to surmise that the author would omit his greatest feats if in fact they had occurred.

Epistola’ and ‘Confessio’ reveal two things very clearly, the writer had both a sensitive personality and a deep conviction. The spiritual awakening may well have been trauma induced given his experience as a youngster “I didn’t deserve at all that the Lord would grant such great grace, after hardships and troubles, after captivity, and after so many years among that people” but what really is of more concern are the long-term consequences pertaining to this man’s life. The actual legacy of Maewyn Succat, Patricius or St. Patrick is not necessarily the introduction of Christianity to Ireland (surely that would have come sooner or later and it’s very likely that St. Declan was preaching in Ireland before St. Patrick and Palladius was a practicing cleric also before Patrick’s time, the ‘two Patricks theory’ concerning Palladius is also worth mentioning here), nor should his legacy be sought in the altogether intangible yet enduring mythologies that shroud him so. The fortuitous timing of when Christian doctrine arrived is perhaps the key.

The Dark Ages were about to descend on Europe yet Ireland would earn a reputation as being “the land of saints and scholars”, the scholarly element being the interesting one. Guardianship of classical texts, both Roman and Hellenistic coupled with an appreciation of knowledge and later the task of education itself became the defining characteristics of the Christian establishment in Ireland as the Roman Empire receded and fell. The European renaissance after the dark ages was galvanised by the re-emergence of classical texts and learning. This re-emergence owes a debt of gratitude to the missionaries that departed Ireland for mainland Europe establishing learning centres as they went. Visigoths, Vandals, Huns, Ostrogoths and various other waves of barbarian tribes pillaged Europe leaving little or no trace of Greco-Roman literature, improvements in agriculture and crop yields caused their numbers to swell. Irish monasteries were no stranger to similar raids by Vikings but the monks were well aware of how important it was to safeguard their literary treasures and to preserve them as they did. Dividends would follow, not so much to the custodians themselves, but to European civilisation in the dawning of a new era, this concept is thoroughly explored by Thomas Cahill in ‘How the Irish saved civilisation’.

St. Patrick became quite the hero in Irish folklore and no doubt the famed storytelling tradition among the Celts more than played a part in weaving the wondrous tapestry of these tales. Notable too was the church policy that when unable to deconstruct the pagan belief system they would simply integrate the Christian message into existing folklore. Very much a case of “if you can’t beat them, join them”. Little research is required to discover that behind every Christian feast day there previously existed a pagan feast day. In the adventures of Oisín, the son of Na Fianna’s Fionn Mac Cumhaill, we learn that upon returning from Tír Na nÓg our protagonist just so happens to bump into St. Patrick. Sufficiently compromised, we are led to believe, was the emotional well-being of Conor Mac Nessa, High King of Ulster, when one of his druids informed him of the crucifixion of Christ. Understandable his grief, despite the fact that no previous reference to Christianity is to be found in the Red Branch cycle but that, literally, is another story! Biogeography suggests that Ireland was never inhabited by snakes, this however was unlikely to let the truth spoil a good story and so a number of slippery characters from the Garden of Eden make an appearance in our hero’s tale. Across the Irish Sea the same phenomenon was at work for gallant King Arthur and the Knights of Camelot at some point decided that a quest for the Holy Grail would make for a splendid outing, we can be forgiven for suspecting that this particular adventure was not part of the original Arthurian Legend.

In Joseph Campbell’s ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’ a compelling argument is presented suggesting that every hero-story ever conceived in human history follows the same plot. It is the same basic tried and trusted formula that never fails to stimulate the imagination and captivate the audience. The archetypal hero invariably spends a period of time in isolation where an epiphany or some form of learning is achieved. He then returns to his people to fight against the incumbent corruption and evil. Always faced with insurmountable odds ever is he the embodiment of salvation and deliverance. These are but a few of the recurring similarities that Campbell alludes to and his theory, when tested, is quite robust (Luke Skywalker, Simba, Aragorn etc).

Campbell’s conclusions naturally pose a challenge to followers of religious icons. The narratives around many ‘historical’ religious characters tends to fit the bill by way of comparison and it is of course no wonder that many sceptics consider religion to be nothing more than deeply embedded cultural fiction. Archaeological excavations in Israel have failed to support scriptural depictions despite many attempts to unearth artefacts or reveal certain locations. Yadin, Finkelstein and Silberman were more than eager to verify events of the past by way of various digs across the holy land but the empirical evidence was not forthcoming. Surprising too, one must admit, that Egyptian chronicles also failed to corroborate the story of the Jews and the ‘Exodus’.  The ancient Romans were well educated and intrepid travellers, naturally it followed that they were great travel writers too. Pliny the Younger mentions ‘Christos’ as a preacher who had gained significant traction in the middle east. Christ or Christianity is mentioned also by Tacitus and Suetonius. Both Tacitus and Suetonius were known to be quite pedantic and therefore would only record information that they had collated from reliable sources.  Credible references such as these must be of great importance to those of a determined faith. Whether this man walked on water or not isn’t something that inspires rational debate. Establishing the existence of historical characters is a more straightforward task than the de-mystification of their legacies and a similar pattern unfolded regarding the Patron Saint of Ireland.

The myths and legends that are so inseparable from St. Patrick are indeed strange, so as Hamlet might say “therefore as a stranger give it welcome, for there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophies”.

© Johnny Codd

Sources and suggested further reading.

B. McCormack, ‘Perceptions of St. Patrick in Eighteenth-Century Ireland’ (Dublin 1998).

R.P.C. ‘Hanson, St Patrick: His Origins and Career’, (Oxford, 1968).

T. Cahill ‘How the Irish saved civilisation’ (Sceptre Lir 1995).

J. Duffy ‘Patrick in his Own Words’ (Dublin, 2000).

T. O’Loughlin ‘Discovering St. Patrick’ (London, 2005).

C. Mohrmann ‘The Latin of St. Patrick: Four Lectures (Dublin 1961).

M.B. De Paor ‘Patrick, the Pilgrim Apostle of Ireland: An Analysis of St. Patrick’s Confessio and Epistola (Dublin 1998).

D. Howlett, The Book of Letters od St. Patrick the Bishop (Dublin 1994).

D. Conneely St. Patrick’s Letters A Study of their Theological Dimension (Maynooth 1973).

Boxer Kelyn Cassidy announced as Grand Marshall for 2023 Waterford St. Patrick’s Day Parade

National boxing champion Kelyn Cassidy has been announced as the Grand Marshall of the 2023 Waterford St. Patrick’s Day parade.

A top-class boxer, 24-year old Kelyn represents the Saviour’s Crystal Club in Waterford City and is also a member of the Irish Amateur Boxing Team.  The Waterford athlete is the reigning and back-to-back National Senior Elite Light Heavyweight champion and reached the quarterfinals of the last World Championships in Belgrade.

Speaking at the reveal of Cassidy as this year’s Grand Marshall, Mayor of Waterford City & County, Cllr. John O’Leary said:

“Kelyn was a wonderful suggestion as Grand Marshall this year, as our theme is “The Best of Waterford”.  He is a true champion in the ring, and a gentleman outside it.  I have no doubt he will be a leader in our community in years to come.  I’d like to congratulate him on being named the Grand Marshall for this special day in our annual calendar.”

Cassidy cites the people of Waterford as a big inspiration when he is competing in the boxing ring.  Speaking to Waterford City & County Council Communications Office, he said:

“I receive amazing support from home whenever I’m competing abroad.  My family and club are always behind me, and I know the people of Waterford are too.  I’ll be counting on their support this year as I attempt to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic team.  That process starts in Poland this June at the European games.”

Chairperson of the festival organising committee, Johnny Codd added :

“Kelyn’s recent victories, including becoming a two-time National Elite Champion, have inspired us all and we are proud to have him represent Waterford on our national holiday.”

The theme for this year is ‘The Best of Waterford” and the festival will feature many exciting entries from Waterford’s people and community groups, showcasing our diverse culture, famous heritage, and our musical and burgeoning artistic talent.

On Friday 17th March, Waterford St. Patrick’s Day parade will start, as usual, at 1pm, with entries gathering at the Bridge Street end of the Quay. The parade leads off from the Bus Station and will proceed along the Quay, past the Clock Tower and the Plaza, concluding at the Parnell Street end of the Mall.

To find out more details of the St. Patricks Day three-day festival visit www.stpatricksfestivalwaterford.com or keep an eye on social media channels.

Waterford celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with a Luke Wadding walking tour – the man we can all thank for St. Patrick’s Day

At the entrance to Greyfriar’s Church in Waterford City stands a sculpture of the famous Franciscan monk, theologian and historian, Luke Wadding.

It is Luke Wadding who succeeded, against all the odds, in having St. Patrick’s Day recognised as a Church holiday and of course and soon afterwards it became a worldwide day of celebration.

Born in Waterford in 1588 and ordained as a Franciscan priest in 1613 he quickly became one of the most respected and well-known Franciscan theologians at work in mainland Europe, mostly in Rome where he established an Irish college for clerical students studying for the priesthood.

It is widely held that after he established his reputation in Rome, the Pope himself asked Wadding to lend a learned eye to helping to create a comprehensive calendar of saints. Wadding completed his task dutifully but thanks to his patriotic Irishness, along with all of the well-known Saints like Anthony and Francis, Wadding snuck in an extra, slightly lesser-studied Irish Saint – Patrick. March 17th had been observed by the Irish as St. Patrick’s Day since the tenth century, but only when Wadding gave church sanction to this did it become a huge spectacle of parades and céilithe. Strangely enough one of the places integral to the international importance of St. Patrick’s Day – and to its status as a national holiday – was Waterford.

During St. Patrick’s Weekend from March 17th to March 20th, a guided Luke Wadding historic walking tour of the City is available at 12, 2 pm and 4 pm and will be led by the expert guides from Waterford Treasures Museums.

The Luke Wadding Walking Tour tickets are available at €10 per person, under 12’s are free and tickets can be booked via Waterford Treasures on 051 849501 or via the ticket desk at the Bishop’s Palace Museum in Waterford City. For further details on the walking tour and the Waterford Treasures, museum collection see www.WaterfordTreasures.com


For further details or to arrange an interview contact Ann Power, Powerhouse PR Ltd., 086 3065588 email ann@powerhousepr.ie

Demilitarising Saint Patrick’s Day 1921

F. M Carroll in his important book “America and the Making of an Independent Ireland” examines the influence and role played by Irish America in the attempts to free Ireland from British rule in the early part of the twentieth century.

In December 1918, Sinn Féin had reached the apex of its political popularity during the General Election of that year, winning 73 seats in Ireland. The out working of this vote was the Declaration of Independence and the convening of the First All – Ireland Dáil and the formation of a revolutionary Government which was eventually and inevitably driven underground by coercive British measures.

In the United States, President Woodrow Wilson was faced with a highly organised and effective political lobby groups in the guise of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Friends of Irish Freedom and Clan na Gael. Carroll points out that a senior figure in Clan na Gael, Daniel F. Cohalan held great sway within the Democratic Party. Cohalan had been a successful New York lawyer and had been a Supreme Court Judge. He was a hugely influential figure in Irish American and political circles.

On April 4th 1917, the United States (despite Wilson’s pre-World War One pledge to keep America out of the European conflagration), entered the war on behalf of the Allies. The American involvement was sold on lofty ideals of the right of small nations to defend themselves, and pursue freedom and democracy. However, by early 1919 and the convening of the Paris Peace Conference, Woodrow Wilson’s rhetoric would be put to the test by the plight of Ireland and its right to national self-determination. However, the failure of the United States to support Ireland’s democratic right to assert its sovereign independence certainly made the attainment of Irish freedom a more arduous task.

The Irish freedom struggle naturally attracted the sympathy and support of the Irish – American community. Politically, financially and strategically, Irish lobby groups were at their most cohesive during the period 1919-1921, and displayed a level of unity and organisation which became the envy of other hyphenated national groupings in America. The influence and political clout which Irish-America possessed was enormous, and its reach was felt in highest offices: financial, military, political and cultural.

In military matters, the Irish were heavily represented at leadership level within the armed forces, a feature stemming from the American Civil War. The reality of this situation, aligned with an active and effective Irish political lobby meant that the Irish were potentially a fifth column within the United States army, and the manner in which they would react to wholesale slaughter unleashed in Ireland was untested.

Woodrow Wilson through his discussions with British Ambassador to the United States, Sir Auckland Geddes, was made aware of a possible pending escalation of the war in Ireland. It was against this backdrop that FM Carroll points to Wilson’s embargo on the participation of US naval and military personnel in the Saint Patrick’s Day parades in March 1921. In undertaking such a course of action Wilson was arguably showing great foresight. Wilson had enough trouble dealing with the political weight of Irish-America without having face down military figures on the issue of Ireland.

The American President paid a heavy price for his failure to support Ireland, as politically Irish American groups organised opposition to participation in the League of Nations. They succeeded in having the motion to join voted down in Congress. The Irish argument against joining the League was that membership in this body would legitimise the right of conquest of some existing Imperial powers (with Ireland presently contesting its subjugation). Irish–American lobby groups laid the blame for the plight of Ireland at the door of England, and they argued that the situation was compounded by Wilson’s failure to support Ireland’s right to national self- determination.

Wilson only lasted one term in office, and the Irish American lobby was instrumental in his political demise. 1921 was the high point of Irish-American political influence on the issue of Irish unity, the resulting split from the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 fragmented, confused and disillusioned the organisations previously spear heading the efforts to secure a free and independent 32 County Republic.

WORDS : Brian Madigan, WIT

Saint Patrick : The Myths & the Legends

Saint Patrick is the Patron Saint of Ireland, often referred to as The “Apostle of Ireland” and “The First Bishop of Armagh”. He is a fifth century Saint who is of Romano-British origin and his Roman name would have been Patricius, who was the son of a Roman Decarion stationed in Wales.

At the age of 16 Patrick was captured by a band of Irish Pirates. He was held captive for 6 years during which time he worked as a shepherd. Patrick discovered his close relationship with God at this time. Being of Romano-British origin it is likely that Patrick was brought up in the Religion of the Ancient Romans. After his time in captivity he converted to Christianity.

As he tended to his flock in the mountains of Ireland, he is said to have heard a voice telling him he should return to his homeland. He escaped his abductors and after a long and difficult journey, returned to the land of his birth. It took him years and he had many adventures along the way. He eventually found his way to his home, where he continued to study the faith of Christianity.

It is said that while he was at home he had a vision. It is thought to be a vision of Saint Victirious, Bishop of Rome, who carried with him in his hand a letter that contained the words “The Voice of The Irish”. Patrick saw this as a sign that he must return to Ireland. He returned to Ireland after his ordination.

It took time for the Native Irish to accept Patrick and his teachings; he faced many hardships and trials on his mission to convert the Irish from their long held Pagan belief system to the faith of Christianity. He baptized thousands and his message started to spread throughout Ireland.

He began to ordain priests to carry out his teachings on Christianity. He converted Irish Kings and he travelled throughout the whole of Ireland to spread his word. The Confession contains some vague details of this travels around Ireland and the resistance he sometimes faced but he persevered and was successful in his mission to convert the Pagans to Christianity.

The Shamrock

At the time when Patrick was converting Ireland to Christianity, Ireland was a nation that was deeply rooted in Pagan Beliefs and the native Irish would have been mainly illiterate. To teach Christian Doctrine and explain the concept of the Holy Trinity, Patrick held up the shamrock, with its 3 leaves symbolizing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This was a very clever idea on Patrick’s behalf, as the Pagan Irish had a deep-rooted belief in the power of nature, as nature was central to their long held belief system. The Shamrock was sacred to the Pagan Irish due to The Shamrock’s regenerative powers, allowing Patrick to convert the Pagan Irish to Christianity through a symbol that was familiar to them and already had a sacred meaning to the Pagans.

The Shamrock has now become central to the legend of Saint Patrick. The Shamrock has become recognized symbol of Ireland and Saint Patrick’s Day throughout the world.

Saint Patrick Banishes Snakes from Ireland.

The Legend states that Saint Patrick was undertaking a 40-day fast on top of a mountain in Ireland, when he was attacked by snakes. Using his staff Saint Patrick banished all the snakes in Ireland into the sea, and from that day Ireland was a land that was free of snakes. This Legend seems to draw on the story of Moses from the Book of Exodus, when Moses and Aaron’s staffs transformed into serpents to battle the Pharaohs scorchers.

It can also be assumed that the banishment of snakes from Ireland symbolizes the banishment of evil. The Irish Druids and Pagans would have also seen snakes as symbolizing evil. It is however important to state that there is no evidence that there were ever snakes in Ireland.

Patrick’s walking stick becomes a living tree.

During a time that is known as, the evangelical travels of Saint Patrick. Patrick was travelling back to Ireland from his homeland in Romano-Britain. He used the aid of an ash wood walking stick, as he was attempting to convert the Native Irish to Christian beliefs; the walking stick that he was leaning on took root and started to grow into a living tree.

Saint Patrick in Irish Mythology.

Ireland has countless myths and legends that have fascinated and thrilled generations of scholars throughout the world. Ireland’s myths and legends play a major role in the establishment of an ancient culture with constant and impermeable ties to the ancients of Ireland, Warriors, Gods, Goddesses and Druid are all part of a culture that gives Ireland its unique and powerful culture that has spread throughout the world.

The most famous Irish Warrior to grace our history books is Fionn Mac Cumhaill the leader of the ancient warriors of Ireland, The Fianna. As the legend goes, Fionn’s Son Oisin left Ireland with his love Niamh on a white horse into the sea to the land of Tir Na Nog.

Upon his return to Irish soil, Oisin had been away for centuries and arrived back in the time of Saint Patrick’s evangelical travels.  According to a 12th Century literary work called Acallam Na Senorach, Patrick encountered two ancient Irish warriors of the Fianna, Oisin and Cailte mac Ronain, who had somehow defied time to survive to the age of Saint Patrick.

According to legend Patrick sought to convert these ancient Irish Warriors to Christianity but they were Pagans and had no desire to convert. They told Patrick of the glorious ancients and their lifestyles as warriors and defenders of Ireland.

They told him of their ancient beliefs, battles and their lives connected to nature. The legend says that Saint Patrick transcribed the wondrous legends of Ireland and the exploits of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the Fianna.

Words By Sinead Murphy https://myrealireland.com/

The Fighting 69th

The 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment New York – Guardians of Irish Heritage in The United States.

The name The 69th Infantry Regiment, or the “Fighting 69th” embodies the melding of Irish-American Culture, the precious preservation of heritage, the limitless abilities of immigrants and the preservation of a long and distinguished connection between Ireland and the United States.

The name The Fighting 69th was bestowed on the Regiment by Confederate General Robert E Lee and embodies epic and legendary actions of the most famed military Regiment to grace the pages of our history books.

The history and the world famous achievements of The Fighting 69th illuminate the pages of Irish American history.

The Fighting 69th was initially an Irish Heritage Unit, comprised of Irish immigrants, who had escaped from an Ireland of vicious hunger, disease, injustices and failed rebellions.

These people had lived under the Penal Law system which denied them the right to freedom in their homeland. They set about a new life in The United States, a land of promise and freedom.

These brave men set about supporting the ideals of freedom, a sense of passion for a cause defending the rights of others, an experience they were familiar with defending those who could not defend themselves. They lived with a deep conviction to the cause of freedom and their passionate duty to the United States to this day is unwavering

The Fighting 69th embodies a greatness of spirit and faith in each other that has forever insured their rightful place as one of the most historic military Regiments in US, and modern world, history.

Their proud and legendary history preserved by all those who have sacrificed and continue to serve. Their proud history is interwoven with that of Ireland, The Fighting 69th embodies its Irish Heritage but also the heritage of all immigrants.

They have preserved some of the most wonderful Irish traditions, preserving the eternal bond that is forever enduring and unbreakable between Ireland and The United States.

The Fighting 69th are at the tip of the spear of preserving Irish Heritage in the United States, the majority of their traditions and emblems holding a deep rooted connection to Ireland.

Their regimental flag during the Civil War was green with the golden Irish harp, he flag of the Irish that was used until Thomas Francis Meagher flew the tricolour for the first time in 1848.

The Regimental flag bears a striking resemblance to that green flag of the Irish used during the failed 1798 Rebellion and again during the 1916 Rising.

“Return of the 69th (Irish) Regiment, N.Y.S.M. from the Seat of War” by Louis Lang (1862-3).
The painting shows the return of the 69th Regiment to New York from the Battle of Bull Run during the Civil War. 

The rainbow represents the unit’s service as a founding Regiment of the 42nd rainbow division during World War I. The 69th is the only infantry Regiment to have green as their background colour instead of the traditional infantry blue, referring back to their Irish heritage (not true anymore).

The insignia of The Fighting 69th holds the keys to the Regiments past with its emblems holding deep and significant meaning. The vivid red shamrock of the First Division, Second Corps of the army of the Potomac honours its roots in the American Civil War.

The legendry and magnificent Irish wolfhound represented on the Regiment’s insignia is also the mascot of The Fighting 69th. The Irish Wolfhounds history and significance in Irish Heritage reflects perfectly the attributes of The Fighting 69th. The Irish wolfhound is a dog deeply associated with the traits of the loyalty, protective instincts and intelligence.

Wolfhounds were the dogs of war of ancient Irish and appear in the historic records from 320BC. Wolfhounds or Cú in Irish, were typically owned by warriors and nobility, gentle creatures but will protect their people with frightening ferocity. Wolfhounds were hunters but their most famed attribute was as guardians of people.

The wolfhounds despite their intimidating size are not attack dogs and do not attach themselves to property but to people. Remaining steadfast and loyal they are guardians who protect their charge furiously. The motto of the Fighting 69th is “gentle when stroked and fierce when provoked”.

Holding on to the deep history of the New York National Guard the insignia of The Fighting 69th also contains the crest of Henry Hudson’s ship “The Half Moon”.

The Regiments Irish roots are also represented in their march, the well-known Irish march Garryowen. The regiment’s motto is also in Irish (Gaeilge) Faugh a Ballagh, which translates to “clear the way”.

Never were men so brave. They ennobled their race by their gallantry on that desperate occasion. Thought totally routed, they reaped harvests of glory. Their brilliant though hopeless assaults on our lines excited the hearty applause of our officers and men.

Robert E Lee

In the years following the Great Famine (An Gorta Mor) there was mass exodus from Ireland to the United States. It is estimated that approximately 1 million died of starvation and disease in Ireland and 1 million left Ireland in search of a better life in The United States.

In the aftermath of the failed Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848 many Irish Revolutionaries moved to New York City. The Fighting 69th credits it’s founding in its present form to the Irish Revolutionary and Waterford native Thomas Francis Meagher.

New York City was a primary destination for many Irish Immigrants and tensions often ran high and in 1853 the 69th were called into restore order. There was a decision made that military units would not march in the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade due to the tensions within immigrant communities.

Several Irish Regiments were held to receive orders in the Parade Ground. Upon their release the 69th marched with fixed bayonets down Broadway, until they were dismissed. By the year 1858 the 69th were the only Irish Regiment in New York City.

In the year 1859 a new Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood was formed in the United States their leader was James Stephens who had been a revolutionary leader during the 1848 Rebellion in Ireland. The second in command was one of the most famous commanders of The Fighting 69th Michael Corcoran.

Michael Corcoran was appointed as the Colonel of the 69TH Regiment in 1860. Corcoran was also the leader of The Fenians, who were inspired by the principles that Ireland had a natural right to independence from foreign rule and that right could be obtained by the taking up of arms.

They took their name from the Fenian Cycle of Irish Mythology. The Fianna were the legendary warriors of ancient Ireland that were lead by Fionn Mac Cumhall.

One of Michael Corcoran’s most famed acts was refusing to parade the Regiment during a visit by the Prince of Wales to New York City. A man of deep conviction he was protesting the injustices and human suffering that were inflicted by the British Ruling Classes in Ireland during the Great Famine.

He was arrested but was released without charge when the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter signalling the start of The American Civil War.

Famed for their bravery, ferocious fighting spirit and commitment to each other, the Fighting 69th were involved with most major engagements of the American Civil War. During The Battle of Bull Run, the 69th New York State Militia was sent to Washington in 1861.

They were heavily involved in engagement during the first Battle of Bull Run under the command of Colonel Michael Corcoran. They were tasked with forming the rear guard to protect the retreating Union Army. Upon completing 90 days service the 69th New York State Militia were re-enrolled as the 69th New York State Volunteers.

Meagher was responsible for the creation of the Irish Brigade; Meagher was promoted to Brigadier General and given command of the Irish Brigade.

Malven Hill saw the 69th lead a charge against the Louisiana Tigers (Confederate Irish Regiment). This historical event was when General Robert E Lee bestowed on the regiment its nickname The Fighting 69th. Antietam was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War.

Battle of Antietam

General Meagher lead The Fighting 69th in the battle charging the Sunken Road also known as ‘Bloody Lane’, The Regiment suffered a causality rate of 60% this was the bloodiest day in the history of the United States. Their bravery and their fearless reputation became epic in the annals of military history.

The Fighting 69th was almost decimated during its engagement with Confederate forces during the Battle of Fredericksburg, suffering more casualties then at Antietam.  So brave and fearless was their determination and fearlessness that Confederate Forces, cheered the Fighting 69th.

“Your soldier’s heart almost stood still as he watched these sons of Erin fearlessly rush to their death. The brilliant assault on Marye’s Heights of their Irish brigade was beyond description. Why, my darling, we forgot they were fighting us, and cheer after cheer at their fearlessness went up all along our lines.”

General George Pickett

The day after the Battle of Fredericksburg the Regiment was presented with its second colours, a set of which now hangs in Leinster House in Dublin, home to Dáil Eireann; the Irish Parliament. These were presented to the Oireachtas in 1963 by John F Kennedy.

After the Battle of Chancellorsville only 300 men remained in the Regiment. General Meagher resigned and Patrick Kelly was named the new commander of the Irish Brigade.

During the Battle of Gettysburg although outnumbered the Regiment held the Wheatfield until they were eventually overwhelmed. The Irish Brigade served until the end of the Civil War and were, present when General Robert E Lee surrendered at Appomattox.

The Regiment marched in the victory parade in Washington DC. Upon their return to New York City all the Regiments of the Irish Brigade were disbanded with the exception of The Fighting 69th.

The Fighting 69th value and continue many of the traditions that go back to the American Civil War. These traditions are upheld and regarded in the highest esteem. Their heritage linked to those of many Irish military traditions.

The regimental cocktail is said to have been a favourite of Thomas Francis Meagher, it is Irish whiskey mixed with champagne. During the Battle of Fredericksburg Michael Corcoran presented every man with a sprig of boxwood which the soldiers wore as a representation of their Irish heritage.

The Fighting 69th celebrate their anniversary on the 17th of March, Saint Patrick’s Day. The Regiment led out the New York City Saint Patrick’s Day parade as they have done for 167 years, Regimental officers and senior NCO’S carry Shillelaghs as a reference to their rank.

There are countless monuments and memorials dedicated to the Fighting 69th throughout the United States including Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg and many other Civil War battlegrounds.

No greater fighting regiment has ever existed than the One Hundred and Sixty-fifth Infantry of the Rainbow Division, formed from the old Sixty-ninth Regiment of New York. I cannot tell you how real and how sincere a pleasure I feel tonight in once more addressing the members of that famous unit. You need no eulogy from me or from any other man.

You have written your own history and written it in red on your enemies’ breast but when I think of your patience under adversity, your courage under fire, and your modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot express. You have carved your own statue upon the hearts of you people, you have built your own monument in the memory of your compatriots.

General Douglas MacArthur

During the First World War, The Fighting 69th was re designated to 165th Infantry Regiment.

The Regiment was sent to the Western Front in 1917 attached to the 42nd Rainbow Division of the American Expeditionary Force under the command of General John J Pershing. Since World War I, all members of the 69th have been designated honorary Irishmen, thanks to Father Duffy who described all soldiers of the Regiment as “Irish by adoption, Irish by association or Irish by conviction”.

The Regiment saw some of the worst fighting of the war and bore witness to the horrors of the ice-cold bitterness of European winter.

They were present at Rouge Bouquet, an event immortalized in the poem “Rouge Bouquet” by Sergeant Joyce Kilmer, who was a world-famous poet prior to enlisting in the 69th.

They were present at Champagne where they suffered causalities as a result of a mustard gas attack. At Chateau Thierry the Fighting 69th led the crossing of the Quran River and suffered heavy losses, including Sergeant Joyce Kilmer.

As a result of heavy casualties other regiments in the area declared that they were unable to advance on the line of retreating German forces. The Fighting 69th although crippled by losses declared that they “consider an order to advance as a compliment”.

Brigadier General Douglas MacArthur declared of the Fighting 69th “By god it takes the Irish when you want a hard thing done.” At St, Michael, The Fighting 69th, as part of the Rainbow Division would form part of the flanking right at the North East of Beaumont, where the 1st Tank Brigade of LTC George Patton was positioned.

The Regiment suffered losses but took thousands of German prisoners. The Rainbow Division along with the Fighting 69th relieved the 1st Infantry Division at Meuse- Argonne, where the Regiment again suffered heavy causalities on the 7th of November 1918. The War to end all Wars ended 4 days later. The Fighting 69th returned home to New York City in early 1919.

The distinguished service of The Fighting 69th has immortalized the Regiment in the annals of military history. 3 soldiers of the fighting 69th were awarded the highest military honour; the Medal of Honor and 60 members were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

This war also saw the amazing soldiers of the 69th remembered forever in the most reverend terms. Father Francis Duffy also referred to as the “The Fighting Chaplain” and the father of the modern US Army Chaplain Corps, seen in the deepest bloodiest parts of the battle, giving assistance to wounded, administering the last rites to the dying, burying the dead, constantly being a guiding forced and a source of encouragement to the men, all while unarmed and he never gave a thought to his own life or safety. His only thought was of the men of The Fighting 69th.

Brigadier General Douglas MacArthur considered making Father Duffy the commander of the regiment; it was unheard of that a chaplain would even be considered for this role. Father Duffy was an inspirational figure to the Soldiers of the fighting 69th and even in death still inspires the Soldiers of this historic unit.

There is a statue forever remembering the remarkable Father Duffy situated on the North End of Time Square or its official name Duffy Square. The heroic Soldiers who lost their lives during World War 1, including Poet Joyce Kilmer are interred at Oise – Aisne American Cemetery and memorial in France.

The Fighting 69th answered the call again during the Second World War, serving with distinction and honour. During World War II the Fighting 69th still retained the designation the 165th infantry, serving with the 27th Division, the New York Sate National Guard Division.

The Fighting 69th took part in some of the most vicious fighting to occur in the Pacific Theatre of WWII including the engagement with Japanese forces on Makin Island.

The 165th became the regimental combat team after being supplemented with heavy artillery and armour. The Battle of Makin Island commenced on 20th of November 1943. Despite heavy fire and Japanese opposition on Makin Island was subdued on the 23rd of November 1943.

During Saipan, the 27th Division served as an amphibious reserve in the support of The Marine Corps in the initial phases of the Battle of Saipan. The Marine divisions suffered devastating casualties. The Fighting 69th were the first army unit to set foot on Saipan. Under constant fire from heavily armed and determined forces of the Japanese army the 2nd Battalion successfully took the main objective the Aslito Airfield.

The Regiment was then redeployed to clear the infamous “Purple Heart Ridge” and accomplished the mission under impossible odds. The Regiment was ordered to quell isolated pockets of enemy resistance thought-out Saipan, eventually leaving on 25th of March 1945. They were then sent to one of the bloodiest islands of the war Okinawa, initially serving as a reserve to the 1st and 6th Marine Divisions along with the United States Army 7th and 96th Divisions.

Forces moved rapidly through the island until they reached The Machinate Line, causalities were devastating and the 27th division were sent to reinforce the right flank. Okinawa was treacherous and fraught with violent resistance by a dedicated and severely dug in enemy who were in defensive positions on the ridges and tunnels of Okinawa.

They took the Machinate Airfield on 26th of April against overwhelmingly odds and were cut off. Their gallant efforts were awarded with the Distinguish Unit Citation. The Fighting 69th left Okinawa on the 9th of September in 1945.

On September 11 2001, The Fighting 69th responded to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York City. Soldiers reported to The Armory, Lexington Avenue and 25th Street in midtown Manhattan to help the people of New York City. The Fighting 69th was one of the first military units to arrive at and help secure Ground Zero.

The 69th helped other first responders in rescue efforts and later search and recovery efforts. On that tragic day The Fighting 69th lost two of their own, 1st Lieutenant Gerard Baptiste a member of the FDNY and Specialist Thomas Jurgens of NYS Courts. In the aftermath of 9/11, 200 soldiers from the 69th were mobilized to protect West Point the United States Military Academy. Soldiers of The 69th were also tasked with protecting power plants, airports and other transport facilities. This protection detail was known as Operation Nobel Eagle.

Operation Iraqi Freedom would see the 69th federalized for combat duty. Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Slack and Command Sergeant Major George Brett, The Fighting 69th would deploy for an overseas combat mission.

The Regiment performed combat roles in Taji, Radwinlyah and Baghdad. In Baghdad. The 69th was responsible for protecting the “Route Irish” an infamous airport route connecting The Green zone to Camp Victory.

During Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, 300 soldiers of the Fighting 69th deployed as part of Task Force Phoenix attached to the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in 2006.  The Fighting 69th stands ready to answer a call to active duty. This historic unit maintains constant training and maintains its profound professionalism.

“One of the most outstanding characteristics of the regiment was its deep sense of religious responsibility, inculcated by one of my most beloved friends – Father Duffy. He gave you a code that embraces the highest moral laws that will stand the test of any ethics of philosophers ever promulgated for the uplift of man. Its requirements are for the things that are right and its restraints are from the things that are wrong. The soldier, above all men, is required to perform they highest act of religious teaching – sacrifice.”

General Douglas MacArthur

Ireland’s national memorial to the fighting 69th is in Ballymote, County Sligo the birthplace of famed Civil War Brigadier General Michael Corcoran. The bronze monument depicts scenes from Corcoran’s life. At the base of the monument is a chamber set into the ground containing a piece of steel from the World Trade Centre which was donated by the parents of Firefighter Michael Lynch who died during the attacks during 9/11. Corcoran is buried in Calvary Cemetery Woodside, Queens, New York.

The Armory’s lobby is a museum dedicated to the Regiments historic past and contains artefacts of wondrous historic significance.

The 69th Regimental Armory was declared an official historic landmark in New York City in 1983 and continues to be a part of this historic regiment’s glorious past even featuring on a US postage stamp.

The close relationship between The Fighting 69th and Ireland is also honoured every year when Soldiers from the regiment travel to Waterford City to take part in Ireland’s Tricolour Celebration maintaining a constant and enduring friendship with Ireland and their heritage.

The Fighting 69th upholds a wonderful bond with Ireland sending Soldiers to Waterford City in Ireland to celebrate The Tricolour Celebration. This wonderful event takes place in Waterford City each year. This celebration honours Thomas Francis Meagher the Civil War Brigadier General who is credited with founding the Fighting 69th and the man who first flew our precious national flag, the Tricolour from No. 33, The Mall, in the heart of what is now known as the Viking Triangle. We hope the Soldiers of the Fighting 69th enjoy their trips to our beautiful hometown and Ireland’s oldest City.

“Go Mairidís Beo” – “That Others May Live”

To all those who have served and continue we thank you for your duty and sacrifice. May you go safely and with the grace of God.

Words : Sinead Murphy https://myrealireland.com/

Luke Wadding : The man who gave us St. Patrick’s Day

Most of us in Waterford know of Luke Wadding, the Irish man who was almost Pope and the founder of St. Isidore’s College – but did you know that it is Luke Wadding that we must thank for St. Patrick’s Day?

Born (on October 16th, 1588) and raised in Waterford, Wadding’s family were important merchants and on his mother’s side the Lombards were an old English family (with roots in Lombardy, Italy) who had been Mayors and influential figures since the foundation of the city.

Religion was important to this Catholic family and no less than five of his brothers became Jesuits, probably inspiring young Luke to do the same. He was a very bright child and probably owing to the wealth and connections of his family, he gained proficiency in Latin early-on and joined the Society of Jesus in 1601. However, when he was just fourteen years old, tragedy struck.

In 1602, an unknown plague swept through Waterford and among its victims was Wadding’s mother: Anastasia Lombard.

In those days, fear of disease and a lack of knowledge about the mechanisms of illness meant that even the bodies of the deceased were feared, and despite her important place in Waterford society, Anastasia had to be buried outside the city walls along with the rest of the victims.

In the aftermath of his mother’s death Wadding accompanied his brother Matthew to Lisbon and there he joined the Franciscan Friars. It is possible that his interest in joining the friars had first been sparked by spending time around Greyfriars in Waterford, which was then the Holy Ghost Hospital, a place for charity and medical treatment ministered by friars, despite the law prohibiting this.

Wadding’s studious nature suited the work of the friars and while he joined to get involved in charity, fate had other plans for him.

He was ordained in 1613 and quickly became one of the most respected and well-known Franciscan theologians at work in mainland Europe. From the first days of his career, Hugh O’Neill the exiled Earl of Tyrone – attempted to convince him to become part of the Irish mission but Wadding’s superiors were sure that his future lay in education.

He taught at Louvain, the Jesuit College at Utrecht and theology at the University of Salamanca.

He eventually moved to Rome and this is where our story begins. Wadding never forgot his Irish roots and upon his arrival in the Eternal City, Wadding saw the need for a centre of education for the Irish in Italy.

Due to religious persecution in Ireland, many young Irishmen went abroad to gain a Catholic education but in Rome, their needs were largely ignored. The Franciscan Minister General gave Wadding a small, unfinished church and convent which was saddled with debts in order to accomplish his goal, but Wadding took charge of it anyway and set to work establishing St. Isidore’s into a school worthy of his fellow Irish Franciscans.

Wadding installed a huge and important library in the college of manuscripts dating as far back as 1400. In St. Isidore’s he also betrayed his first fondness for St. Patrick when he installed him as a co-patron saint of the college.

Later Wadding would lend his support to the 1641 uprising of Catholics in Ireland and allegedly sent arms and men to Ireland to help the cause. He also persuaded the Pope to send Archbishop Giovanni Rinnuccini, though even with the men, arms, money and 20,000 pounds of gunpowder, the effort was a failure.

Nevertheless, Wadding remained a popular figure in Rome. There were attempts to make him a cardinal, though they never came to fruition – however, he did receive a number of votes in the election of a new pope, making him the only Irishman to ever get close to such glory. However, it is his work on the calendar of saints which makes him important to us all today.

It is widely held that after he established his reputation in Rome, the Pope himself asked Wadding to lend a learned eye to helping to create a comprehensive calendar of saints. Wadding completed his task dutifully but thanks to his patriotism, along with all of the well-known Saints like Anthony and Francis, Wadding snuck in an extra, slightly lesser-studied Irish Saint – Patrick.

March 17th had long been observed by the Irish as St. Patrick’s Day, but only when Wadding gave church sanction did it become a huge spectacle of parades and céilithe. One of the places integral to the international importance of St. Patrick’s Day – and to its status as a national holiday – was Waterford.

In February 1903, before the 17th of March was ever made a national day of celebration, a meeting was held in the Town Hall in Waterford where the citizens unanimously voted to make St. Patrick’s Day a ‘general holiday’ where local businesses would close in order to allow everyone to celebrate.

Strangely enough, this included all of the local pubs, which hardly seems in the spirit of the modern holiday. The ‘patriotic movement’ to declare the day a ‘National Holiday’ must have been a success as later that same year it was declared a national holiday under the Money Bank (Ireland) Act.

Words: Clíona Purcell

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