St Patrick’s Day always proves to be a good aul session in Clifden, but as sure as St Patrick himself drove every last snake out of the country, it will surely rain.
The Parade in Clifden is traditionally led by the headline act, “St Maureen’s Primary School” singing what seems to be a Christmas Carol, drowned out by a wall of noise, created by every musical instrument under the sun, whilst being ushered along in a Military style operation by five to six sternly focused nuns. Sister Ophelia frantically waving a baton at the front, Sister Consillio singing along and clapping hands, Sister Concepta and Sister Ignatius keeping a close eye out for messers, and the final two “Brides of Christ’ driving from the back, ensuring a steady pace. And while all this chaos is taking place, the adoring mothers with their disposable cameras, are clicking like a bunch of Japanese tourists, in the hope of catching a glimpse of their little ones.
After that, it’s fair game, and any man with a trailer and a means to pull it will be in that parade, competition is stiff, and tensions run high. The Joyce’s from back west were always a tight act to follow. They normally started production of their float two to three weeks after St Patrick’s Day, once pulling out all the stops and building a life size model of the Titanic. Although disaster struck when taking the turn at Maggie Dicks, whilst trying to avoid the ‘Iceberg’ stand. Toppling the great ship on her side and sending scores of innocent bystanders into EJ’s pub for cover, some men were so shaken by the ordeal they refused to come out for days. Thankfully, no one was hurt in the fiasco, apart from Padraic who was in the wheelhouse at the time and refused to leave as the ship keeled over. It had been rumored that he was overheard joking with a number of people before the parade commenced saying, “Not even St Patrick himself could stop this great ship from winning.” It was on that day back in 1972 that the Joyces lost their coveted title, and have never regained it since.
After the Parade is over and when all the trophies and the last tins of USA biscuits have been handed out, there is a civilized charge for the mahogany, and anyone lucky enough to find a bar stool will be nestled in for the day. As it is a family day out, each round of gargle is usually followed by “and a fizzy orange and a tayto for the young fella.” Giants of men from every corner of Connemara make their way to Clifden, for most who have taken the pledge to abstain from alcohol over the forty days of lent, nose-dive off the Wagon, leaving sobriety at the front door of the pub, only to be picked up on their way home.