Irish for Happy St. Patrick’s Day to You-
After a blessing by a priest from All Saints Church and a thrilling flourish of the bagpipes, the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade was on its way through the streets of Portsmouth, Ohio.
Since 2007, The 7 Nations Celtic Club has organized the St. Patrick’s Day Parade through Portsmouth as a community event to celebrate life and the coming of spring.
It’s more similar to the historic parades in Boston and New York, known for their raucous spectators, than the parades in Ireland, which are more somber religious observations, says Jill McDonald, the club’s president.
The Club is a non-profit group, based in
Portsmouth, devoted to celebrating and honoring the heritage of the seven historically Celtic nations in Europe which were the ancestral home for many Americans, including many in Appalachia. The Celtic people were united by similar languages and cultures but lived in different nations.
The parade is the club’s biggest activity each year. This year, the Grand Marshal was David Pettit, a Portsmouth native and a drum major for the Ohio State Marching Band. (Pettit was featured in Portsmouth Metro issue #3 – Fall/Winter 2013).
On a blustery March 14 morning, dozens of people from many different groups marched to the lilting melody of the Cyril Scott Pipe Band from Columbus. The pipers, which include teenagers as well as more seasoned adults, wear the traditional Scottish kilt, knee socks, and hat and blow on the bagpipes. Marchers dress as leprechauns or wear green clothes, and some paint their faces green. The marchers followed a green stripe that ran down the middle of the street, painted by a mysterious band of supporters who came out under the cover of darkness to mark the way for the parade.
Local residents lined the sidewalks to watch the pipers, as well as floats, River Days Queen candidates and even members of American Legion Post 23, who bought their own kilts a few years ago to join in the spirit of the day.
The annual parade is a culmination of a year’s worth of work by the members of the club led by MacDonald as president, Wayne Lewis as vice president and Gail Valentine as secretary. Lee Daily has been instrumental in organizing the parade and other activities.
John Hogan and his wife Barbara, who owned the Port City Pub at the time, founded the club. John is proud and knowledgeable about his Irish heritage, MacDonald recalled. Since then, they’ve moved to Columbus to be closer to family, but a stalwart group has kept the club alive.
MacDonald got involved on the recommendation of a friend who knew of her love of her Irish heritage. She joined up and jumped into the club’s activities.
In addition to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the group participates in the River Days and Memorial Day parades and has a program during the monthly meetings at the Port City pub. Members bring in regional delicacies such as scones and cake made with Guinness ale.
Each September, the group throws a “Hooley” (the Irish word for celebration) to mark six months until St. Patrick’s Day. Other presentations have included Celtic dances by the Cirque d’Art dance troupe and talks by people who have traveled to the Celtic countries. Members of the group have taken presentations to other places, including the Hill View Retirement Center.
Many people in the Appalachian region have a Celtic heritage, primarily from Ireland, Scotland and Wales, MacDonald noted. She has an Irish background and her husband is of Scottish descent. Part of reason those ancestors came to this area is because the geography is similar, which MacDonald saw first hand on a trip to Ireland.
“We saw the hills and green forests. I guess when you relocate somewhere, especially when you’re forced to go, it makes sense you’d go somewhere that looks like home,” she said.
Following the green stripe, the parade wound up at Tracy Park. Later, revelers gathered at the Port City Pub for a family friendly gathering with live music, dancers and good food.
People don’t have to have a Celtic heritage to be a member of the club. “Anyone who is interested in the culture and supporting the community can be a part of it,” MacDonald said. “Our idea was to a day to celebrate life and the coming of spring and fellowship and we’ve stayed true to that.”
Photos Compliments The 7 Nations Celtic Club
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