Countries, Ireland, UK

London’s Paddy’s Day

And it’s a racing cert that an English market town is awash with Guinness mid-March but what of down the road and a history of London‘s Paddy’s Day?

We’re all recovering from the last few days when half the population of Ireland got jinglier of pocket through four days at the Cheltenham Festival.

When their favourite, in this case Gallopin des Champs, comes romping home.

Norah’s story: Norah Casey in Trafalgar Square in 2002

Of course Paddy‘s Day has become something of a misnomer over the years.

What started out as a one-day break from Lenten sacrifices when us youngsters got to eat sweets has grown.

A weekend bender

The craic: The Irish rule in Cheltenham

And in these more heathen days it’s a bevvy-up that stretches out over a whole week.

Which is why Cheltenham designated March 16 as their Paddy’s Day which, of course, extended into the real day.

While March 18 at the start of Paddy’s Weekend, has become a recurring celebration of Irish rugby excellence.

Or whenever it lands.

When Ireland win the Grand Slam and in the best possible style with victory over the Old Enemy, England.

Of course, you don’t have to be sporty to indulge in Paddy’s Day revelry.

And Daddy’s Little Girl has been living it up in the Dublin of her youth (insert your own city in here).

Paddy’s Day, of course, has been celebrated around the world by ex-pats for hundreds of years.

The London Irish

Green for go: Ireland regularly win around St Paddy’s Day

But London’s St Paddy’s Day celebration is oddly and shamefully no long-held tradition.

And only within this Fiftysomething’s lifetime.

Its history too is tied up with an old travel companion and Irish businesswoman par excellence, Norah Casey.

For those of you lucky enough to still live in Ireland.

Norah is instantly recognisable from Dragon’s Den.

But she also more than made her mark in 22 years in Britain and at the helm of the Irish Post.
Not least in leaving her legacy with the first St Patrick’s Day Festival in London in Trafalgar Square in 2002 and which you can pencil in your diary for next year.

Livingston, we presume

Greening it up: Global Paddy’s Weekend celebrations
Which she organised with the-then Mayor of London Ken Livingston.
Norah informs us that it had been written into the bye laws of Trafalgar Square that no Irish gathering was to be held there.
Nor was an Irish flag permitted to fly in the square where Nelson looks down on us all.
Maybe the Admiral’s revenge for blown to smithereens on O’Connell Street, Dublin.
It had been written into the byelaws of Trafalgar Square that no Irish gathering was to be held there, nor was an Irish flag permitted to fly.
And so back in 2002 tens of thousands of Irish packed the square to hear The Dubliners and Mary Coughlan sing to the crowds.
As Norah so poignantly put it: “I don’t mind admitting that I cried.. but so did Ken and the whole team.
“Along with everyone else there, I felt so proud that finally we could celebrate being Irish in London.”
So if you’re in Trafalgar Square today as I was last week, and celebrating Ireland’s victory over England and their Grand Slam just remember.
What Norah and Ken and countless others did to ensure you enjoyed your London’s Paddy’s Day.


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