Sheffield’s Irish exiles drink toast to St Patrick

Nick Fell, Lauren Parkin and Neil Johnson enjoy the beer tent in Fargate.
Nick Fell, Lauren Parkin and Neil Johnson enjoy the beer tent in Fargate.
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SLAINTE!

South Yorkshire’s Irish community raised a pint of the black stuff and marched in a parade through the city centre to mark St Patrick’s Day in Sheffield.

About 300 people, most wearing green jackets, ties, hats and badges, attended a mass at St Marie’s Catholic Cathedral, led by the Bishop of Hallam John Rawsthorne.

Led by a piper, the congregation then marched round the Peace Gardens before assembling in front of the Town Hall to sing the Irish national anthem.

Afterwards, friends headed to the St Patrick’s Day Beer Tent on Fargate, a free attraction which will remain until Sunday.

“It was a beautiful service,” said Frank Gallagher, who attended the march with his sister Fidelma Stark.

“I came to Sheffield from Strabane in County Tyrone 60 years ago when I was 17,” he said.

“We came to build the motorways and heavy industry.”

Now aged 78 and living in Highfield, Mr Gallagher said: “We are an immigrant race but we have a very strong culture.

“This is our national day. In every city of the world today there will be Irish people celebrating.

“Even in China, South America, Africa, even in poor Japan, people will be celebrating St Patrick’s Day.”

The marchers watched a display of Irish dancing in the Town Hall foyer before attending a civic reception hosted by the Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Coun Alan Law.

Kevin Meagher, chairman of Sheffield Irish Association, said: “St Patrick’s Day is a sort of AGM for the Irish community worldwide. It is a day for all people of Irish heritage to reaffirm their ethnic and cultural identity and a chance to celebrate the immense contribution Irish people have made to the arts, sport, business and politics, wherever in the world we have made our home.”

Sister Johannah, of Abbeydale Road Mother of God Church, who left County Kerry in 1960, said: “Every year we celebrate. We are proud of our nation. And why not?”