IRISH eyes are smiling across Sheffield today as the city’s population makes a toast to its roots on St Patrick’s Day.
It is estimated there are 50,000 people with an Irish connection in the city – representing 10 per cent of the population – after many came across the pond following the country’s famine. And most of them will be touching glasses and wishing slainte, or cheers, as part of the fourth Sheffield Irish Festival which culminates today on the holiday itself.
Kevin Meagher, director of organiser Sheffield Irish Association, said: “A lot of people came from Ireland to Sheffield, as they did to most English towns and cities, after the famine.
“Historically, Irish people dug the train tunnels through the Peak District, we’ve done every hard and dirty job that’s going.
“The Irish that come to Sheffield today do so to work as doctors, lawyers and academics.
“Today is a day when all of that is remembered and celebrated, the hard times people have had and the good ones.
“This time of year is special as our extended community celebrates its Irish heritage.”
The centrepiece of this year’s Sheffield Irish Festival is a ‘live lounge’ structure on Devonshire Green which lights up in Ireland’s national colours: green, white and orange.
Today there are a raft of free festival events while people across the city mark the occasion.
Barbara Boulding, landlady of Irish pub Fagan’s, Broad Lane, Sheffield city centre, said: “We’ve been doing St Patrick’s Day for 27 years so we just go with the flow.
“People turn up and there’s usually just a bit of a session with music. It’s got a life all of its own has St Patrick’s.”
Sheffield Eagles star Tim Bergin – who is from Ireland – said: “I have been to a whole host of different places on St Patrick’s Day – Aberdeen, Rome, London, Kilkenny, Sheffield – but I think the one thing that remains a common theme when you’re away from home is family.
“When you remember your Irishness on March 17, you can’t do it without remembering your family.
“I think what St Patrick’s Day is about for me is having a sense of pride about being Irish without having to scream it from the rooftops!”
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