Friday, March 16, 2012

The Day We Celebrate

St Patrick Church, 1880s

So begins the opening line of the first recorded celebration of St Patrick’s Day in Lowell.  The Lowell Mercury of 1833 gives us a picture into the past.  They were all there at the Mansion House.  Mr. Blanchard, the owner of the establishment, served a fine supper.  He was known for his oysters and setting a fine table.  They were a close-knit group, a tight band of “native sons” who were making new lives for themselves.  Of course there was Hugh and Eugene Cummiskey.  Hugh’s close friend and business partner, Samuel Murray, was also there.  At the head table would be Charles Short.  He seemed to be involved in everything in the Paddy Camps, land dealings, business arrangements, and even causing the Bishop some grief with choosing a new Pastor.  But that won’t be for a few months.  The Campbells came in, one a tailor and the other a laborer for the Corporation.  They were among the growing number of businesses in the Acre.  Most of the crowd, being solely men, made their way over from Lowell (Market) Street and Fenwick Street.  Most were part of Lowell’s growing Irish middle class.  There were teamsters, carpenters, real estate agents, stable owners.  They were here to show their fellow Irish countrymen that America had much to offer.
Lowell Directory, 1833

After the table cloth was removed the musicians, and they were a fine group by all accounts, started up their tunes.  Of course the first was St. Patrick’s Day.  They slapped their hands on the tables and prepared the first round of toasts.  “The day we celebrate- may its memory be celebrated in the breast of every Irishman.”  The glasses were lifted, another jig was played and the sentiments continued.  They remembered their homeland and those left behind.  They remembered their heroes and cursed their oppressors.  They lifted their glasses to O’Connell and the Irish harp.  Over and over again they remembered their new home: President Jackson, Democracy, the Constitution, the Merrimac River and to the owners of the loom.  They sang Adeste Fideles when they recalled Bishop Fenwick and sang Yankee Doodle.  Music and poetry filled the room.  As the night drew late someone reminded the crowd that it was a Saturday and the next day was Mass.  And so some made their way to their hacks and others bundled up and walked out into the March night to return to their homes. 
In the words of James Campbell, “May the Sons of Old Hibernia celebrate the festival of their Patron Saint, with mirth, cheerfulness and convivia

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