On March 17, 2018 we will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with our 19th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. In 1996 a group of men from the Ancient Order of Hibernians, a group originally founded in Ireland in the early 1500’s, marched down King Street; thus resurrecting Charleston’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

St Patrick Shamrock ImageThere is evidence of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the city going back to the mid-eighteenth century when groups like the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick met to celebrate the day. The Hibernian Society, founded in 1799, and reconstituted in 1801, used March 17 for its banquet. Parades began in the nineteenth century and were usually led by the various Irish militia units. Noted Irish Charlestonian historian Donald Williams has found the earliest parade taking place on Broad Street in 1823 when the Irish Volunteers paraded after a speech by Bishop John England. By the end of that century the processions had grown substantially in size and length. Usually starting at the Irish Volunteer Hall on Vanderhorst Street they proceeded down King to Broad and over to Meeting and back to Calhoun Square dropping off the various groups at their respective halls along the way. These larger parades continued into the twentieth century but stopped in the mid -1920’s when many of the city’s Irish organizations folded. By the 1930’s all that remained was the Hibernian Banquet, joined in the 1940’s by a Knights of Columbus dance. In the late 1950’s the Knight of Columbus began celebrating Mass in St. Patrick’s Church and then in the early 60’s walked over to their hail on Calhoun Street for a luncheon afterward. The luncheon soon replaced the dance as the major focus of the daytime activities. In the 1970’s the Hibernian Society began their short parade along Broad Street to the Hibernian Hall. The major parade was revived in 1997.

Now let us learn a little history of St. Patrick and his contribution to our Christian heritage. In the 5th century as a young boy of sixteen, Patrick was kidnapped and sold into slavery. He was held captive for six years in Ireland. During his captivity he learned the Celtic language which upon his release enabled him to share Christianity to the Irish as he traveled for over two decades throughout Ireland. It is said that St. Patrick used the Shamrock to help explain the meaning of the Holy Trinity to the Irish. The Shamrock with its trifold leaf symbolized the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Today, we honor St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland.

Celebrations in 1856 here in Charleston

“St. Patrick’s Day”

The day was appropriately celebrated by the various Irish military companies and societies of the city.
The Irish Volunteers celebrated their anniversary with usual ceremonies. They assembled at their rendezvous at 9 o”clock AM, and marched thence to St. Patrick’s Church, where an appropriate and impressive address was delivered by P.N. Lynch, D. A. After the services at the Church they proceeded in company with the Emmet Volunteers, to Magnolia, where they spent some time in target exercise. Each was performed with the usual skill and spirit. The company then returned to the City and was dismissed.

In the evening they reassembled at Military Hall where (they had) and sumptuous repast. After the company had done ample justice to the tempting viands that had been placed before them, Captain Magrath, the chairman of the evening announced the following regular toasts:

1. The Day We Celebrate
2. The President of the United States
3. South Carolina
4. Ireland
5. The Press
6. Woman
7. Our Guests

The festivities of the evening were further interspersed with songs, sentiments, and speeches, and at a late hour the Company and their guests dispersed well pleased with the incidents and exercises of the joyous occasion.

Charleston Mercury, March 18,1856

As some may say for certain Irish eyes were smiling when they arrived at the foot of Charlotte Street in the 1800’s. It is well known to the Irish community the many contributions made by the early Irish immigrants. From the meads to the waterfront to the public servants of Charleston, the Irish helped make Charleston one of the most treasured historic cities in our beloved Country.

Today we honor, celebrate and share our Irish Heritage.
Cead Mile Fate
(a Hundred Thousand Welcomes)
Erin Go Bragh (Ireland Forever)

A special thanks to contributors:

Donald Williams
David Gleeson
Walter Duane
Jimmy Finnegan