A Saint Patrick's Day 2020 Sampler

2020 sees a Saint Patrick's Day that we could scarcely have imagined. Wherever you are we hope you will enjoy this tribute in song, dance and image from the Staff at ITMA. Stay safe and well.

Barry Gleeson Crop

Patrick's arrival / Barry Gleeson, singing in English

Patrick’s Arrival

Sung by Barry Gleeson at the Góilín Singers Club, Tom Maye's Pub, Dorset Street, Dublin, 12 March 2004.

From the Brian Doyle Collection 

You've heard of St. Denis of France he never had much for to brag on
You've heard of St. George and his lance who killed d'old heathenish dragon
The saints of the Welshmen and Scot are a couple of pitiful pipers
And might just as well go to pot when compared to the patron of vipers
St. Patrick of Ireland my dear.

He sailed to the Emerald Isle on a lump of pavin' stone mounted
He beat the steamboat by a mile which mighty good sailing was counted
Says he The salt water I think has made me unmerciful thirsty
So bring me a flagon to drink to wash down the mullygrups burst ye
Of drink that is fit for a Saint.

He preached then with wonderful force the ignorant natives a teaching
With pints he washed down each discourse for says he I detest your dry preaching
The people in wonderment struck at a pastor so pious and civil
Exclaimed We're for you my old buck and we'll heave our blind Gods to the divil
Who dwells in hot water below.

This finished, our worshipful man went to visit an elegant fellow
Whose practise each cool afternoon was to get most delightful mellow
That day with a barrel of beer he was drinking away with abandon
Say's Patrick It's grand to be here drank nothing to speak of since landing
So give me a pull from your pot.

He lifted the pewter in sport believe me I tell you it's no fable
A gallon he drank from the quart and left it back full on the table
A miracle everyone cried and all took a pull on the Stingo
They were mighty good hands at that trade and they drank 'til they fell yet by jingo
The pot it still frothed o'er the brim.

Next day said the host It's a fast and I've nothing to eat but cold mutton
On Fridays who'd make such repast except an un-christian-like glutton
Said Pat Stop this nonsense I beg what you tell me is nothing but gammon
When the host brought down the lamb's leg Pat ordered to turn it to salmon
And the leg most politely complied.

You've heard I suppose long ago how the snakes in a manner most antic
He marched to the county Mayo and ordered them all into the Atlantic
Hence never use water to drink the people of Ireland determine
With mighty good reason I think for Patrick has filled it with vermin
And snakes and such other things.

He was a fine man as you'd meet from Fairhead to Kilcrumper
Though under the sod he is laid let's all drink his health in a bumper
I wish he was here that my glass he might by art magic replenish
But since he is not why alas my old song must come to a finish because all the liquor is gone.

Song words attributed to: William Maginn (1794-1842)


Gaelic League London, 1901-1905

To celebrate St Patrick’s Day in 1901, the Gaelic League in London organised a mass at Holy Trinity Church, Dockhead, Bermondsy in which the responses where in Irish. This service proved very popular among the London Irish community and grew to become a regular feature of the calendar.  In 1905 the event moved to Westminster Cathedral.

In the ITMA Collection there are three original booklets from those early masses in 1901, 1902 and 1905. As well as the mass rites in latin, Irish and English, they feature the music and words to familiar hymns in the tradition like Dóchas Linn Naomh Pádraig and Gabhaim Mólta Bhríde and remind us that the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day has been an international event for over one hundred years.

Shown below is the cover of the booklet from the first Gaelic service at Westminster Cathedral, 1905.



St. Patrick's Day Set Dance

Irish dance continues to serve as an enduring emblem of St. Patrick’s Day festivities, lending colour and spectacle to parades across the globe. 

It is therefore perhaps unsurprising to know that there is a dance and tune specifically named after our patron saint and the festival.

St. Patrick’s Day is a traditional set dance that is believed to have originated in Limerick, and has endured as a popular dance among the Irish diaspora.  One of the most common versions of the set dance is credited to the early 20th century composer, Stephen Comerford. 

Orfhlaith Ní Bhriain writes that the aim of the set dance is to highlight “the virtuosity and technical prowess of the individual dancer". (Terminology of Irish dance, 2008). There is no better exemplar of this, than the late Celine Tubridy. Watch her version of the St. Patrick’s Day set dance featured at the Willie Clancy Summer School in 2004. She is accompanied by her husband Michael Tubridy on flute.

We also thank Orfhlaith Ní Bhriain and Mick McCabe for permission to share an excerpt on the St. Patrick's Day step dance from their 2018 publication From jigs to Jacobites (https://trad.dance/)

St. Patrick's Day Set Dance / Celine Tubridy, dance ; Michael Tubridy, flute.


Written, researched and presented by ITMA Staff