I’m not 100% sure why, but the Irish part of my identity has always been very strong in my consciousness. Although I come from mixed English, Scottish and Irish stock, my family background is about two-thirds Irish, and of course I have a name which is quintessentially Irish and I know the towns and places in Ireland where my ancestors came from.
Even though the first of my ancestors arrived in 1792 (English), and the last in 1864 (Irish), there has always been something important about “Irishness” in my family history. As a child, for example, I have a vivid memory of the angst my mother would have that meant I had to wear “something green” to school on St Patrick’s Day.
But in Australia, of course, St Patrick’s Day is mostly just an excuse for people to get drunk. In Sydney, at least, it’s usually best to avoid it, as thousands of yobbos put on green wigs, drink green beer, and find their “inner Irishness”, while attempting to chat up visiting backpackers.
Suprisingly that wasn’t the case today in Sydney, with St Patrick’s Day being held a week early, due to next weekend’s Harbour Bridge celebrations. No one, it seems, told the drunken yobbos there was a big party in Hyde Park today. Subsequently, most of the crowd attending (at least when I was there about two o’clock) seemed to be “genuinely Irish people”. They knew the words to the Irish national anthem, they knew where all the different counties were, they could have genuinely intelligent conversation. And they cheered and sang along when Australian Idol winner, Damien Leith appeared on stage, triggering in my mind shades of the Eurovision Song Contest in the 1980s.
So yeah, it seemed like a genuinely authentic Irish celebration without the yobbos. Mind you, I left after an hour or so and I’m still sure there were more stalls selling beer than anything else.