Enquirer Herald

Larne's St. Pat's day is 'low-key'

Editor's note: In September, Clover entered a Sister Cities relationship with Larne, Northern Ireland. Enquirer-Herald followed suit by teaming up with Larne's weekly newspaper, The Larne Times, to help shed light on each other's culture.

While St Patrick's Day in Belfast and several other towns in Northern Ireland is celebrated with street parades, in Clover's "twin town" of Larne, things are much more low-key.

Part of the problem is that while it is an official Northern Ireland bank holiday, with Government offices, post offices, banks and building socieities closed for the day, for others it is work as usual. Some schools -- mainly within the Catholic community -- are closed. Those attended by the majority of the Protestant community are not.

It has been debated on many occasions if St. Patrick's Day should be designated a public holiday for everyone in Northern Ireland, but as yet nothing definite has been brought into place.

While some schools and churches in Larne may well have celebrated the life of Ireland's patron saint in their own way, there was no official parade or event in the town to distinguish March 17 from any other day. Although, shamrocks are now sold more through local shops and you may see a few people wearing them in the lapel of their coats.

However, on Friday, a St Patrick's Larne Alive tea dance was held in a local church hall, enjoyed by a good crowd. This has now become a tradition in itself, having been run successfully for a number of years.

Anyone who had the good fortune to be off work in Larne could have enjoyed a fine sunny but chilly day by climbing Slemish mountain, some 25 or so miles outside the town near the village of Broughshane. Standing about 1,500 ft above sea level, this is where Saint Patrick slaved in the fifth century. After six years, he escaped but later returned to devote the remainder of his life to bring Christianity to the Irish.

Every St Patrick's Day Slemish becomes a place of pilgrimage in memory of St Patrick's lonely life there.

-- submitted by Valerie Martin, editor of The Larne Times

The annual Tea Dance, which is organized by the Larne Alive Committee, was held in the hall belonging to the Old Presbyterian Church of Larne and Kilwaughter. The hall was decorated with St Patrick's Day banners, balloons and shamrocks, and the committee was rewarded for its effort by an excellent turn out of local people of all ages. They were shown a variety of dances by the husband and wife team who provided the music and soon the floor was filled by dancers working off the extra pounds they had acquired over the winter months!

A delicious meal was served up by the committee members, which comprised of shamrock shaped shortbread, freshly baked scones filled with butter, strawberry jam and topped off with cream.Tea and coffee was served and then it was time for a ballot with many prizes on offer which included tins of chocolates and vouchers donated by several businessmen in Larne.

That evening, the Arts and Heritage Committee held an Irish Stew event in the auditorium of the Carnegie Museum and Arts Centre. This is a new event and guests were entertained by a very talented group called The Island People. A wide variety of music was played and one of the group members doubled up as a storyteller. The Irish stew was served up along with a glass of wine to help wash it down.

Around the town many people observe St Patrick's Day by drowning the Shamrock in the local pubs and clubs, but it's back to work on Monday because incredibly it is not a public holiday.

-- submitted by Larne resident Liam Kelly