THE rain stayed away for just long enough for Nenagh to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in fine style with a parade that took almost two hours to pass down Pearse Street. Pride of place at this year’s event went to the cross-border Friendship Band and the St Malachy’s Accordion Band from Kilcoo, County Down.
The Friendship Band lived up to their name as they entertained the town on Saturday outside the Bank of Ireland and later that evening took part in Nenagh Choral Society’s gala event in Una Powells Pub.
Up to 4,000 braved the chilly conditions to be entertained by commercial floats and local voluntary and sports organisations, with close to 1,000 participants marching in the parade, the town’s fourth since its was relaunched by Cllr Hughie McGrath during his mayoralty.
As usual, the parade was offically led by a colour party from the Defence Forces following a siren blaring cavalcade by North Tipperary emergency services. The emergency services’ 24/7 role was highlighted by parade MC Michelle Geraghty, who reminded the crowd that the reason they had to be first was because they were on call.
The colour party was followed by a party of North Tipperary based members of the Organisation of Ex-Servicemen and Women before the Ormond Brass Band got the party going.
The parade drew together a wide range of participants, and showcased the many local organisations that put in their time and effort to cater for a wide range of activities throughout the year. Among such groups taking part were the Active Retirement Association, Ormond Special Olympics and Cloughjordan Scouts and Beavers. However, the best voluntary float belonged to Lorrha Residents Development Association, led by Operation Transformation hero Greg Starr, and showcasing the parish’s Stepping Stones programme that forms part of The Gathering.
Sporting clubs were represented by Nenagh Eire Og Juvenile Club and Nenagh Ormond Rugby Club, whose members are eagerly awaiting news to see if one of their own, Donnacha Ryan, is called up for this year’s Lions tour.
The display of vintage farm machinery from Borrisokane Vintage Club is always a talking point, and this year was no execption as they showed off their tractors and threshing machines, some dating back to 1932.
Nenagh Silent Film Festival were in keeping with the silent era and, dressed in black and white, they performed Laurel and Hardy style highjinks as they made their way down the street.
Among the more colourful entrants were the Nenagh Players, who are this year celebrating their 70th anniversary. The Players, along with members of the Young Nenagh Players, came dressed in costume and their Chinese dragon could be seen the full length of the parade route as they slowly made their way past the reviewing stand at Market Cross.
Also displaying their artistic contribution to Nenagh were Nenagh Choral Society, whose nun clad members had to make a quick dash from the parade to go on stage in Nenagh CBS Hall for this year’s production of The Sound of Music. A case of nuns on the run!
Newcomers Cloughjordan Circus Club put on a great display of unicycling as they weaved their way down Pearse Street. Their entry also included a fabulous anenome made of white fabric that bollowed in the wind.
The parade attracted the young dancers from three local schools and academies - McLoone O’Meara School of Dance, Flynn O’Kane Academy of Dance and the Slevin School of Dance, each entertaining the crowd with their chosen pieces.
On the commercial side, Una’s Flowers was a kaleidescope of vibrant colours, while Julie’s Cattery and Dog Grooming Parlour looked like their little doggie participants had stepped out of Crufts.
The parade was brought to a close with a brilliant display by St Mary’s Convent Primary School Band and Majorettes, who must have been blue with the cold as they waited their turn. How they managed to play so well is a tribute to their dedication. Their performance was timed to perfection. As they turned from Pearse Street into the finishing straight down Kenyon Street the rain began to fall and the specators made for the nearest shelter.
The number of commercial floats was down slightly on last year, an indication of the tough times businesses are facing, and while not as many people lined the streets as in previous years, that can probably be attributed to the biting wind that swept around the town.
Before the parade began, Mayor Lalor McGee paid tribute to the organising committee and thanked the various groups for taking part.