Drogheda’s Patrick’s Day Parade approaches its 60th anniversary
Drogheda Brass Band pictured marching to Mass on Saint Patrick's Day in 1958. It would be another six years before the first parade as we might know it today took place in the town.
By Sean Collins
The first Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in Drogheda took place in 1964 at the suggestion of Joe Shiels of the Drogheda Brass Band. Since then, apart from cancellations due to heavy snow in 1979 and Covid in 2019 -2021, it has been a much-loved public event in the town’s calendar.
There were several precursors to the parade including the “An Tostal” festival in 1954 when the classical actor Anew McMaster sailed up the Boyne dressed as Saint Patrick to a tumultuous welcome by the townspeople who lined the banks of the Boyne.
In 1958 an Irish Week was held in Drogheda to celebrate Gaelic culture to coincide with the national holiday and The Drogheda Brass Band marched and performed through the new municipal housing estates on both sides of the town.
The Drogheda Corporation traditionally attended Mass fully robed at Saint Peter’s Church in West Street and they were joined from 1958 onwards by the local company of the FCA, who would march to the Mass.
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In 1963 Joe Shiels, the Secretary of the Drogheda Brass Band, announced that in 1964, the Band would host a “Saint Patricks Day Parade for all the people”.
The Drogheda Parade was born, and, thanks to Joe’s and the Drogheda Brass Band’s initiative, it will celebrate its 60th Anniversary next year. They deserve great plaudits for their establishment of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade which the people of Drogheda look forward to every year.
Since then, the parade has become a popular and colourful fixture in the calendar of the town and has become as much a part of Drogheda as Saint Laurence’s Gate.
The local media have always supported it as the records illustrate in these following extracts:
1964 - A parade for all the people.
1966 - The Drogheda Brass band wear their new uniforms for the first time. 1967 - The Drogheda amateur boxing club provide a reviewing stand and the Parade Director is Eddie Rooney.
1968 – A very wet day but Parade participants determined to march.
1970 – In the seventh week of the Cement Strike, strikers march in Drogheda and Limerick Patrick’s Day Parades.
1973 - The revived Lourdes Boys and Girls Band march under the baton of Jack Reilly and Ogras a new Irish youth group also participate.
1974 - Lourdes Band Majorettes steal the show and add an American flair to the Parade.
1975 - Bonanza Parade organised by local traders featuring vintage cars compliments of the Byrne Brothers Paddy and Jim and the River Rescue participate for the first time in The Patrick’s Day Parade.
1976 - The Shamrock Rockway Marching Band from New York parade through the town.
1979 - Parade cancelled because of heavy snow.
1980 - Traders criticised because of lack of bunting on St. Patrick’s Day.
1981 - Commandant Peter Sands from Dromin takes the salute in West Street.
1985 - dispute over running of Parade but over fifty floats take part.
1992 - Sporting Superstar Joey Maher is Grand Marshall and the “Save St. Marys” action group enter a float.
1994 - 800 theme dominates the Parade.
1995 - Another Parade dispute settled.
1996 - Drogheda emigrants lead the Parade.
1997 - Bord Telecom win best float.
2000 - Millennium Parade, “Socks Byrne” returns from Canada to be Grand Marshall.
2003 - Jimmy Gradwell leads the way.
2005 - Glorious sunshine, but fifteen arrested for public order offences.
2007 - No more Patrick’s Day Parades due to spiralling costs.
2008 - New route for Parade.
2010 - Oliver Murphy, proud Drogheda man and founding member of the Irish Wheelchair Association is grand Marshall for St. Patrick’s Day.
2018 - Lolo Robinson, the woman who brought the Fleadh to Drogheda, is Grand Marshall.
2019-2021 - Covid worse than heavy Snow in 1979.
2022 - thanks to a great committee under the leadership of Sarah Taaffe, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade made a welcome return and “Jimmy’s People filled the streets and Jimmy for the last time photographed a big Drogheda event.
Congratulations also, to the many committees who organised the Parade over the years, you all deserve great credit and well done Joe Shields.