Memories of St. Patrick's Day
St. Patrick's day on Howth Head, a little village just outside Dublin, was a day of great celebration, joy and excitement. Growing up on a little farm at the top of this magical peninsula was as wild as it was wonderful. Twenty odd years ago now, I remember the thrill of getting ready for this day, and it was all about ponies.
It wasn't that St. Patrick himself took a back seat; on the contrary, he was the main man. But it was also the day we had our parade with the blessing of the animals. I loved those ponies, so dressing up to celebrate anything with your pony was a girl's dream come true.
Up before the crack of dawn, a gang of girls would gather in the main barn, brushing, polishing, combing, plaiting, pruning, laughing, joking. While the rain or sun poured through the cracks in the tin roof, hay and bran mash was delivered to the sound of slurping and whinnies from a hungry herd. Joy, I tell you. It was pure bliss. Diligently we worked, weaving green, white and gold ribbons into rosebud up-dos just for our equine darlings.
Everyone wore a large lump of shamrock pinned onto a black jacket lapel, white jodhpurs, spit-shining black boots and a riding hat.
A lot of things were mended and patched for St. Patrick's Day. Garments were passed down for the third or fourth time. Little feet dangled in big boots. Old helmets crunched tiny heads, but not a complaint could be heard. So thankful were we, to be part of our own little parade. He brought out the best in us all, St. Patrick.
Off we would go, marching down the rocky road and into town, shining inside and out. Parents waved flags with the gold harp on it. Shop owners would stop working and come out to greet us. If any cars came upon us they would stop to admire this little convoy of creatures. At the large iron gates of our church, all the old dears would gather for a gossip.
Dogs, rabbits, sheep, goats, parrots and fish would be positioned up front. Ponies next, then the horses. The boss would gently lead in the old ponies that had very little life left in them. There was Babysham, without a tooth in her head, and Tinker, with his extreme gas problems, and poor old Silver, who was on his last legs, after years of hard toil carrying people around the cliff paths and Bailey greens.
Mass had been said earlier, as it's a well-known fact that animals don't sit (or stand) too long for ceremonies. The Monsignor would thank St. Patrick, and with a smile, quickly bless our beloved four-legged friends, splashing holy water at them.
We would brace ourselves. Tinker would pass gas, and Silver was sure to collapse with fright at the sudden movement or was it the size of the Monsignor's pointy hat.
I'm not sure, but either way it would set the whole procession off in frenzy. The dogs would start barking, the sheep bleating, and as the bagpipes cried out in a lonesome bellow, one of the ponies decided to head home early, sending sparks flying in every direction.
We girls would suppress a giggle, and everyone knows that a fit of giggle-suppression is contagious. Out of control, would be the words I am looking for.
Our teachers, the nuns, would frown and stare. We would hold our sides bent over our beloved's hairy neck, tears streaming from our scrunched up eyes. Again we would pray to St. Patrick that we would not be called up to the head nun's office on Monday morning.
Rituals over, we would trot back up the hill, home to the barn, and back to another hard day's work.
Nowadays I have my own ideas about St. Patrick, but these are my memories as a child on that special day. I cannot remember what we had for dinner, but I know I finished my plate. I cannot remember too much of what was happening in the big smoke of Dublin City, just nine miles away with its fancy parade and marching bands. I cannot remember at what age it all changed, but as the years passed, the ponies grew too small and horses were our passion. Everything in life evolved around our sweet equine and canine.
In our world, prince charming would ride over the hill on a beautiful black stallion. If you didn't believe this, you had best find yourself a rich husband to take care of you, and hopefully he could buy you a horse.
Yes, St. Patrick brings back some of the best memories. Like rock, paper, scissors, St. Patrick beat Santa, because while Santa brought presents (a pair of rubber riding boots every year), St. Patrick got rid of the snakes that hurt horses, and that was something to really be thankful for.
Lara Robinson lives in Vineyard Haven with her husband and three children. She moved to the Island in 2004.