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St. Patrick's Day
& Past Pageantry

Updated 27 June 1999

Submitted by Jane Lyons and posted here with her kind permission.

© Copyright Jane Lyons 1999

Do ye know that Dublin has always been famous for its' street processions.

Whatever piece of literature you read about life in Ireland,for any part of it, whether it be general works or diaries by travellers they will always mention the way the poor could enjoy what they had, make the best of things.....

You can take it that most of the following would have applied to the main town in any county and not just Dublin......

The following is from a number of sources:
Webb: 'The Guilds of Dublin' describes the pageant/festival on Corpus Christi day in Dublin, put on by tradesmen:
"A pageant that for sheer picturesqueness can scarcely have been excelled in any town in Europe. The pageant consisted, not of a series of tableaux vivants, but of a succesion of mysteries or miracle plays performed in the open on movable stages which were transported from street to street. The actors had for an audience all Dublin, every man, woman and child" This was an annual show put on by coopers, blacksmiths, tailors, shoemakers...and they had floats, plays, processions, music, mimicry and with the crowds lining their paths...

Just like todays parade...but different from the Corpus Christi ones I remember mind you.

O'Neill "Dublins 18th century trade processoins" says that
"Trade processions took part in the city and were a great attractoin. In the 18th century when travelling was not so simple, crowds attended those pageants, even crossing from London for that purpose"

From Dublin Under the Georges (I think) 1700-1800
"The great popular carnival of the period was Donnybrook Fair, which was held for a week every August...Tents were erected, formed of soods and wattles covered with quilts, old winnowing sheets, petticoats, or whatever else could be got. in these, benches were stretched along th esides, and doors down the centre to act as tables. in the best tents 'neat victuals' were provided - lumps of salt beef and cabbage, potatoes and Dublin Bay herrings - which were cooked on turf fires built up near the doors. For the 'quality' who came to see th e'curiosities' a cold round rump of beep was provided at 'double price'. Cattle and horses were sold at the fair, but no one would buy the latter tilll the owners had shown off their arts. Thus, there was plenty of jumping and rough riding and frequent tummblings - all considered part of the fun. In the evenings, dancing began to the music of pipes and fiddles and every one drunk or sober, took part. The noise of trumpets, drums, fiddles, whistles and popguns (which fond mothers had bestowed upon their children during the day) formed a suitable accompaniment to the fighting that ended the festivities. But, this fighting was not malicious or savage, being mostly with the shilelagh. no one was disfigured thereby rendering fit for a doctor, Barington says, small hurts were frequent but did not interfere with the song, dance, th frolicking or general good humour.

A German prince Puckler-Muskau saw the fair in 1828 and said 'nothing indeed can be more national. The poverty, the dirt and the wild tumult were as great as teh glee and meriment with which the cheapest pleasures can be enjoyed.....not teh slightest trace of English brutality was to be perceived; they were more ike French people, though their gaiety was mingled with more humour and more genuine good nature; both of which are natoinal traits of the Irish, and are always doubled by "potheen".'

dancing, riding, drinking and love-making were all very well (Barington was told by a priest that more marriages were celebrated in Dublin the wek after the fair than in any two months during the rest of teh year), but the Donnybrook Fair was too noisy, with too much disturbance and so was declared a public nusiance in 1855.


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