St Patrick's Day has arrived - a day for calm cultural reflection* celebrating one of Nottinghamshire's most prominent and loved communities. Nowadays, every man and his dog will claim to possess some form of Irish blood, be it a grandfather, a great great uncle or even a second cousin four times removed, and then removed just a little more.
Yet it hasn't always been this way - a culture that is now widely revered in this country was once lambasted and seen as a stigma that was almost impossible to shake off. The Irish arrived in Nottingham in the 1830s, many of them searching for work in what was a hotbed of industrial activity - the town was at the forefront of manufacturing and building. The arrival of these migrants, often referred to as the 'Famine migrants' was opposed by many in the town, with the Nottingham Journal reporting in 1844 that 'there were several cases of smallpox in the town, most of which existed amongst the lower class of Irish'. In scenes similar to that of the African-American community in many parts of the United States in the 1960s, the Irish community were seen almost as sub human, and a people who only brought disease and anguish into an area. A real far cry from the Irish pride and parades that we see regularly on St Patrick's Day today.
In 2015, however, we find a city that proudly welcomes its Irish heritage, with an expected turnout of 8000 people for the Nottingham St. Patrick's Day Parade. Speaking to the Nottingham Post yesterday, the chairman of the St. Patrick's Day Parade Organising Committee, stated that 'It's one of the top social and community events in the city for the Irish and English people, becoming part of the culture here. About 25 per cent of people in Notts probably have an Irish connection in their family and it's a recognition of their identity.' The ceremonial handing over of Shamrock happened at the Council House in Nottingham City Centre last week - an event that made not just local but national news over in Ireland, with the Irish Post featuring it in their publication.
In West Bridgford, you will find most of our bars and pubs getting into the spirit of Paddy's Day - it is a day that has been growing and growing and will continue to do so for a long time to come. So have a great day, and we'll have a Guinness please!
*'calm cultural reflection' may also be referred to as consuming an inexplicable amount of intoxicating substances.