Luck of the Irish

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 17, 2000

With each passing St.

Friday, March 17, 2000

With each passing St. Patrick’s Day, a little of Ironton’s history slips away.

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Once a stop for Irish immigrants, Ironton had an Irish town, which has disappeared long ago, said Pat Sheridan, a former Irish town resident.

"There was an area from Railroad Street to Vesuvius Street that was considered Irish town," Sheridan said. "At one time, there was a strong Irish element."

The Catholic School System also had a separate elementary school for its Irish students who joined with the German students during their high school years, he added.

But now it seems the Irish influences in Ironton are slowly slipping away, Sheridan said.

"St. Patrick’s Day used to be a big thing," he said. "Today, you wouldn’t know anything about it unless you watch TV. It seems to be a forgotten holiday. You get several generations removed from the old Irish. My grandmother and the first generation, they always had an activity. There hasn’t been anything for several years with St. Patrick’s Day. Even the schools and churches let it fade away."

In Ireland, and in larger U.S. cities like New York and Boston where there is still a large Irish-American population, St. Patrick’s Day remains a holy holiday honoring St. Patrick, who at 60, traveled to Ireland to spread the Christian word.

Sheridan once made it to Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day. In 1956, Sheridan, a U.S. Army soldier, was stationed in Germany. On St. Patrick’s Day, he made his way to Dublin.

"It wasn’t what you’d think," Sheridan said. "There were parades, but they featured farm implements. In the 1950s, I figure there was a lot of farming going on."

Sheridan made it back to Dublin once that year and returned to Ireland two years ago with his wife. They plan to go back in the summer of 2001, he said.

But it’s too late for Sheridan to learn more about his own ancestry. The visits to Ireland won’t give him back the memories lost with the passing of generations, he said.

"My brother-in-law did a genealogy study," Sheridan said. "It seemed like he talked to a lot of the older generation when they were still alive. That’s something we didn’t do and you wish you had spent more time talking about your ancestry. When you’re young, you don’t think about that. As time goes on, it gets away from you. There are a lot of questions I have now that probably won’t be answered because I waited too long to ask."

The nearest St. Patrick’s Day celebration will be in Huntington, W.Va., where a street festival is planned, said Johnette Nelson, activities coordinator for the Greater Huntington Parks and Recreation District.

The festival is from 5-8 p.m. today on Third Avenue and 11th Street in downtown Huntington, Ms. Nelson said. The parade begins at 7 p.m.

"We will have two stages of live entertainment with traditional Irish music," she said. "We also will have children’s games, Irish food, balloon sculpture, stilt walkers and clowns."

Two traditional pipe bands also will joining in the festivities – the Kanawha Valley Pipe and Drum and the Beni Kadem Pipe and Band, Ms. Nelson added.

"They wear the traditional kilts, which is a sight to behold," she said.