In spite of the fact that there were St Patrick’s Day Festivals in London, Birmingham, and Manchester and further afield across the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and even Mexico, there were no St Patrick’s Day festivals in Scotland before 2003.
This might be surprising considering the numbers of Irish who landed on these shores from the time of the great Irish Hunger of 1845 until around the outbreak of the First World War in particular.
However, given the hostility faced by the newcomers in their adopted country, public displays of ‘Irishness’ were rare and instead was expressed through Irish clubs, Comhaltas branches, Irish dance classes, Gaelic sports and St Patrick’s Day dances, all of which tended to be localised affairs and kept ‘within’ the Irish communities themselves.
By the turn of the new millennium, however, change was in the offing following the de-escalation of Northern Ireland’s troubles and the rising levels of pride and awareness amongst second-, third- and fourth generation Irish communities in Scotland and elsewhere.
In 2002, a group of individuals in Coatbridge got together with the intention of celebrating the town’s Irish ethnicity (for its size, Coatbridge has the greatest number of people of Irish descent anywhere in the UK).