St Patrick’s Day in Lower Hutt

St Patrick’s Day, the ‘Feast of St. Patrick’, celebrates the death date March 17 of St Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, who died in 641. The shamrock and ‘wearing of the green’  symbolise the day. This year Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre will go green for the first time on St Patrick’s Day, joining in the ‘global greening’ of world landmarks.

About one in six New Zealanders claims Irish descent, and New Zealand was initially divided into the three provinces of New Ulster, New Munster, and New Leinster. Irish pubs and societies such as the Hutt Valley Irish Society will be celebrating with festivities, dance and the traditional Guinness.

St Patrick’s Day in New Zealand was traditionally a bank holiday, and public holiday for some. Tug-of-wars as well as sports days, horse races, yachting regattas, processions, displays of Irish sports such as hurling, art union raffles, dances and concerts were held. Events raised funds for the Hibernian (Catholic benefit) Society and local facilities. The NZ Hibernian Society was formed in 1869, part of an international group started in New York in 1836.

Wairarapa Standard, March 14 1878.
New Zealand Times, 14 March 1884.
Members of the Hutt Valley Irish Society practising for the tug-of-war they had with an elephant on St Patrick’s Day, 1967. About 80 Irishmen and friends joined in on the tug-of -war and managed to pull the five ton elephant backwards a few metres to ‘win’. Evening Post, 14 March 1967, Hutt City Libraries collections.

Before the tug-of-war Michelle Armitage, Miss Hutt Valley 1967, nearly fell off her elephant when riding in an elephant race against two competitors, Mr. Paddy Breslin of the Hutt Valley Irish Society and Jaycee regional governor Jack Ward. She won the race by a trunk – but slipped precariously sideways long before the elephants had reached the finish line on the corner of Laings Rd. She was “shaken but unhurt” when the race ended. Wonder how the elephants were at the end of St Patrick’s Day? The events raised 86 pounds for the Intellectually Handicapped Children’s Society.

elephant races
Hutt News, 21 March 1967.

Father Dean Lane, Lower Hutt Catholic Parish Priest, was famous for holding annual picnics at his church and presbytery grounds, beginning with a Boxing Day picnic in 1886, and including St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Special trains ran from Wellington to Hutt for the popular picnics, and politicians such as Prime Minister Sir Joseph Ward were keen to attend these society events.

Evening Post, 16 March 1896.
plan catholic
Plan showing the Catholic presbytery, church and grounds on High Street, Lower Hutt. Hutt City Archives collection.
father lanes 1905
Hibernian Society at Father Lane’s grounds, Lower Hutt, St Patrick’s Day, 1905. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19050323-4-4.
1905 day
New Zealand Times, 18 March 1905.
1910 procession
Image from Mission to Hutt River: a history of the Catholic Church in the Hutt Valley 1850-2000 by B. J. Cullinane.
1910 picnic
Picnic at Father Lane’s Grounds. New Zealand Times, 18 March 1910.
New Zealand Times, 18 March 1910.
dean lane 1920
Dean (John Joseph) Lane, c1920. Hutt City Libraries collections.



Roman Catholic Church Lower Hutt, about 1908.                    Dunedin photographic studio, Te Papa collections.

The first Catholic church and presbytery were built on two acres off Main Road, now High Street, Lower Hutt. The northern end of the church site is now Andrews Avenue.

church 1924
Dean Lane’s funeral leaving the Roman Catholic Church in High Street, 1924. The presbytery and gardens where the picnics were held are visible. Hutt City Libraries collections.
1940s high
High Street about c1940s. Mid High Street, looking toward the Western Hills, showing the Borough Council Yard, the same site the Catholic church picnics were held at on St Patrick’s day. The old Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church was demolished in 1940. St Peter’s Hall (mid-rear) was used for church services until the new Knight’s Rd church opened in 1945.Hutt City Libraries collections.
high street andrews ave cnr
High Street and Andrews Avenue corner, c1961. Hutt City Libraries collections.

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