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.
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.
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.
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.