The venue was the Boston Convention Centre and the traditional St Patrick’s Day breakfast for more than 1,000 members of its Irish community — who largely inhabit the city’s South Side.
The host, and selfie-taker, was state senator Linda Dorcena Forry, the daughter of Haitian immigrants who was making history — not just by being the first non-Irish-American to host the event, which dates back to 1901, but also the first woman to do so.
There was Deval “not the saint but the governor” Patrick who recently visited Dublin and said “everyone is Irish on St Patrick’s Day”.
And then there was Galway’s own Marty Walsh — whose parents emigrated from Connemara in the 1950s — and who recently became the first Irish- American mayor of Boston in 20 years.
Marty might be one generation removed, but he showed the crowd — who were treated to the full Irish fry-up ahead of the city’s parade — that his sense of humour is firmly rooted in the west of Ireland.
“People have been asking me if I was going to bring any Irish traditions to the mayor’s office, and I say ‘just a couple of grudges’,” he joked.
And he didn’t fail to mention the character of the Irish mammy, describing how his mother Mary, who emigrated from Rosmuc, told a newspaper reporter recently that she still comes over to his house to do some cleaning.
“Let me say to you Ma, and to Irish mothers everywhere out there — I want to thank you for everything you have done for us. But Ma, please stop talking to the press,” he said, to hearty laughter.
Charming host Dorcena Forry drew attention in the city’s press by turning stereotypes of the historic event on its head. But her rendition of Irish tunes showed her true Irish credentials as she told the crowd “we do this anyway” on St Patrick’s morning, with her Irish husband and four children — John Patrick, Conor, Madeline, and Nora.
Enda Kenny joined them on the stage and brought greetings “from all in Ireland — the O’Donnells, the O’Sullivans, and the O’Bamas”. The Taoiseach then moved on to the Irish Cultural Centre where 1,500 had gathered for a special St Patrick’s Day Mass and party — people of all ages, from old men who still kept their accents and their caps despite leaving Ireland decades ago, to their grandchildren who wore Aran sweaters and green ribbons in their hair.
Among them was Dan McAuliffe, who came to Boston 50 years ago from “the furthest south-west tip of Ireland, called Castletownbere”. He described how, just after arriving, his brother was signed up to go to the Vietnam War — but he stayed on in Boston to work as a carpenter.
Following the cold of winter, “the old people don’t come out until St Patrick’s Day,” he said.
“It means a lot of great things. Music, dancing and meeting people. I love dancing and I’ll be going to three or four dances over the next couple of days,” he said, without a hint of an American accent.