Some of them were unaware that St Patrick is Ireland’s patron saint but it did not put them off joining in the fun and frolics.
Parisienne Valentine Turpaud and his friends looked more Irish than the Irish themselves, sporting everything from Leprechaun hats to viking helmets and, perhaps optimistically, oversized green sunglasses.
Unknown to them as the Apostle of Temperance, they cheerfully raised plastic pint glasses of stout in salute to Fr Mathew, who stood stoney-faced as the multi-cultural parade passed by.
“We are having a fantastic time,” said Valentine’s friend Nora. Yes, she said, it’s a French name too.
“We are here on an Erasmus scholarship for the past six months and this is the first time I have been at a St. Patrick’s Day parade. It is great fun and everyone is really friendly.”
Alexis and Christopher, also from Paris, were enjoying the parade but, in common with many of their Irish companions, were also anxious to get back to the pub and enjoy ‘le craic.’
All were anxious to get a good view of the street theatre, pageantry, and the 3,000 people from community and voluntary groups who were on the march.
Bai, from Beijing and who is studying at UCC, said the parade reminded him of similar events at home. “It’s not as big as we have, but it is more fun and very friendly,” he said.
Members of the Massachusetts State Police strode ramrod-straight from the Mall to St Patrick St. It was a bitter-sweet moment for them as their participation in the parade came a day after one of their members was killed in the line of duty.
Colonel Richard McKeon, Superintendent of Massachusetts State Police described Trooper Thomas L Clardy, 44, as “a good trooper and a great man” and said his colleagues were devastated by the loss.
Cork City Lord Mayor Chris O’Leary and his family travelled the route in a vintage car, while the Grand Marshals of the parade were deemed to be the seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation, with actors re-enacting scenes from the Rising.
On the parade stand the Lord Mayor presented Josephine McSwiney (101) from Crookstown and Mary McGrath (100) from Barrack St, both centenarians, with crystal vases to mark the occasion.
Among the favourite bits of paddywhackery on show were green moustaches while St Patrick himself played lively jigs under Mangan’s clock.
A giddy collection from the Irish Redhead Convention added a splash of ginger as they sashayed from the South Mall to the viewing stand. Every single one of them was sporting a ginger head, even the bald ones.
The gleaming golden helmets of Cork City Fire Brigade shone against the leaden skies as they strode behind a smoking chimney on rollers. UN veterans drew widespread applause as they walked behind a contingent of Irish army soldiers brandishing gleaming rifles with bayonets fixed.
“Jesus! I hope they are not loaded,” screeched an excitable young woman. “I presume she means the guns,” an older man nearby joked.
The parade can be viewed on www.corkcity.ie/TV