He may have been too small to see the parade as a child but Olympic medal winner Rob Heffernan was walking tall as he led the St Patrick’s Day parade through his native city. And it was a special day, too, for two Cork-born, US-based firefighters, brothers Brian and Mike Dorgan, who marched alongside members of Cork City Fire Brigade, as their proud mother, Marie, watched from the viewing stand.
Mike, a firefighter with 91 Engine in Harlem, has retired from the New York fire department. Brian is a firefighter with Station 49 in San Francisco fire department.
“It’s fantastic to be back in Cork,” Brian said. “We’ve come to Ireland with a few colleagues. We spent a few nights in Dingle, Galway, on the Aran Islands, but it’s great to be back home for the parade.”
Marie said she was very proud to see two of her sons marching in their uniforms.
“Sure the last time I saw these fellas marching in the parade was when I dressed them up in their scout uniforms years ago,” she joked. “We always came in to the parade when they were younger, and then went over to Parnell Place for the green ice cream. But today is something very special.”
Thanks to fine weather, an estimated 30,000 people lined the streets to watch more than 2,000 community parade participants, from Cork Capoeira and the Wolfpack in-line skaters to the city’s Chinese, Filipino, and Mexican communities march alongside local groups such as Cork Rebel Wheelers, Mayfield, and St Finbarr’s GAA clubs, with music from the famed Barrack Street Band, and US marching bands ,including the Mandan Marching Braves from North Dakota and the Arvada West High School Wildcat marching band from Denver, Colorado.
Heffernan, who was joined in a Model-T Ford by his wife, Marian, and their youngest children, Tara and Regan, recalled watching the city’s parade as a child.
All the family would go in to the parade. I was so small when I was young I would be pushed back in the crowds. But I wasn’t the smallest or youngest in the family so I wouldn’t be up on dad’s shoulders either looking at it. But it was a real highlight.
The parade followed celebrations on the city’s landmark St Patrick’s Bridge on Saturday to mark the completion of the restoration of the famous 150-year-old heritage bridge. An army of Paddys, Pats, and Patricias, and even a few Patryks, responded to a public call by Cork City Council for people to get involved, donned the patron saint’s costume and marched from the Metropole Hotel to the bridge for a special photoshoot. Rosie Linham, daughter of the late former lord mayor, Brian Sloane, who served as first citizen in 1978, brought her son, Paddy, 12, along with his sister, Ciara.
“We live outside the city now but we’re big fans of the city,” she said. “Dad loved the city. We are very proud of him, and what he did for the city and I just thought it would be nice to bring him in. It was a lovely day, and in fairness, they’ve done a lovely job on the bridge.”
Three generations of the Buckley family — Patrick, his son Patrick, and his grandson, seven-week-old Patrick — were also part of the fun, along with Special Olympics silver medallist Pat Dorgan and Patrick Joseph Lynch, who was celebrating his 80th birthday. Lord Mayor Mick Finn used the trowel used to lay the bridge’s original foundation stone — an artefact normally held in the Cork Public Museum in Fitzgerald’s Park — to lay the last piece of stonework.
“To have 158 Patricks, Padraigs, Patricias, Patsys, and Fitzpatricks on our main city bridge during a St Patrick’s Festival — a celebration of our national day — was brilliant,” said Mr Finn. Provincial Grand Master of the Munster Freemasons, Leslie Deane, also brought the original spirit level used in the bridge’s construction and which is normally held in their Lodge on Tuckey St.
The €1.2m bridge revamp was funded by Transport Infrastructure Ireland, in conjunction with Cork City Council. Cumnor Construction cleaned, repointed, and repaired the stonework and drafted in repair experts to restore to its former glory the bridge’s original lamp columns.
The bridge’s footpaths have been widened, its carriageway resurfaced and new road markings put in place. Existing traffic lights, elevation, and architectural lighting and signage were also upgraded.