Saint Patrick’s Day in Nottingham
It’s been nine years since the city of Nottingham began an official day of celebration for the Patron Saint of Ireland. This year’s festivities were spread over three days, partly due to the Roman Catholic church decision to alter Saint Patrick’s day to March 15 due to the 17th being a Holy day.
Scheduled was a good-sized parade from the Forest Recreation Ground a mile outside the city. The parade would head it’s way towards a culmination in the city’s Old Market Square forty-five minutes later. Not being in the best of health unfortunately, I decided to avoid the long hours outside following the parade and it’s aftermath of entertainment in the square. This did not stop me from enjoying a very pleasant afternoon and evening in Nottingham however.
The Council House in the Old Market Square was opened up for the celebrations with a dance, licensed bar, and an art exhibition in the foyer. As long as I have lived in this city I have never once been beyond the stately lions that stand guard outside the large imposing building. On that note and after watching an excellent band from County Tyrone on an outdoor stage for a while, I decided to press on inside and have an exploration – along with my camera.
Immediately through the front doors was an excellent art exhibition, much of which was thematic of the day. Taking my eye immediately was the large oil of the great Socialist, Irish rebel and native of Edinburgh, James Connolly. There will be few Hibernian Football Club fans like myself who don’t recognise the name of Connolly who in his youth was a supporter of the Edinburgh club, famously helping carry the team kit hamper to and fro from the games. Proudly behind the image of Connolly was another oil, this time of another rebel leader, Michael Collins, who was portrayed in celluloid by Liam Neeson.
Excited children in traditional dance outfits played around the staircase and halls of the house as I pressed upstairs towards the bar. An obliging pint of Guinness later, I was a little to late to sample the Irish Stew and Soda bread unfortunately but something even more sustaining was to follow. As I sat quietly contemplative amongst the busy, chattering cluster of families, I heard the subdued but undeniably sweet strains of a young dark-haired Irish woman singing a lullaby to her friend’s very young baby. It was a very captivating and moving scene as a small appreciative crowd gathered as mammy rocked her young one to the plaintive and soothing sounds of her friend.
As anyone who has seen the Council House will know its most dominant point is the huge dome atop. From inside the wooden framework is certainly impressive as one ascends the spiral stairs to the Council chambers and visitors room. The chamber door was slightly ajar as I quietly stepped inside in a silent part of the building feeling something of an intruder. Amongst the fine wood and small balconies it was easy to imagine a council session in progress.
The Council Chamber
Further along the corridor this time I slipped inside a quaint visitors room with impressive attractive book cases and a view through stained glass onto Smith Row below.
The dining hall which had hosted a musical gathering over dinner with set dancing accompanied by instrumentation including the sound of a sweet clarsach. The Irish Tricolour hung proudly on the wall to the right as I surveyed the now deserted scene. Straight ahead lay a view from the balcony over the Old Market Square.
The whole experience was a very odd and interesting one. For a very familiar place that one has passed close by many, many times over the years it was a new insight into a place very familiar. Past memories were of such famous nights viewing Brian Clough and Nottingham Forest on the Council House balcony displaying the European Cup on two famous occasions. Most recently the old building has stood sentinel over an outdoor winter ice rink and a huge big wheel, the ‘Nottingham Eye’.
The afternoon was drawing to a close now and I walked around the city a little in the early evening air, watching people leaving for home after the celebrations whilst others wended their way towards city centre pubs for the ‘real’ action of the day. I went to met a friend who with a nice coincidence is from County Clare in the West of Ireland and tried a few glasses of Guinness with her to complete a nice day.
It’s a grand day to be Irish as they say, and if you’re not why not join in anyway!