St. Patrick's Day, Buenos Aires, 1905
By Edward Walsh*
Hail glorious Saint Patrick, dear Saint of our isle,
On us thy poor children bestow us a smile

St Patrick's Day in Luján, 1912
(The Southern Cross, 22 March 1912)

In the post-Second Vatican Council era it may be that the opening lines of the well know hymn to St Patrick are now be somewhat dated, but nevertheless the feast continues to be celebrated world wide “where ever green is worn.” [1] In the UK the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was accustomed to present shamrock to the Irish Guards either at Wellington Barracks in London or at the Guards Depot in Pirbright, Surrey. That was very much a formal occasion with Her Majesty having her photograph taken with officers an NCOs (non-commissioned officers). Nowadays when Irish Government ministers jet off to distant parts of the world to be present at St Patrick’s Day celebrations, it has become customary for the Taoiseach to make the trip to Washington to formally present shamrock to the incumbent President at the White House.

In years gone by where ever the feast was celebrated more often than not it was Irish clergy who organised things and in that respect what happened in Argentina a century ago (as The Standard records) was little different from what took place elsewhere. In 1905 Manuel Quintana was president, an economic boom had just commenced and the press was full of news of railway construction, immigration, public works and urban growth.

'Besides the banquet which prominent members of the Irish Colony intend holding on St Patrick’s Day, there will be a dance in the hall of the Hiberno-Argentine Club, in Calle Belgrano. The dance in order not to clash with the banquet, and that all who attend the latter may not be deprived of the pleasure of being present at this first entertainment offered by the Hiberno-Argentino club will not take place till Saturday night. The floor is polished for the occasion; the music will be exceptionally good, as a fine orchestra has been engaged, and included in its repertoire are several Irish selections. The refreshment department will be also in good hands, so that, taking all in all, a very enjoyable evening is likely to result. The members of the Committee of the Hiberno-Argentino Club are to be congratulated on their zeal in all that tends towards drawing closer the bonds of union and good fellowship between members of the Irish community.' [2]

On St Patrick’s Day the Editor’s Table noted 'we salute our Irish readers on the auspicious occasion and wish them every happiness and prosperity' and the Telephonia column carried an amusing item. 'An enthusiastic Irishmen has presented the Hungarian Orchestra (at San Martin) with the music of The Wearing of the Green, which will be played this evening between ten and ten thirty. Every loyal Irishman in town should make a point of being present at Luzio’s at the hour mentioned.' [3]

Inevitably it was the events of the day itself under the title 'St Patrick’s Day' which the newspaper subsequently reported in some detail. 'Yesterday the Patron Feast of old Ireland was celebrated in grand style at Holy Cross. His grace the Archbishop [4] celebrated Pontifical High Mass at 10 o’clock. The fine church was filled to overflowing. Such a large and representative congregation was never before seen at this annual feast. Some fifty priests were present, among whom we noticed Canon Rasore of La Merced; the Rector of El Salvador, Dr McDonnell, Fr James M. Ussher etc. etc. After the first gospel, Rev. Fr Patrick C.P. [5] preached a most eloquent sermon that touched all hearts present. Fr Patrick is only a boy in years, having been born in Salto a quarter of a century ago, and is now looked on as one of the best pulpit orators amongst the Fathers. At times this general display of oratory was sublime, entrancing, witty, but at all times to the point. Fr Patrick has such an earnest way of speaking, that his words go straight home. It is freely said that it was the best St Patrick’s Day sermon preached here for a number of years. After mass all the principal Irishmen present were invited to meet his Grace the Archbishop in the monastery. After a few minutes conversation, all were invited to a capital breakfast served by the famous restaurant Catalinas, the expenses of which were defrayed by Messrs Tomas Duggan, Patricio Ham, Deputy Dr S.G.O’Farrell and John Nelson. The breakfast was enjoyed by all present. When the champagne was uncorked Deputy O’Farrell rose and proposed the health of his Grace the Archbishop; in words of eloquence such as we rarely heard, at least at a breakfast party. His Grace responded in his usual gracious way, stating that it gave him very much pleasure to meet and breakfast with the Irish people. He laughingly alluded to the fact that he is sometimes called the "Irish Bishop." His Grace’s speech was much and heartily applauded. Deputy Dr Argerech also spoke and in the most eloquent words set forth the bravery of Irishmen, and what he thought most of, the purity and goodness of Irish women. He said he was not Irish, but had good reason to know what he said. Mr Emilio Hansen also spoke, and spoke well indeed. Brother Hughes, who has recently arrived from Ireland, also made a speech, and at some length dwelt on the prosperity and charity of the Irish in Argentina. Rev. Dr McDonnell and Canon Rasore did not speak although asked to do so. The breakfast was an enjoyable treat.' [6] The names of 33 prominent members of the community present are noted and a day later The Standard commented that there were a total of 125, including a band of 30 persons, at the Holy Cross festivities. [7]

St Patrick's Day in Mercedes, 1932
(The Southern Cross, 24 March 1932)

Saturday evening saw the festivities continue with a formal dinner. 'The handsome room had been suitably prepared for the occasion; musicians were also in attendance, and the strains of the orchestra below stairs, blending with those above, lent an unusual attraction to the festivities. The menu was got up in Aue’s Kellers usually excellent style, abundance of good things and choice wines meeting with praise from the assembled guests. About 10.50 the toast commenced and, with the replies occupied the rest of the evening. Good humour and general satisfaction prevailed throughout. Among the guests were many well know Irishmen of the city and camp, and some of the speeches were eloquent while all were highly patriotic. As the night wore on and the formalities came to end, things assumed a more convivial character.

During the evening the photographers put in an appearance so that the views of the feast and the festival will be evident in the illustrated weeklies very shortly. The following were the toasts. "The land we live in" proposed by Mr G. Bowen, responded to by Rev. Fr Ussher; "Ireland a Nation" - Dr McDonald and W. Bulfin; "Our Clergy" – Dr M. Bent and Rev. Fr R. Gearty; "Gaelic League" – Rev. Fr Flannery, Mr P. Cole; "The Irish and Irish-Argentine Community" – Rev. Fr O’Grady, Mr P. Hansen.'

Celebrations also took place in the camp and the paper published a 'Dear Standard' letter to the editor. '18 March 1805. Yesterday was a great day in Rojas… The hotels were all full and the owners I expect, wished St Patrick’s Day came oftener. After Mass a most impressive sermon was preached by Fr Dominic [8] of the Passionists on the life of the saint. He also advised his large congregation not to "drown the Shamrock" but to enjoy themselves at the coming dance in a fitting manner and uphold the honour of the Irish race…” [9] Once again alcohol and the Irish – some things seldom change.

[1] See Tim Pat Coogan, Where Ever Green Is Worn – The Story of the Irish Diaspora, Hutchinson, London, 2000.
[2] The Standard, No. 12,974, Thursday 16 March 1905.
[3] The Standard, No. 12,975, Friday 17 March 1905.
[4] Dr Mariano Antonio Espinosa (1844-1923).
[5] Probably Fr Patrick Walsh C.P.(1876-1919). See Santiago M. Ussher, Los Capellanes Irlandeses En La Colectividad Hiberno-Argentina Durante El Siglo XIX, Buenos Aires, 1954, p.221.
[6] The Standard, No.12,976, Saturday 18 March 1905.
[7] The Sunday Standard, No.12,977, Sunday 19 March 1905.
[8] Probably Fr Dominic Moore C.P. (1875? – 19--?) See Ussher Op.Cit. No. 5, pp.183-184.
[9] The Standard, No.12,979, Tuesday 21 March 1905.



* Edward Walsh is an independent scholar who lives in London. Contributor to the Dictionary of Irish Biography and the Dictionary of Falklands Biography. He wrote Documents and Correspondence concerning and from James Foran, Irish priest and chaplain in the Falkland Islands 1876-86, in 'Collectanea Hibernica, Sources For Irish History' Nos.46 and 47 (Killiney, Co. Dublin, 2004-2005) pp.241-274.

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