Mullingar’s St Patrick’s Day festivities this year aren’t just about St Patrick: they’re about Patricks, Paddys, Pats, Patsys, Paurics, Patricias – in fact anyone whose name is a variation of that of the great saint himself.
Ruth Illingworth of the St Patrick’s Day parade committee says Mullingar is to have the greatest gathering ever of people who share the saint’s name.
"We’re hoping to break a record for the largest number of people called Paddy or Patrick or Patricia or any other variation of the name," says Ruth.
The gathering of Paddies will begin on Oliver Plunkett Street at 5.30pm, and all participating Paddies are asked to bring ID with them so they can all formally counted and coralled together for a group Paddy picture! However, the big focus for most people will remain the parade.
The parade this year is at 3pm, instead of the usual 4. "It’s partly because people were telling us that 4pm was a bit late for families with young children, and that it is getting cold at that stage, so it’s at 3 o’clock, and it will be proceeded by street entertainment between 2 and 3pm," says Ruth.
"After the parade finishes, there will be music and then from 5.30pm, we have our Paddies gathering."
There are only nine members on the committee organising this year’s parade, and Ruth admits they’re facing quite a financial challenge, as the ongoing recession continues to affect fundraising.
"We have received funding from Westmeath County Council and Mullingar Town Council, but we need money: we’re desperately short of money this year: it’s as bad as it’s ever been," says Ruth.
"We have cut back on some things – but we’re still close to being €10,000 short of what we need, because we have to pay for barriers and things like that. We have to secure from Patrick Street to the Dublin Bridge, and then obviously, paying for street entertainment costs.
"Some of the business of the town have been brilliant to us in the past, and we will be looking for their support again – even if every business could give €20, it would help to get us there.
"We’re very grateful to the organisations who have already given us money, and I know the town will support us.
"We did a church gate collection at the end of January, and on February 16, we did a street collection, and we would like to thank those who supported us on those occasions."
The Greville Arms Hotel acts as the ‘post box’ for anyone who wishes to make donations or contact the St Patrick’s Day parade committee, or Ruth can be contacted directly on 087 9472583.