Glucksman Ireland House, NYU

The Fifth Province: County Societies in Irish America

On the Avenue

Link to the full photograph: Donegal, 1964. Bríd Gallagher Halter.

Donegal, 1964. Bríd Gallagher Halter.

For more than a century and a half, Irish county societies have come together on March 17th for a public display of solidarity and ethnic pride. St. Patrick’s Day has been, and remains, the high point of the year for most of them. Grand Marshals of New York’s annual parade, as well as their Aides, have frequently been drawn from the ranks of the county societies.

The reunion aspects of the parade make assembling around the county banners a social occasion. There in the side streets, old acquaintances are renewed and stories swapped before lining up to turn onto Fifth Avenue. As silk banners heralding county origins make their annual excursion up that avenue, it becomes a ribbon of color and historical memory. The honor of carrying the banner and leading the county unit is carefully bestowed. Marching behind it is often against high winds, in cold rain or snow, but for many it is now a family tradition.

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