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St. Patrick's Day celebration in Dublin this weekend

Annual festivities help connect city to its Irish history -- oh, and that might not be the story you thought you knew

Dublin is welcoming the return of its full St. Patrick's Day celebration this weekend, after seeing the event canceled in 2020 and scaled back in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy of city of Dublin)

Dublin's annual St. Patrick's Day celebration is set to be back in full force this weekend, marking the triumphant return of a beloved tradition that commemorates the city's Irish heritage -- the story of which contains some unexpected plot twists, according to an expert on Dublin history.

While St. Patrick's Day festivities are set to carry on in Dublin rain or shine this weekend, there is sun in the forecast, and past year's have also had luck with the weather. (Image courtesy of City of Dublin)

Although virtual events continued to mark St. Patrick's Day during the past two years, this month's celebration marks the first return to festivities as usual since the onset of the pandemic.

"This year we are back and our attendees should expect to see a celebration akin to what they've seen in years past," said Lauren Marriott, recreation coordinator for the city's Heritage Park and Museums.

While some changes this year will include increased sanitation and cleaning, as well as more use of outdoor spaces, traditional festivities including a carnival, Irish tea cottage and various entertainers are otherwise set to resume business as usual.

"Everything that we've seen in years past is back," Marriott said. "We started to start wrapping our heads around a 'normal celebration again.'"

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The big return has been met with excitement from vendors, entertainers and the community, she noted. The event will see a number of returning vendors and acts, as well as some new faces, all of whom are eager to resume in-person celebrations.

Irish dance is one of many traditions that surged in popularity with a renewed focus and appreciation of Irish heritage in the late 20th century, which continues to be performed and adapted by young performers to this day. (Image courtesy of City of Dublin)

The Dublin St. Patrick's Day celebration will held at the Civic Center Plaza this Saturday and Sunday. Rather than being inside Civic Center this year, the Irish tea cottage will be fully outdoors on the plaza, offering the traditional Irish tea experience, as well as a teacup to take home as an addition this year.

Although this year marks the return of a longstanding tradition, with Dublin's dedication to Irish heritage making it appear to be a natural fit for St. Patrick's Day events, city historian Steve Minniear noted that St. Patrick's day celebrations, and Dublin's identity as a historical enclave for Irish immigrants, are far more recent developments than they might initially seem.

"Dublin has been around since about the early 1960s as a whole subdivision in empty fields," Minniear said. "So the community gets really excited about doing stuff together. Back in the '60s there's not much to do out here; there's not that many people."

Minniear said that the origin story of St. Patrick's Day festivities in Dublin was hard to pin down, but that the tradition was preceded by an annual spring festival and several heritage day events, and a number of other parades.

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"It's a little bit murky, but one of the things in Dublin is if you want to celebrate something, you have a parade," Minniear said.

Dublin City Historian Steve Minniear notes that even before the city's St. Patrick's Day celebration became a tradition, celebrations amongst the growing population in the late 20th century came to be known for their parades. (Image courtesy of City of Dublin)

The budding population in what would become Dublin, once it was incorporated in 1982, was just one recent iteration of the community in that area, Minniear emphasized, with it having been populated by local indigenous people for centuries before Spanish colonization turned much of the Tri-Valley area into grazing lands for Mission San Jose.

Minniear noted that Irish immigrants wouldn't come to the area until the 19th century, and that even then, it could hardly be considered an Irish outpost.

"(With) Irish mythology about Dublin, on the one hand you have good stories and on the other you have good facts," Minniear said. "Everybody wants to have a history, so you kind of make up this history. So were there Irish in Dublin? Yes. Is it the story everyone thinks about? No."

A total of three Irish immigrants were the first to arrive in the San Ramon Valley, after leaving their home in County Roscommon and first arriving in New York City. These were siblings Michael and Eleanor Murray, along with the former's friend Jeremiah Fallon, whom the latter would go on to marry.

"In the 1830s, well before the potato famine, these three folks decide they want to go to America, and they do," Minniear said. "We don't have any stories about why."

The travels of the trio upon arriving in the United States have been better recorded and understood than their motivation for initially leaving home. Although they would part ways after they first arrived, with the young Fallon couple moving to the South and starting a shipping business, they would eventually reunite with Murray and make their way to California together.

"Around 1845 or '46, Michael has gone to Missouri, of all the crazy places, and Missouri is the wild west in 1846," Minniear said. "He convinces Eleanor, his sister who is now married to Jeremiah, to come visit him in Missouri. Michael convinces Jeremiah and Eleanor to give up their entire life, the entire shipping business, and to move away from America."

Steve Minniear.

When they first set out for California, Minniear noted, it was still part of Mexico, meaning that the travelers were looking at crossing national borders and arriving in a new country at the end of their journey. However, by the time they arrived, California had been acquired by the United States following the Mexican-American War.

"There's been a whole war by the time they left Missouri and got to California," Minniear said. "They were probably pretty surprised that they left the United States and came back to the United States."

Minniear said that it would have made sense for Irish immigrants, facing rampant discrimination in the U.S. at the time, to look toward greener pastures in Mexico.

"Mexico was very favorable to immigrants who would do two things: one, be Catholic, and two, become Mexican citizens," Minniear said.

Although the "luck of the Irish" wasn't necessarily on their side upon arriving in California, it would be shortly after, when they found themselves in the heart of the early days of the Gold Rush in 1848.

"In 1848 we have the Gold Rush, so suddenly they're the closest people you can imagine to the Gold Rush," Minniear said. "Everybody goes up to the hills, and at this point in the Gold Rush story you could still pick gold out of a stream."

Murray and the Fallons made enough money to convince Don Jose Amador, who was one of the primary landowners in the Tri-Valley at the time, to sell part of his 20,000 acre rancho to them, in the area where Dublin now sits. Murray, who would go on to marry and raise children on the property, along with the Fallons, would be the origins of stories about Dublin's Irish heritage that came to fruition more than a century later.

Dublin's family friendly St. Patrick's Day celebration seeks to bring out attendees of all ages. (Image courtesy of City of Dublin)

"When they all had lots of kids, it left lots of people who have Irish ancestry," Minniear said. "There's not a lot of other people there."

Much of Amador's remaining land would go on to be purchased and developed by James Dougherty, a southerner, making the land that is now Dublin an outlier compared to the rapid growth Dougherty was pushing forward with.

"The story is that Dougherty said, 'There's so many Irish there they might as well call it Dublin,'" Minniear said, adding that the direct quote was probably profanity-laden, and that there had been no more than 20 people living on the Murrays' and Fallons' property at the time.

Nonetheless, this characterization and mythology would find its way to other Irish immigrants looking for a place to settle comfortably in California.

"Other people in the process of immigrating wind up coming out here, so there are all these Irish stories that circulated within these families," Minniear said.

At a time when people identified more closely with the places they were born and lived in than the present concepts of ethnicity and heritage, Minniear noted that there was no overarching sense of Irish identity until Irish immigrants who had nothing else in common started coming together.

Nonetheless, the Irish population would remain small, Minniear noted, and it wouldn't be until nearly a century later that it came to be central to the identity of the area.

"This story pops up about this huge Irish community, and that folklore is what people in the '60s and '70s grab onto," Minniear said.

Although often associated with neighboring Scotland, bagpipes are also a staple in Irish music and culture. (Image courtesy of City of Dublin)

While the origin story of Irish heritage in Dublin may not live up to the legends it evokes, this emphasis on folklore as a defining characteristic of a place and people's identity is a long tradition in Irish culture, and aspects of it can be traced back to Celtic mythology. St. Patrick's Day itself, in its present day incarnation in the United States, is also a tradition that rests just as much as myth as fact, if not more so.

"As you know, everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day," Minniear said.

Dublin's St. Patrick's Day Parade will kick off at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday (March 12) at Dublin Boulevard and Amador Valley Boulevard, ending at the Dublin Senior Center. The two-day long festival will be at Civic Center Plaza from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine. More information is available here.

On St. Patrick's Day itself, March 17, Minniear will speak at a virtual event on prominent Irish immigrants in local history, hosted by the Museum of the San Ramon Valley via Zoom at 11:30 a.m. More information is available here.

The Shamrock 5k Fun Run and Walk is another St. Patrick's Day tradition in Dublin that is set to resume this year. (Image courtesy of City of Dublin)

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Jeanita Lyman
Jeanita Lyman joined the Pleasanton Weekly in September 2020 and covers the Danville and San Ramon beat. She studied journalism at Skyline College and Mills College while covering the Peninsula for the San Mateo Daily Journal, after moving back to the area in 2013. Read more >>

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St. Patrick's Day celebration in Dublin this weekend

Annual festivities help connect city to its Irish history -- oh, and that might not be the story you thought you knew

by / Pleasanton Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Mar 10, 2022, 10:37 pm

Dublin's annual St. Patrick's Day celebration is set to be back in full force this weekend, marking the triumphant return of a beloved tradition that commemorates the city's Irish heritage -- the story of which contains some unexpected plot twists, according to an expert on Dublin history.

Although virtual events continued to mark St. Patrick's Day during the past two years, this month's celebration marks the first return to festivities as usual since the onset of the pandemic.

"This year we are back and our attendees should expect to see a celebration akin to what they've seen in years past," said Lauren Marriott, recreation coordinator for the city's Heritage Park and Museums.

While some changes this year will include increased sanitation and cleaning, as well as more use of outdoor spaces, traditional festivities including a carnival, Irish tea cottage and various entertainers are otherwise set to resume business as usual.

"Everything that we've seen in years past is back," Marriott said. "We started to start wrapping our heads around a 'normal celebration again.'"

The big return has been met with excitement from vendors, entertainers and the community, she noted. The event will see a number of returning vendors and acts, as well as some new faces, all of whom are eager to resume in-person celebrations.

The Dublin St. Patrick's Day celebration will held at the Civic Center Plaza this Saturday and Sunday. Rather than being inside Civic Center this year, the Irish tea cottage will be fully outdoors on the plaza, offering the traditional Irish tea experience, as well as a teacup to take home as an addition this year.

Although this year marks the return of a longstanding tradition, with Dublin's dedication to Irish heritage making it appear to be a natural fit for St. Patrick's Day events, city historian Steve Minniear noted that St. Patrick's day celebrations, and Dublin's identity as a historical enclave for Irish immigrants, are far more recent developments than they might initially seem.

"Dublin has been around since about the early 1960s as a whole subdivision in empty fields," Minniear said. "So the community gets really excited about doing stuff together. Back in the '60s there's not much to do out here; there's not that many people."

Minniear said that the origin story of St. Patrick's Day festivities in Dublin was hard to pin down, but that the tradition was preceded by an annual spring festival and several heritage day events, and a number of other parades.

"It's a little bit murky, but one of the things in Dublin is if you want to celebrate something, you have a parade," Minniear said.

The budding population in what would become Dublin, once it was incorporated in 1982, was just one recent iteration of the community in that area, Minniear emphasized, with it having been populated by local indigenous people for centuries before Spanish colonization turned much of the Tri-Valley area into grazing lands for Mission San Jose.

Minniear noted that Irish immigrants wouldn't come to the area until the 19th century, and that even then, it could hardly be considered an Irish outpost.

"(With) Irish mythology about Dublin, on the one hand you have good stories and on the other you have good facts," Minniear said. "Everybody wants to have a history, so you kind of make up this history. So were there Irish in Dublin? Yes. Is it the story everyone thinks about? No."

A total of three Irish immigrants were the first to arrive in the San Ramon Valley, after leaving their home in County Roscommon and first arriving in New York City. These were siblings Michael and Eleanor Murray, along with the former's friend Jeremiah Fallon, whom the latter would go on to marry.

"In the 1830s, well before the potato famine, these three folks decide they want to go to America, and they do," Minniear said. "We don't have any stories about why."

The travels of the trio upon arriving in the United States have been better recorded and understood than their motivation for initially leaving home. Although they would part ways after they first arrived, with the young Fallon couple moving to the South and starting a shipping business, they would eventually reunite with Murray and make their way to California together.

"Around 1845 or '46, Michael has gone to Missouri, of all the crazy places, and Missouri is the wild west in 1846," Minniear said. "He convinces Eleanor, his sister who is now married to Jeremiah, to come visit him in Missouri. Michael convinces Jeremiah and Eleanor to give up their entire life, the entire shipping business, and to move away from America."

When they first set out for California, Minniear noted, it was still part of Mexico, meaning that the travelers were looking at crossing national borders and arriving in a new country at the end of their journey. However, by the time they arrived, California had been acquired by the United States following the Mexican-American War.

"There's been a whole war by the time they left Missouri and got to California," Minniear said. "They were probably pretty surprised that they left the United States and came back to the United States."

Minniear said that it would have made sense for Irish immigrants, facing rampant discrimination in the U.S. at the time, to look toward greener pastures in Mexico.

"Mexico was very favorable to immigrants who would do two things: one, be Catholic, and two, become Mexican citizens," Minniear said.

Although the "luck of the Irish" wasn't necessarily on their side upon arriving in California, it would be shortly after, when they found themselves in the heart of the early days of the Gold Rush in 1848.

"In 1848 we have the Gold Rush, so suddenly they're the closest people you can imagine to the Gold Rush," Minniear said. "Everybody goes up to the hills, and at this point in the Gold Rush story you could still pick gold out of a stream."

Murray and the Fallons made enough money to convince Don Jose Amador, who was one of the primary landowners in the Tri-Valley at the time, to sell part of his 20,000 acre rancho to them, in the area where Dublin now sits. Murray, who would go on to marry and raise children on the property, along with the Fallons, would be the origins of stories about Dublin's Irish heritage that came to fruition more than a century later.

"When they all had lots of kids, it left lots of people who have Irish ancestry," Minniear said. "There's not a lot of other people there."

Much of Amador's remaining land would go on to be purchased and developed by James Dougherty, a southerner, making the land that is now Dublin an outlier compared to the rapid growth Dougherty was pushing forward with.

"The story is that Dougherty said, 'There's so many Irish there they might as well call it Dublin,'" Minniear said, adding that the direct quote was probably profanity-laden, and that there had been no more than 20 people living on the Murrays' and Fallons' property at the time.

Nonetheless, this characterization and mythology would find its way to other Irish immigrants looking for a place to settle comfortably in California.

"Other people in the process of immigrating wind up coming out here, so there are all these Irish stories that circulated within these families," Minniear said.

At a time when people identified more closely with the places they were born and lived in than the present concepts of ethnicity and heritage, Minniear noted that there was no overarching sense of Irish identity until Irish immigrants who had nothing else in common started coming together.

Nonetheless, the Irish population would remain small, Minniear noted, and it wouldn't be until nearly a century later that it came to be central to the identity of the area.

"This story pops up about this huge Irish community, and that folklore is what people in the '60s and '70s grab onto," Minniear said.

While the origin story of Irish heritage in Dublin may not live up to the legends it evokes, this emphasis on folklore as a defining characteristic of a place and people's identity is a long tradition in Irish culture, and aspects of it can be traced back to Celtic mythology. St. Patrick's Day itself, in its present day incarnation in the United States, is also a tradition that rests just as much as myth as fact, if not more so.

"As you know, everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day," Minniear said.

Dublin's St. Patrick's Day Parade will kick off at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday (March 12) at Dublin Boulevard and Amador Valley Boulevard, ending at the Dublin Senior Center. The two-day long festival will be at Civic Center Plaza from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine. More information is available here.

On St. Patrick's Day itself, March 17, Minniear will speak at a virtual event on prominent Irish immigrants in local history, hosted by the Museum of the San Ramon Valley via Zoom at 11:30 a.m. More information is available here.

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