Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Chilly weather can't dull Irish cheer

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OK, so you'll never mistake downtown Winnipeg for Dublin.

And no one had to camp out Friday night to grab a prime viewing spot.

But not only did all those frozen green people have a real hoot in Saturday's third annual St. Patrick's Day parade through the downtown, a lot of them were genuinely of Irish heritage -- no March 17 Irish-for-a-day pretenders.

"We've tried to instil in all the kids our Irish values," said the crowned, green-haired Celtic Queen wrapped in a green sarong, so imposing in her total greenness none dared ask if green was her hair's natural colour.

The Celtic Queen, known to some as Catriona Younger, née Gannon, reckoned she had 25 to 30 family members taking part in the parade.

"We came from Ireland in 1957," from the community of Cootehill in County Cavan, she explained.

Among the participants Saturday was her son Michael, dressed up as a bearded leprechaun. "He's got a real one (beard) underneath" that was far less scruffy, she laughed.

Hair stylist Margaret Gannon organized the do for the third time.

Winnipeggers always smile no matter the weather, and so do the Irish, said Gannon, who's the Celtic Queen's niece. "We have 150 core members that show up every year.

"This year we have a police escort."

The parade started and ended at Shannon's Irish Pub, across the street from the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg.

"We stick with the green theme -- everything is recycled," said Gannon.

The floats, all fuelled by human cardio, included a giant harp, a pot of gold, and a model of the Giant's Causeway, the amazing stone formation along the shore just up the coast from Belfast.

Tom Dodds had special reason to celebrate and join in the parade.

His grandmother Rachel Mary (Murphy) Dodds -- yes, that would appear to be Irish -- celebrated St. Patrick's Day in Flin Flon every year for 64 years until her death at age 94 in 2000.

"My grandmother, she was a Murphy," said Dodds.

His grandmother would spend two days decorating her family's house on Church Street in Flin Flon every March 17.

"They'd have a shamrock tea -- there were Catholics and Protestants," drinking tea in harmony, he recalled.

"Every year up in Flin Flon she would dress up, make shamrock cookies; she'd bless everyone with a tap of her shillelagh," the gentleness of the tap depending on whether you were a bill collector, Dodds chuckled.

"Everybody knew she was Irish, and God bless her for that."

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 16, 2014 A3

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