I mentioned the Abington St. Patrick’s Day Parade
last night and that my Mom helped in the start of it.
Some background information first: Massachusetts is
reportedly the most Irish out of all the states, with
roughly 24% claiming Irish ancestry on the last census.
Abington is in Plymouth County where 31% of the
population is of Irish descent a tie with neighboring
Norfolk County for the highest percent among the 54
counties where Irish Americans are “the largest observed
ethnic group”. Abington itself is 33% Irish American
according to the 2000 Federal census. (The 2010 Census
now puts it at 44.5 per cent)
John L. Sullivan, the Boston Irishman bareknuckle boxing
legend, retired to a farm here in West Abington where he
died in 1918.
With all this Irish heritage it seemed strange that there was
not a St. Patrick’s Day Parade in town.
Then 28 years ago Jack Bailey, a local garage owner was
at the VFW and took a $10 bet from another Post member
that he couldn’t start a parade in Abington. He enlisted the
help of some of the other members and wives, among whom
were my mother and some friends. Of course Mom would
have had to help! What else could a red-haired green-eyed
Irish lady do?
That first parade was on the spur of the moment. Luckily Mr.
Bailey had a tow truck and a flatbed as well, so those were
decorated with green streamers and signs. I brought a cassette
boom box with a tape of traditional Irish music that Mom and
others of the ladies sang along to as they rode on the back of
the flatbed truck. There may have been more cars involved but
I only saw the trucks as I was going to work when I dropped
off the music and so didn’t actually see that first parade myself.
28 years later it’s one of the biggest in the state. They held on
this past Sunday the 11th this year to avoid conflict with the
bigger celebrations in South Boston over this coming weekend.
The parade’s gone from a cassette boom box to 10 marching
bands this year and hundreds of marchers and spectators.
And Jack Bailey won that $10 bet.