Celebrating 40 years of Irish-American heritage in Utah
Apr 03, 2018 03:39PM
By Josh Wood
This year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade marked the 40th anniversary of the Hibernian (Irish) Society of Utah. (Stock Photo)
By Joshua Wood | [email protected]
The green outfits and banners waltzed through downtown Salt Lake City. The festive atmosphere spread among the crowd whether attendees had Irish blood in them or not. But the parade on March 17 marked more than St. Patrick’s Day. This year there was something more.
Salt Lake City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade marked the 40th anniversary of the Hibernian (Irish) Society of Utah. The organization was founded in 1978 to promote Irish culture and the contributions that the Irish have made in Utah and throughout the United States.
“The name Hibernian comes from ancient Rome,” said outgoing Hibernian Society of Utah president, Patrick A. Dougherty. “When the Romans invaded what is now England, they built Hadrian’s Wall to separate their territory from the crazy Celts. They decided not to invade the island to the west that was full of crazy Celts, and they called it Hibernia.” The name was influenced by the Latin word hibernus, essentially giving the island the name “land of winter.”
To preserve and celebrate all things Irish, the Hibernian Society of Utah meets monthly from September through June. They also hold regular informal classes in Irish history, literature, music and culture. Heroes of Irish history and culture are celebrated along with the contributions of everyday Irish-Americans.
In a February letter to the Hibernian Society, Salt Lake City Mayor Jacqueline M. Biskupski stated, “As the oldest and largest Irish association in the state of Utah, the Hibernian Society continues to enrich the lives of residents and visitors.” Activities celebrating Irish culture can be found throughout the Salt Lake area with the culminating event being the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
The Hibernian Society of Utah was founded in 1978 by John Brockert, Emmett Quinn, Michael Rodman and John Welsh. The four gathered regularly on 400 South in Salt Lake City for drinks, laughs and Irish songs. Bemoaning the fact that Salt Lake had no St. Patrick’s Day parade, the four decided to remedy the issue by marching down the nearest street. With the help of two friendly police officers, the four survived the traffic and applied for a permit from the city for a more formal parade the following year. To plan the grand event and to organize fellow Irish-Americans in the community, the Hibernian Society was born.
“We continue to build upon the shoulders of our Hibernian Society predecessors,” Dougherty said.
The Hibernian Society of Utah invites anyone interested in learning about and celebrating Irish heritage, whether Irish or not themselves, to find events on their website, www.irishinutah.org.