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St Patrick's Night
Newcastle Upon Tyne
17th March.

St Pat's night on Tyneside generally is becoming something of a mini New Years Eve, with the Toon immersing itself full bodied into the festivities. Most of these had been brilliantly organised and co-ordinated by Tony Corcoran and the St Patrick's Day Committee of Tyneside Irish Cultural Society.

The Toon centre, Grays Monument, seen a stage erected and little dancers dancing their wee hearts and souls out in the cold wind. They are accompanied by excellent Irish musicians and a number of kids ceilhi bands. Meanwhile Irish music and crack is being served up live at Luckies Corner Bar, Shearers Bar, The Charles Grey, Sam Jacks, Bridge Hotel, Centurion, , Gotham Town, while The Space Bar, seen the Happy Cats entertain at Newcastle College. A host of traditional and modern Tyneside Irish and Irish musicians bounced the walls and ceilings. That's just the toon,in Gateshead in the Felling and Hebburn and Jarrow we are reliably informed the pubs were bouncing and impromptu Irish dancers old and young got up and rattled the floorboards. The Irish Club itself in Gallowgate was a complete no go area unless a)You were a member and b) had begged stolen or bribed a ticket to get in. Something like 3,000 people many of them members had tried to get into the club for the day and busses from Scotland and Northumberland and Carlisle were seen discharging loads of people almost on the hour, many very old, some very young, the lot of them very drunk and happy by the look. At Newcastle Racecourse, Gosforth Park the Guinness St Patrick's Race Day well under way and judging from the crowds descending on the pubs in the evening after the races many had had a grand day. As evening fell, it was best to work out a route through the various venues arriving at The Bridge Hotel on the High Level by 9 pm for what turned out to be the grand faunally of the evening. The pub was heaving as Tony Corcoran and his band with Benny stamped and played the night away. It was more like a punk rock night with bodies jigging up and down and young dancers jiggling their bodywear and high kicking among the heaving throngs of drinkers in full voice. Quite older blokes were inspired to get up and fire-up the old combustion chambers into mighty pieces of footwork, though on occasion this was just a ruse to get the bevy through the throngs without spilling it. Quite a fete while dancing it must be said. In the end I was pleased we didn't get tickets for the Irish Club, as the Bridge was clearly the place to be. The night ended with a medley of Traditional Tyneside and international tunes, which caused all sorts of Cossack, Jewish ,Belly , Scottish dancing to be improvised. St Pat's night on Tyneside is everybody's night with a good-natured nod in the direction of the Aud Sod, and we don't mean the Landlord. More money was taken on this one night than over the whole of Xmas and New Year put together so that should give you a clue, although it must be said the drinks were not cheap.

As if you didn't have enough, the next day seen The Angels Of The North were performing at The Centurion, and things looked like kicking off again at The Bridge and the Irish Club as we come away.

The Tyneside Irish population is about 30% of the Tyneside population, hoy in the mix of Scots, which is aboot 50% to some degree, or another, and a tradition of autonomy and independence from the rest and you see why St Pat's night in the toon is so warmly embraced. I think there would be a strong surge for a revival of Burns Neet, which was always popular on a smaller scale, and certainly a 'Geordie Neet' (it would be a Northumbria neet really but current Tynesiders have forgotten what that is). This is a day to mark on your Must Dey, calendar alang with the Hoppins and Durham Miners Gala.

See you next year. When St Pats falls on a Sunday, time for a sick note for the Monday I suspect.