Brooklyn Irish American Parade Committee, Inc.
History of Brooklyn St. Patrick’s Parade — “A Time to Remember” 1975 – 2020
It was 1975, Abraham Beame was the Mayor of the City of New York, Congressman Hugh Carey, a Brooklyn neighbor, had just been elected Governor of New York State. Gerald Ford was now the President of the United State, as our nation prepared to celebrate the bicentennial of its birth. A group of Brooklyn Irish American citizens came together to highlight the vast contributions of the Irish to America in conjunction with our nation’s bicentennial. The group formed a committee that is now known as the Brooklyn Irish American Parade Committee. Kaye Brideson, Kathleen McDonagh, Joan McLaughlin, John Carroll, Richard Henry, Ann McAvey and Peter Heaney were the nucleus of that Committee.
The aim of the Parade is to honor the patron of Ireland, St. Patrick, to remember the Battle of Brooklyn and to pay tribute to the Irish for their many significant and historic contributions to our Borough, City, State and Nation. “Faith, Heritage, History, Tribute and Remembrance” became the core of the Parade, highlighting the vast contributions of the Irish to the Church, to the uniformed services, to labor and the law, to public and civic life, to education and healthcare.
In the early years, little public awareness existed about the fateful importance of the battle fought on August 27, 1776 at The Old Stone House on 5th Avenue between 3rd & 4th Streets in what is now Park Slope. As the largest battle of the American Revolution, the heroic Maryland 400 held off a force of two thousand British and Hessian troops. Their bravery and sacrifice helped to save General George Washington’s Army and our fledgling Republic. The Parade each year pays honor to the memory of the heroic Maryland 400. The late John Gallagher, Parade Officer and Aide to the Grand Marshal (2000), historian and author of the definitive book, “The Battle of Brooklyn – 1776”, contributed greatly to the public knowledge of this historic event.
The histories of Ireland and America have been intertwined since the very foundation of our republic. Prior to the American Revolution, there were Irish settlers throughout the colonies. Twelve of Washington’s Generals were of Irish descent and one-third of his Army was comprised of the Sons of Erin.
Throughout all the years, the theme of each parade has been focused on a historic event, person, centennial, bicentennial or tricentennial. The Themes of our annual journals have ranged from, “How the Irish Saved Civilization”, when with the fall of the Roman Empire, the monasteries of the Isle of Saints and Scholars preserved the Greek and Roman classics and our Judeo-Christian heritage to the 2004 Centennial of the New York City Subway System — built, operated and organized by Irish workers and labor leaders.
For five years, we remembered the Great Hunger, “An Gorta Mor” (1845-1850), the starvation and death of nearly two million, the coffin ships and the mass exodus and diaspora of the Irish. We recalled Wolfe Tone, founder of the United Irishman, who sought and fought for a united Ireland, neither Protestant nor Catholic, neither North nor South, but one nation and the bicentennial of his role in the Rebellion of 1798.
During this time, we noted through particular yearly themes, the Tricentennial of New York’s Governor Dongan; the Earl of Limerick, and his Charter of Liberties; the Daughters of Erin, Irish women who made significant contributions in the fields of education, labor and social work; the 75th and 100th Anniversary of the Easter Rising; the role of the Irish family; the Games of the Gael; the Bicentennial anniversaries of the deaths of John Barry, Father of the American Navy, and Robert Emmet the Irish Patriot; the 225th Anniversary of The Declaration of Independence, Tribute and Dedication to the Heroes and Victims of 9/11; 100th Anniversary of WWI; History of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians; Irish Dance; GAA; and Irish Cemeteries, burial grounds of our honored dead.
Our first Parade was in 1976, the year of our nation’s bicentennial; Thomas J. Cuite, Majority Leader of the City Council was the first Grand Marshal. For many years to follow, through the annual parade, the parade journal, its Grand Marshals, and the Aides to the Grand Marshals, the Committee has worked diligently to make the general public and our Irish American Community more aware of our culture, our heritage and the vast contributions made by the Irish to the civic, public and religious life of our Borough, City, State and Nation. May we continue the pioneering work of our founders in this very important and noble endeavor.
Joe Ferris — Parade Historian & Parade Grand Marshal (1978)