When James Oglethorpe’s ship, The Anne, landed in Savannah in 1733, he had a vision of a classless society where the poor could build a good life. He was supported by a charter from King George and ideas about prohibiting slavery, alcohol, and limiting land purchases.
When Oglethorpe’s party of 114 colonists landed in Savannah, they were in for a hard time. The heat and the polluted river were constant threats to survival and the small number of people was insufficient to develop the community that Oglethorpe had envisioned.
But as fate would have it…
Less than a year later, a ship battered by bad weather carrying forty indentured servants from Ireland crashed to the shore. Originally bound for the New England coast, the ship offered vital help to the original Savannah colonists.
Oglethorpe accepted the indentured servants into the community, purchasing the servitude of 34 men and 6 women for five pounds each.
Without this Irish labor, Savannah might not have developed into the city it is today.
Savannah has a huge percentage of people who claim Irish heritage.
After the first shipwrecked indentured servants came in 1734, more and more Irish came. They sought religious freedom and land of their own. Once they got settled, they wrote to their family members and invited them to come, too.
The largest Irish immigration occurred during and after the Great Potato Famine of 1845-1851when more than 2200 Irish immigrants arrived.
Savannah has a higher percentage of Irish population than other areas of the country. More than a quarter of the United States, almost 26% of the population claim to have a bit of “the Irish” in them, but the rate is even higher in Savannah.
A whopping 35% of Savannah residents claim Irish heritage!
The influx of Irish immigrants built the city.
The labor of the Irish laid the foundations for a thriving, beautiful city. Irish helped provide the labor for the railroad that ran between Savannah and Macon. They laid bricks, built structures, and constructed roads.
Cotton bales and heavy crates were moved from ship to shore by Irishmen, and the timber industry relied on the Irish to cut it, transport it, and load it onto ocean-going vessels for export to the British Isles.
The Savannah St. Patrick’s Day parade was established early in the history of our nation, and it started because of the generous, charitable nature of Savannah citizens.
In 1812, the Hibernian Society was formed by forty-four men to help the immigrants who had arrived destitute. The Hibernian Society is named after the ancient name for Ireland, and to belong, a member had to be male, Catholic, and be born in Ireland or be of Irish descent.
In 1824, the President of the Hibernian Society put a notice in the paper, The Georgian, inviting the public to join him in a walk to the Roman Catholic Church on St. Patrick’s Day. He wanted them to come hear a speech given by Bishop John England, the founder of the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina.
The turnout was great, and the grand tradition of a public parade on St. Paddy’s Day was born.
Next year will be its 200th anniversary! (An already big party may be even bigger!)
Savannah has the second largest St. Patrick’s Day in the nation, which is saying a lot because the population of our fair city is only 147,000.
New York City and its 8.5 MILLION people have the biggest St. Patrick’s Day parade, but the size of the event is tied with Chicago.
The St. Patrick’s Day parades in New York and Chicago both draw about 2 MILLION people in for the party. (Chicago’s population is 2.7 million.)
Savannah, with fewer than 150,000, puts on the second biggest party in the entire country. Now that’s saying something! (Other bigger cities with smaller parades are surely green with envy!)
By 1870, Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day parade was so big that a Grand Marshall was added to handle it. Now, it’s a huge job. The Grand Marshall must attend 55-60 events between the end of February and March 17.
Parties aren’t the only way we celebrate.
We tried dying the river emerald green in 1961, but the tide sucked out all of the dye. Now we just color our nine fountains with thirty-five pounds of “verdant green” dye!
Savannah allows “to-go” cups on the street, so parade-watchers, citizens, and visitors can walk the streets imbibing their favorite beverage, whether it’s green or gold or any other color of the rainbow.
Green hues and allowable booze aren’t the only fun we have.
Savannah is famous for attracting celebrities to the St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Three presidents have attended the parade: William Howard Taft, Harry Truman, and Jimmy Carter. Dignitaries, sports stars, actors, and politicians have all been known to attend, in addition to the almost a half million other people who come to celebrate the Irish.
We love being part of the vibrant, beautiful, diverse community of Savannah that celebrates its heritage every year on St. Patrick’s Day.
No matter the weather…
No matter your heritage…
No matter how long you’ve been here…
Air Therm is here to celebrate you, to make you comfortable, and to say,
“May the luck of the Irish be with you!”