Having St. Patrick’s Day cancelled for the second year in a row was a blow not only to the tourism and hospitality industries in Ireland, but it was also a blow to the islands morale. We had a year of lockdowns and illness, of cancellations and waiting. We had dared to hope that things would be better by Spring. But of course, they were not. The world traditionally celebrates St. Patrick’ Day with us, and this year we could only watch the light displays from a far or through our screens. Everything was very different this year. Great efforts were made to take the celebrations online. Event after event was announced and St. Patrick’s Day went virtual. Leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, a group of guides who had come together to offer live streamed tours on the Heygo.com platform, decided that they would make the best of it and scheduled some tours for March 17th.
The day the world turned green & over 1100 people celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with us!
Still getting to grips with the new medium for delivering tours, our guides delivered tours spanning the island. Wrestling with gimbals, last minute tech issues and changes of locations, preparing for the notorious Irish weather and the unwanted attention from seagulls, we stepped way out of our comfort zones and brought a bit of Ireland to viewers across the globe. Starting with sunrise over the Irish Sea. We watched the sun peek over the horizon, shine brightly across the sea and rise into the sky over Killiney Hill. We finished with St. Patrick’s Day Banter in Belfast with local guides Rory, Donal and Louise. The day was by no means perfect but what shone through was a community spirit and a longing to connect with each other, regardless of where we might be on the planet. Guests joined our tours in droves to take part in the celebrations with us.
Over 1100 people joined us on tours that day, some for the Irish coffee making demo on the beach, some for the wonderfully relaxing seaside stroll with Ann Marie in Skerries, others were treated to a stroll around Ancient Dublin with our very own rogue, Dave! The chat boxes filled up with comments and greetings as virtual voyagers compared notes about ancestors, told us their favourite Irish things and of course places that they had visited or wanted to visit. Our group of 10 guides on the Island of Ireland all played their part on the day, logging in to support each other, giving advice and pep talks behind the scenes and just sharing something so much bigger than each one of us. A sense of pride in Ireland, our little island and a longing to be back out in the world with other people.
Longing for Ireland.
The outpouring of love and support for the Irish blew me away. The need for people who have not been able to come home for whatever reason, to feel part of the Irish community was never felt so strong. While some shed tears of joy and longing, some donned something green and embraced their Irishness for a few hours. By the time Rory & Donal began their tour in Belfast, the craic was mighty, and the banter and comradery in the chat box felt like it was between a group of old friends. Some were raising a glass to new friends, absent friends or whoever was on the tour with them. Others were telling jokes, sharing memories from the day and telling stories of Paddy’s Days past! I will leave you with some of the comments and feedback from our guests who celebrated not only being able to reach out across oceans and time zones to celebrate, but who were welcomed with open arms and embraced by everyone on our tours and who became a little more Irish that day.
What our guests said:
“Hello Hazel, thank you for the gift of sunrise on St Patrick’s Day. I have a couple of paras to sum up my experience. Your tour was early evening for me (I’m in Australia), and I slept so well that night, with dreams of Ireland”. “Sunrise over Dublin may not sound very exciting to you, but to me it was heart-stopping. Raised from infancy on tales of the formidable Celtic gods, devotion to St Brigid and the nightmare of the Hunger, I’ve yearned to visit the home of my foremothers and stand on the ground that they walked on. Sadly, that will never happen now. So to stand in the pre-dawn hush, to silently contemplate and to watch the sun rise up from the waters brought me to tears. And this on St Patrick’s Day!” Susanna D.
“I love to go on as many tours to Ireland as I can because I’m an Ireland superfan lol. I’ve been to Ireland twice and it has a special place in my heart. Outstanding St Patrick tours moments: Learning about the history of how Saint Patrick became a Saint, hearing the myth about the witch inside the Witches’ Hat (and you actually knocking on the door and running away lol!) Learning how to make Irish coffee and then seeing spectacular views of the beach. Hearing Donal singing with guitar, hearing about ‘global greening’, listening to David playing guitar and singing in New York and learning about Irish immigration to New York These Irish tours are super important to me because they help me relive my memories in Ireland – places I’ve been and make me appreciate the place even more after knowing some wonderful places I missed or interesting facts or stories I didn’t know then. Thank you so much for the tours you’ve organized for us! And I love how all Irish guides are so supportive of each other. I’m keeping my eye on future tours!” Katie L
“I started out my day with the sunrise with you at Killiney Hill at 1:15 am my time. I stayed up late and went for a walk at Skerries with Anne-Marie. Oh wow, I also went on a walk with Dave – Ancient Dublin at 6 am here. I forgot about that one and wondering now why I stayed up most of the night. At noon, I went on your tour on the beach where you made Irish coffee. Aaron & Patrick had a tour for St. Patrick’s Day as well. I finished up in Belfast with Rory and Donal.
Some of the highlights – well, the sunrise, definitely! The beach in Skerries. It’s so beautiful. Actually, any time spent on the beach is wonderful. I have never been to the ocean (yet). I live smack dab mid-continent. We do have a couple of massive lakes (look at Manitoba, Canada on a map, can’t miss them) and I grew up going to the family cottage. I absolutely adore the beach. Whenever I am on tours, I just love being on the beaches and by the ocean and hearing the waves. The ocean off the coast of Ireland! How cool is that?? In the US Patrick and Aaron did a tour where they showed the potato famine memorial and when they got there, they met up with a friend. He sang some Irish songs with his guitar, which brought back many memories for me from my pub days. 🙂 The best was when he sang, “Danny Boy”, acapella. Absolutely love the song. After their tour, I joined up with Rory and Donal in Belfast. Donal sang some songs during the tour. We ended up at City Hall, which was green as green can be. What a sight! So, to sum it up, being in Ireland (I have always wanted to go to Ireland) for St. Patrick’s Day was a real treat for me. The celebratory atmosphere from the guides to the travelers was amazing! And I loved being on the shores of Ireland hearing live Irish songs. I could have used more songs, but I will take what I can get. That sunrise though….and did I mention beaches? LOL Oh yes, I also love the architecture & history I have seen on my tours in Ireland.
Side note: In the evening, I attended a virtual show in the city put on by the McConnell Irish dancers here in the city. They did a fantastic job. It was done via Zoom so the dancers could all see us. When they all did their own finale at the end and then danced by the screens, they waved. We waved back and I phoned my friend in tears. It had been such a great day and to watch the dancers, clap for them and then wave at them is the closest I have been to a live show in a long time! What a great day.
Ireland is truly beautiful and sometimes, I feel like I was born in the wrong country. Don’t get me wrong, I love Canada. However, there is something about Ireland that has always tugged at my heart. Sorry if I babbled on a bit, but I wanted to share my excitement with you. And no doubt I will see you on more of your tours. Thank you and thanks to the other guides for sharing the beauty of Ireland with the rest of the world“. Colleen W.