‘Hello, the top of the morning to you’ and ‘Best wishes on St. Patrick’s Day’
Among the postcards in the McBrien Family Album from Fintona are a group sent specially for St. Patrick’s Day.
27 in total, they date from 1908 to 1919. Some were sent from the McBrien siblings, Minnie in Pennsylvania and Frank and William in New York to family back home in Fintona, County Tyrone. 19 of the 27 were posted in the United States of America, seven in Ireland, and one, unused, was printed in Belfast.
As well as shamrocks and harps, images on the postcards include clay pipes, round towers, Irish colleens with rosy cheeks, men with shillelaghs, Blarney castle and sunrise landscapes.
Here is a selection of the postcards and their messages.
Postcard from Minnie McBrien, Philadelphia, March 1913, to her father William McBrien, Fintona. Message on back reads, ‘Dearest Father, I hope you received my letter. Be sure and drown your shamrock on Patrick's Day. Mr Donohue sent some papers to you I hope you will like them. Take good care of yourself. With best love from M. McB’.
Postcard from Minnie McBrien, Philadelphia, March 1913, to her mother Mary Ann, Fintona. Message on back reads, ‘Dearest Mother, Just a P.C. in remembrance of St Patrick's Day. I hope you will enjoy it. All the stores are decorated for it here. Mr Donohue says he will go and stop with you next summer. You would enjoy him. He is awful jolly and a great politician that would suit father. With love, Minnie.’
Minnie writes about all the stores being decorated in Philadelphia for St Patrick’s Day. With a large Irish population, St Patrick’s Day provided an opportunity for immigrants abroad to come together and celebrate being Irish.
In rural County Tyrone, St Patricks day was a lower key affair, with many people wearing a sprig of shamrock. Overall it was, and still is, a festive day, with the phrase ‘drowning the shamrock’ in use in the early 1900s as now.
The photograph below shows a St Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Avenue, New York, between 1910 and 1915. The spires of St. Patrick’s Cathedral are visible. It was built by Archbishop John Joseph Hughes. His childhood home is at The Ulster American Folk Park.
Bain News Service, Publisher. St. Patrick's Day Parade. , ca. 1910. [Between and Ca. 1915] Photograph. Library of Congress - St Patrick's Day parade.
Postcard from Minnie McBrien, Philadelphia, March 1913, to her sister Agnes ‘Dearest sister, just a P.C. to show that I didn’t forget you at the Irish Festival. I hope you will enjoy yourself as I intend doing. I hope you will. Write to me soon. With Love, Minnie.’
Postcard from Minnie McBrien, Philadelphia, March 1914, to her niece Agnes Slevin, Fintona, ‘3415 S Street, Philadelphia, Dearest Niece, To wish all of you a very Happy St Patrick's Day. With best love from your fond aunt Mary McBrien’.
Minnie was the pet name for Mary McBrien, and she used the name Minnie mostly with her siblings and close friends. Minnie wrote her address on this postcard. It is useful now to have to use when researching her time in the United States of America.
Postcard from a friend, name unknown, with an address at 509 10th Avenue, New York, to Minnie McBrien, Fintona. ‘Just a card for old times sake. How is the world using you hope fine. I'm going over to see Mary Monaghan to-night I don’t know her married name. I called to see your Willie last Sunday but he has changed his address. Poor Lynch it was sad about him. I see a good many Fintona boys we do have some good old dances. I was speaking to Father O'Mullan what used to be a Curate in Omagh. He is collecting. Hoping all is well. J.J.B.
A romantic St. Patrick’s Day postcard, from an admirer in Omagh to Minnie McBrien in Fintona.
Message reads, ‘Dearest Minnie, Having a jolly day in Omagh today. Joseph & the Mrs is here and going to live in Omagh but I would other see yourself here than if the town was crowded. I am only longing for the day that I will be meeting you here I only wish it was tomorrow. I hope you will have a good day on St Patricks day. I will be sure and drink your health. I am sending you half a [illegible!] for St Patricks [morning?] xxxxxxx From one that still thinks of you L. [McParlind?]
Postcard from unknown sender, Fintona, March 1909, to Minnie McBrien, Fintona, no message.
Postcard from unknown sender, New York, March 1908, to Minnie McBrien, Fintona, no message
Postcard from Minnie [McGuicken?], Philadelphia, March 1911, to Minnie McBrien, Fintona. A card with a bittersweet message. Minnie shares sad news about an uncle and cousin along with St Patrick’s day wishes. Message reads, ‘My dear cousin. I guess you think I have forgotten all about you. I hope you will forgive me. I will answer your letter this week for sure. I hope you are all well. I am well. You let your mother know that uncle Pat is to be no more. All friends are well here. Only uncle Pats daughter Sarah. She is still feeling bad. I hope you will have a very pleasant St. Patricks day. With love from your cousin Minnie Mc[Guicken?]’
Postcard from Bill (William) McBrien, Brooklyn, New York, March 1911 to his younger sister Agnes McBrien, Fintona. Message reads, ‘I suppose you thought I forgot you I think it is near time for me to answer your card. Wish you a happy 17th. From Bill, Brother’