Digbeth's Annual St Patrick's Parade

Until Covid, every year, on or near the 17 March, a huge Parade took place along Digbeth High Street, Birmingham.

Sadly it ceased, mainly due to major road works taking place there and with it went the special Mass celebrated in St Anne’s. The road works continue and the Parade Committee has decided to disband. The responsibility for celebrations marking St Patrick's Day have been taken on by the Irish Association and this year these took place in a new style in Canon Hill Park.

A Mass in a bar

However, it was a special surprise to see the Mass still taking place in the Irish Quarter. It was the brainchild of Peter Connelly, the owner of Norton’s Bar and Social Venue based across from the Central Coach Station in Digbeth. With friends and family, as well as people who frequent Norton’s, including Enda Mullen who plays in the Holy Showband, he arranged a Mass at 11am in the main function room before the usual pub and restaurant related activities began.

Peter said: "I have dreamt of having Mass here since I bought it." He went on to speak of his clientele: "mainly the young Irish (second or third generation) from all over Birmingham. There was a fine gathering: families from earlier days in Acocks Green; teachers who had frequented courses in Maryvale; young parents I’d met as children years ago in Archbishop Ilsley School."

The Mass was celebrated by Father Gerard Kelly of St Francis, Handsworth, and the Choir came from Our Lady’s Primary, Tile Cross. Fr Gerry treated us to some words and singing in Irish as part of the Liturgy. I was pleased, as Co-ordinator of Ethnic Chaplaincies to see this, and to congratulate Peter and all involved in a wonderful celebration.

Was it a ‘first’ celebrating Mass in a pub? I don’t think so! Years ago the Mass at St George and St Teresa, Dorridge, moved for a time to the Wilson’s Arms in Knowle after a fire! St Patrick's Day was well celebrated liturgically, as well as in the usual food, drink and dance.

Knock Shrine

Next week a Pilgrim Group from the Diocese will be travelling to Knock International Shrine of Our Lady, visiting Ballintubber Abbey, which is alongside the Well where St Patrick baptised, and visiting Croagh Patrick where according to tradition he spent 40 days in Prayer.

A new “camino” has now grown up between Ballintubber and Croagh Patrick: I am not planning to do that just yet, but St Patrick is still inspiring people today!

Visiting Knock Shrine in 2022

By Mgr Daniel McHugh Co-ordinator, Ethnic Chaplaincies


A St Patrick's Day Mass at Norton's Bar Digbeth