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St Patrick's Day has always been the day for the Irish in Australia. On 17 March 1795 there were rowdy festivities among the Irish convicts, and the cells were filled with prisoners. Later the occasion gained in respectability, marked by formal dinners attended by the colonial elite, many with no Irish connections.
By the early 20th century, parades were held in capital cities and rural centres. These were demonstrations of connections with an Irish Catholic past, or support for Irish political causes.
Today, St Patrick's Day in Australia has evolved into a fun day marked by revelry, green beer and comical hats. On that day, some say, there are only two kinds of people — those who are Irish, and those who wish they were.
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St Patrick's Day, Melbourne, 1920
Archbishop Daniel Mannix in the St Patrick's Day procession led by 13 mounted Victorian Cross recipients in Melbourne in 1920. National Library of Australia.
St Patrick's Day, Melbourne, late 1930s–1940s
St Patrick's Day parade banner, Melbourne, late 1930s–40s. Melbourne Diocesan Historical Commission, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.
St Patrick's Day, Melbourne, about 1960
The Irish National Pipe band in the Melbourne St Patrick's Day parade in 1960 or earlier, featuring Irish drum major Seamus Daly, pipe major Joe McSpirrit, pipers Mick Cummins, Pat Ryan, and Jim Daly and marshals Paddy Power (left) and Harry Murray. Courtesy Geraldine Ryan.
St Patrick's Day badge, 1920s
Fabric and sequin St Patrick's Day badge, 1920s. Handmade by Katie Green, a student of Loreto College, Marryatville, South Australia. Photo: National Museum of Australia.
St Patrick's Day badge, 1935
St Patrick's Day commemorative badge, 1935. Photo: National Museum of Australia.