2015-03-12 / Front Page

Parade Honor in Ireland ‘Tops’

By James Merolla

Rick O’Neill as 2014 Kinsale parade marshal in front of the White House owned by Michael and Rose Frawley frequent visitors to Newport. Rick O’Neill as 2014 Kinsale parade marshal in front of the White House owned by Michael and Rose Frawley frequent visitors to Newport. There are two dozen videos of Kinsale, Ireland, on YouTube, depicting everything from children dancing to pubs to tourism to the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade – both on land and in the water.

If you click on the six-minute piece on the 2014 St. Patrick’s Day Parade, with catchy tunes underneath and ruddy-cheeked sprites leading mischievous, green-clad men, you will catch snapshot glimpses of a Portsmouth Police Officer, a Newport Fireman, former Newport Mayor Henry “Harry” Winthrop, and another 18 people from Aquidneck Island.

Chief among them is Rick O’Neill, Newport City Canvasser, our local man honored as Grand Marshall of that grand event a year ago. Kinsale is a sister city of Newport, “twinned” since 1999.

Almost the entire O’Neill clan went with him to Kinsale. It was a whirlwind day for them on the Ides of March last year. Central among organizers of the Newport St. Patrick’s Day Parade, O’Neill marched the local route first. Then he grabbed his bags and his family and caught an afternoon plane to Ireland to celebrate it all again two days later on the traditional March 17.

“Although I have had the opportunity to travel to Kinsale over a dozen times, being selected as the 2014 Grand Marshall of their St. Patrick’s Day Parade was truly an honor and privilege I will cherish for a lifetime,” said O’Neill.

There were 21 people who traveled from Newport to Kinsale, he said, including his wife, Barbara, sons Patrick and Conor, and Conor’s wife, Kate.

“From the time you land in Ireland until you are heading back to Newport, it is nonstop hospitality,” said O’Neill.

The night before the parade town officials hosted a welcoming reception for the full delegation.

“I was presented with the Grand Marshall sash, and the reception marked the official kickoff of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration. We proceeded to the harborfront for a public celebration of song and dance by local community groups,” he added. “There was a lighted parade of sail in the harbor and a spectacular fireworks display from James Fort over the harbor, with musical arrangements.”

It was a reciprocal march, come full circle. “The Kinsale delegation that marched with us in Newport that weekend returned to Kinsale early Monday morning, March 17, and joined us at church to celebrate the religious holy day in honor of St. Patrick,” said O’Neill. “During the Mass, our full delegation was introduced and we were presented with fresh shamrocks.”

“My wife and I were in a vintage convertible Mercedes in the front of the parade followed by Mayor Winthrop, escorted by my sons and members of the Newport Fire Department, Ancient Order of Hibernians and spouses,” said O’Neill. “The weather was pleasant with a slight mist pre-parade and the reception from the spectators was over the moon.”

“Many of us had the opportunity to travel with our Kinsale friends to other towns within County Cork and County Kerry. The twinning of Newport and Kinsale began in 1999, and the lifelong friendships that have developed over the past 15-plus years get stronger and wider every year,” added O’Neill. “The common bonds that link us in this vibrant relationship have truly fostered an indispensable partnership spanning many levels.”

O’Neill added, “Our family had an outstanding 2014 beginning with my selection as Kinsale’s Grand Marshall." My wife was named Teacher of the Year in the Newport school system, and we became grandparents with the birth of Ronan Patrick O’Neill in November.” It doesn’t get much better than that.

To get a better glimpse of Kinsale to see their St. Patrick’s Day event, go to YouTube and put in keyword, “Kinsale.”

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