March Madness is here, and we're not talking about the basketball games. St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated worldwide every March 17th, and Rhode Island celebrates with parades in Providence, Pawtucket and Newport. Across the state events range from parades to live music, and a 5K.
Scott Molloy, a Professor Emeritus of labor and industrial relations at the University of Rhode Island , has done extensive research and written books on Irish history, especially here in Rhode Island. Also, he is the grand marshal of the parade in Providence on March 10. He said the celebrations offer an opportunity to remember the Irish immigrants who came to Rhode Island, often with no money and only dreams in their pocket. "And yet here we are living the good life in America because of them," said Molloy, "And I think one of the big things is that we need as a nation to look back every once in a while and say thank you to those people who paved the way for our success."
Molloy said it amazes him that there’s still over a dozen societies dedicated to Irish history and culture. "They will continue events which is usual a lecture or an Irish singing engagement. So, there’s a lot of things all year round," said Molloy.
The Irish first arrived in the 1820s before the Potato Famine that took the lives of approximately 25 percent of the population. He said many of them came to work on public works projects like Fort Adams in Newport, the Arcade building in Providence, and the Blackstone Valley Canal. However, those who came a generation later, the refugees of the famine, were slightly less educated and not as lucky with jobs.
Malloy said immigration from Ireland has slowed now, as new waves of immigrants have made their way to Rhode Island.