Monday 18 December 2017

Wexford on the crest of a wave for memorable weekend

Padraig Byrne

The Barry Boston Tea Party and wreathlaying cermony.
The Barry Boston Tea Party and wreathlaying cermony.

THOUSANDS of people flocked to Wexford's quayside over the weekend to enjoy the annual John Barry Maritime Festival.

While high winds meant at times you had to hold on to your hat, it didn't discourage people from making their way down to enjoy the fantastic atmosphere.

And the high winds favoured some, with a fly boarder performing some amazing stunts, much to the delight of the crowds.

The largest crowds over the weekend congregated around the main stage where throughout Saturday and Sunday some of the finest musical talent Wexford has to offer was on show.

The food village was, once again, a huge hit, offering people a taste of Wexford with some of the finest food and drink in the county on offer. There was plenty to see for maritime enthusiasts, from Customs and Coast Guard vessels, and the unusual sight of a British Royal Navy ship too, berthed in the harbour, to intricately crafted scale models and an exhibition of photos and paintings of vessels from days gone by.

On Sunday evening attentions turned to The Crescent and The John Barry statue for the annual wreath laying ceremony. This year history was brought to life as members of the Corish Wallace School of Performing Arts, re-enacted the Boston Tea Party in a fantastic display of colour and costumes.

Seamus Redmond played the role of Commodore John Barry and spoke of his rise from a lowly cabin boy to father of the US Navy and Edward Milburn McCarthy then performed the speech that President John F Kennedy had given to a massive crowd on the very same spot 50 years ago.

Following the re-enactment, St Patrick's Fife and Drum Band led members of the navy to the John Barry statue where they performed a military parade. They were then inspected by guest of honour representing the Irish Government, Minister Paul Kehoe.

In one of his final acts as Mayor, Cllr Jim Allen spoke of what an honour it was to oversee the festival and to celebrate 50 years since President Kennedy's visit. 'I knew when I was elected Mayor that the anniversary of Kennedy's visit would fall in my term,' said Cllr Allen.

'As a history student myself, I was delighted. A lot of people in Wexford remember Kennedy very fondly, like a member of their own family. Fifty years ago I sat on my own father's shoulders here at Crescent Quay as he pointed out this famous man that had come to visit us.'

The Mayor also spoke of John Barry and how he serves to inspire the people of Wexford. He complimented and congratulated members of the festival committee on their success before passing over to Minister Kehoe, who commented on Wexford's proud maritime tradition. Minister Kehoe also stated the importance of Wexford, and Ireland's connection with the U.S.

To finish the ceremony, wreaths were laid at the John Barry statue by the Minister; Lt. Col. Sean Cosden, Senior U.S. Defence Official and Defence Attaché; Phillip Dillon, a descendant of the Barry family; John Fowler from the organisation of ex-servicemen Wexford and Josh Cohen, Mayor of Annapolis – twin city to Wexford.

Meanwhile at Kilmore Quay there was another ceremony marking the county's maritime history, this time with a more sombre tone.

Biship Denis Brennan led a mass followed by a wreath laying at the Garden of Remembrance, overlooking the graveyard of a thousand ships where so many people died in ship wrecks over the years.

Wexford People

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