The tradition of presenting shamrocks to children at two Thornaby schools has been continued on a St Patrick’s Day like no other. 

Hugh Hegarty, chief executive office of Nicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust, handed out sprigs of the plant that had been specially sent over from Ireland to pupil representatives at St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School.

Chair of governors Mark Ryan did the honours at St Patrick’s Catholic College, handing out shamrock to two pupils who were chosen for their incredible efforts during lockdown.

“Both pupils attended every day and completed their work enthusiastically,” said head of school Debbie Law. “They supported those in the younger year groups and were so resilient and dedicated.”

Father Pat O'Neill

Father Pat O’Neill

Father Pat O’Neill, from Tipperary, celebrated a special Mass at the primary school, with the service being beamed to the other St Patrick’s, as well as neighbouring Christ the King Catholic Primary School.

Children from all three schools were chosen to do the readings and children signed a hymn based on the prayer, St Patrick’s Breastplate.

“St Patrick’s Day is usually a time when we come together wherever we are in the world to celebrate, especially for those who have Irish heritage,” said Mr Hegarty, who was born in Northern Ireland.

“This is a strange St Patrick’s Day and one that’s tinged with sadness because so many people have lost loved ones during the year.

“We’re not able to come together in the way we normally would, but in many ways that resonates with the message of St Patrick. To me, St Patrick is a symbol of emigration and of being apart from your family and friends.

“Scholars now believe St Patrick was probably born in England, possibly not very far from our area, but he felt called to leave his home and bring Christianity to the Irish people.

“Because of Covid we’ve all had to adapt and learn to use technology to help us communicate, and many of us have found ourselves communicating with our loved ones more often than we did before,” he said.

“The importance of our faith and the need to connect with our fellow men and women has never been clearer than it has during these last 12 months.”