St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated in Ireland for over 1000 years. Irish men and women come together for one day to celebrate Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, and the arrival of Christianity to the country. Today, many Irish have their own traditions they use to celebrate, including church services and feasts.
Here in Memphis, we have a tradition of our own. It is called the Irish Eyes. It all started when Mark Flanigan, a Memphis native, used to hold barbecues in his backyard for St. Patty’s Day from 1969-1971. He lived behind Ireland’s Restaurant, which is the same building that recently held Neal’s bar. By 1972, the barbecue was so big, it filtered into the restaurant. A couple years later, it expanded even more. Thomas Boggs, Mark, and Silky (from Silky O’Sullivan’s) all came up with the idea to have a pub crawl that started Downtown and ended in Overton Square. There were two headquarters for the crawl: Silky O’Sullivan’s (where it started) and Huey’s Midtown (where it ended). It was so big, that they used to have sponsors, like Budweiser. During this time, there was a lot of political problems in Ireland. The pub crawl was designed to raise awareness of these problems.
Today, the crawl has changed. Not as many people come in from Ireland. Now the group mainly consists of the Irish community in Memphis, plus a few visitors. On the Thursday before St. Patrick’s Day, there is a car caravan leaving Silky’s at 7pm. They pick up Irish guests from airport. From there, they start bar hopping, stopping at Huey’s at around 8:30pm. They stay at Huey’s for about 30min-1 hr, then go to Murphy’s, and then head to Beale. They will have a police escort, and it’s usually about 100 people.
On St. Patrick’s Day, they start the pub crawl at Murphy’s. Then most of the people will go Downtown to see the parade. Some of the “originals” will come to Huey’s instead.