Ardmore Pattern Festival History
Did you know that St Declan’s Well is the most ancient Christian settlement in Ireland and that St Declan’s arrival in Ireland pre-dates that of St Patrick?
Accounts all through history tell of the importance of St Declan’s Well as a destination for pilgrims, especially during ‘Pattern Week’. In the late 1830’s for example, it was reported that between 12,000 and 15,000 people would visit during the Pattern to kneel and pray before the well.
Throughout the 20th century Pattern Week was a highlight of the village year in Ardmore. Householders aimed to have their whitewashing and tidying-up done beforehand and children looked forward to getting their Pattern Fayrin or present. The festival would see stalls and hurdy-gurdies fill the lower end of the village while the public houses enjoyed brisk business and dancing platforms were erected in Rooney’s yard (now An Tobar) and Harris’s Garden.
Clodagh Anson writes of the Pattern in the early 20th century: “We always looked forward to Pattern Sunday with the bands and the stalls and people crawling under St Declan’s Stone. We watched from our drawing room window thinking someone very fat might try, and get stuck…”
Later in the century the Pattern was as big a deal as ever. Pat Ormond, The Square, Dungarvan talks of family outings there. He remembers his Grandmother and others walking from Dungarvan to Ardmore selling what he thought was dried hake before walking back again in the evening. “My uncle Paddy,” he says “told me that anything that had a wheel under it in Dungarvan and Cappoquin went to Ardmore on Pattern Sunday.”
To give you a sense of what the occasion was like, an announcement in the Dungarvan Observer in 1930 says: “Ardmore Pattern on Sunday next will enjoy a feast of music, song and dance at the Aeriocht Ceili to be held in the College Grounds. The programme includes pipers bands, contests, tugs of war etc. Three artistes from the Dublin Broadcasting Station will contribute to the programme.”
While the prominence of the festival faded in the latter years of the 20th century there were occasional attempts to revive it – notably in 1967 and 1968.
Then, after quite a gap, in 2006 the current committee was formed and the festival was reshaped and redeveloped into what it is today, one of munster’s best family-friendly summer weekends and once again a huge highlight in the annual village diary.