Krewe of Killarney gives the city an Irish blessing

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 18, 2001

Natchez is free of &uot;snakes&uot; for another year. During the Miss-Lou’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade Saturday, Mike Thompson – St. Patrick XI – ceremoniously drove all the snakes off the Natchez bluff into the Mississippi River.

&uot;May all the snakes go down the river and leave us in peace and may God bless all of us,&uot; Thompson said.

Every St. Patrick’s Day Natchez’s Krewe of Killarney deck themselves in green to hold a walking parade down Main Street.

A local resident is selected each year to serve as St. Patrick and perform the snake-banishing ritual.

The parade and other St. Patrick’s Day events, such as noon Mass at St. Mary Basilica, serve as a way to honor St. Patrick for bringing Christianity to Ireland.

Krewe of Killarney vice president and parade chairman Joe Garrity said St. Patrick’s Day serves as a reminder to follow St. Patrick’s example of helping those who persecute you.

&uot;It’s good to show you need to turn the other cheek, forgive people for what they do and try to help them,&uot; Garrity said.

During the parade, participants heard a poem written by Virginia Ann Hughes in memory of her brother-in-law, Frank Byrne, who served as St. Patrick I.

They also heard proclamations in memory of Byrne and Dr. Paul Doherty, who served as St. Patrick IV.

&uot;I am so overwhelmed,&uot; said Audrey Lynn Byrne, the widow of Frank Byrne. &uot;I thank the krewe from the bottom of my heart.&uot;

Saturday was also her late husband’s birthday, and Byrne was certain he attended the parade in spirit.

&uot;He enjoyed his birthday as much as he always did,&uot; Byrne said.

Parade participant Nancy Webster said she and her family always try to attend the parade in honor of their heritage.

&uot;My husband likes to do it in honor of his mother, who’s Irish,&uot; Webster said.

A crowd of people related to the Junkin family marched in the parade behind a banner bearing their family crest.

&uot;We can’t count – too many to count,&uot; said Sallie Ballard, when asked the number of Junkin descendants in the crowd.

One Junkin descendent, Sissy Graning, said the parade is good for children because they can actually walk in the parade as opposed to sitting on the sidelines as during Mardi Gras.

&uot;The children love it,&uot; Graning said. &uot;They get to throw beads.&uot;

The Krewe of Killarney is a service organization, which meets three times a year in addition to hosting the annual parade.

&uot;And you don’t have to be Irish to join,&uot; said Kitty Dunigan a member of the krewe.

The krewe donates at least $6,000 annually to local charities and college scholarships. It also is donating an extra $2,500 to Holy Family Catholic School this year to help the school recover from a recent fire that destroyed its historic convent.

&uot;We might be silly on St. Patrick’s Day, but we do real good works,&uot; Dunigan said.