Robert Emmet Day

San Francisco does a lot to stay in touch with its Irish roots and Ireland in general. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade in San Francisco is still one of the largest in the country and the Irish community in the Bay celebrates the parade even when it’s six months away. The “Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day” weekend party culminates in a gathering at Golden Gate Park in the heart of the city. This park event is also referred to as Robert Emmet day, because the festivities include laying a wreath at the base of his statue, located right in the middle of the park.

James Phelan, the former mayor of San Francisco, donated the bronze Emmet memorial to the park in 1919. He was a strong supporter of the Irish cause and he placed the statue of the executed patriot prominently in the center of the area. It now stands between the California Academy of Sciences and the music concourse, in one of the busiest parts of the park. Last Sunday the area was full of Irish flags, Irish dancers, and Irish bands who gathered for a small procession to Emmet’s statue, where there was a wreath-laying ceremony followed by short speeches about Irish history and unity. Then the crowd moved to the music concourse for some performances by all the dancers and bands in attendance, as well as a reenactment of Emmet’s trial and speech.


All in all, it was a lovely sunny day in the park but since the “Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day” celebration was honoring Robert Emmet and his rebellion I had hoped for a mention of Anne Devlin, given that the anniversary of her death was only a couple days later. Alas. It was not to be. Maybe next year?


More pictures can be found here, if you’re so inclined.


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