The History of the Harp and Shamrock Society
On a cool, dry evening in October 1966, at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas, two professors and a graduate student met to inaugurate confraternity and a society which would involve persons of Irish nationality or heritage to do honor to the land of their forefathers. An Irish born professor, Dr. Seán Burke; a San Antonio native, third generation, graduate student and retired Air Force Colonel, Joseph B. McShane; and a New York City, first generation, scientist and instructor at the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine, Patrick J. Dowd, together planned the goals of an Irish Society.
On March 17th, 1967,the first official activity of the newly formed Society took place outside the Alamo. Twenty or so members laid a wreath at the door of the Alamo Shrine with Irish tunes played by the Central Catholic High School Band. A month later, the first officers and directors were elected. In March of 1968, the first St. Patrick's Day Parade started in downtown San Antonio with 250 marchers walking about four blocks to the Alamo.
Briefly, the goals are:
- To attain a fuller appreciation of cultural achievements of Ireland;
- To reveal the contributions of the early Irish Colonies in Texas and the martyred leaders of Goliad, San Patricio and our enshrined Alamo;
- To preserve remnants of Irish architecture of the 1830's in Texas, better known as the Irish Flats in San Antonio, and to establish them as historical landmarks throughout local communities, and to establish a center in San Antonio for Irish culture and social activities;
- To host visiting Irish dignitaries to our community by cooperating with the Irish Embassy and Consulates in the United States and Mexico;
- To develop programs exemplifying the contribution of the Irish in music, art, literature and the theater;
- To publish a journal on erudite and informative articles on Irish history and culture and on the contribution of the Harp & Shamrock Society of Texas, Inc in furthering Irish-American relations;
- To assist local museums and libraries with past and present literature of the Irish;
- To organize the local St. Patrick's Day Parade and ceremonies at the Alamo honoring the heroes, especially those of Irish ancestry; and
- To hold various social functions throughout the year and to have monthly meetings to discuss business or present cultural programs.
There you have it--realistic goals and some of which need your help. Some goals have been reached. Others are plans and dreams.
Our Society is Non-Sectarian, Charitable, Cultural, Civic, Educational, Patriotic, and Social.
Over the last 45 years, more than 100,000 San Antonians and visitors to our city have watched the St. Patrick's Day parade wind through the streets of San Antonio. Schools, veteran's groups, local businesses, and representatives of the military community of San Antonio participate in this local Irish tradition. On March 17th, 1969, we joined with the Paseo Del Rio Association to dye our San Antonio River green and rename it "The River Shannon" for a day. Since then we have continued this festival with a special Irish show of song, dance and music at the Arnesen River Theater.
In September, 1972 the Harp and Shamrock Society represented the Irish Texans at the first Texas Folklife Festival in San Antonio, Texas, sponsored by the Institute Of Texan Cultures, which is part of the University of Texas System.
Every March, in conjunction with St. Patrick's Day festivities, San Antonioians are invited to La Villita for the annual Irish Festival, with daily entertainment at the Arnesen River Theater.
Our festivals and charitable activities help support:
- The Harp & Shamrock Scholarship Funds
- The teaching theatre at the University of the Incarnate Word
- St. Peter's - St. Joseph's Children's Home
- Project Santa Claus (helping deserving families in local parishes).
- The Irish Study Center at the University of Ulster, in North Ireland
- Irish athletic teams visiting the San Antonio and south-central Texas area.
Since 1968, the Society honors an individual by awarding him/her the "Irishman of the Year Award", the famous Cuchulainn statue of bronze mounted on Connemara marble.
In 1979 a building fund was officially started to implement the drive to attain the goal of our Society's cultural and social center within a proper and suitable structure in the San Antonio area.
Since 1980 the Society has been tax-exempt from both State and Federal taxes.