Grand Marshal Tom Farrelly with his daughter Irene and brother Jim who flew out to Philadelphia for the parade. Tom’s son Tom Jnr is driving the car.

Cavan man heads up Philadelphia Parade

A County Cavan native had the honour of heading up this year’s St Patrick’s Day Parade in Philadelphia.

Tom Farrelly from Cranadillon, Virginia, was elected Grand Marshal for the parade, which took place in the Quaker City on Sunday, March 10.

Tom immigrated to the US in 1959 after working at the Park Hotel in Virginia under the guidance of Pat Kiernan.

Speaking to The Anglo-Celt from his US home, Tom said there wasn’t much work in Ireland at the time and many young fellows, like himself, headed for the UK and the US.

For Tom, his journey brought him to Philadelphia where he met his wife, and together they raised a family and ran a very successful landscaping business.

His Galway-born wife died recently and just shy of the couple’s 60th wedding anniversary. He now spends quality time with his daughter Irene, son Thomas Jr and grand-daughter Caitlyn.

But back in 1959, when Thomas arrived in Philadelphia - where his sister Sarah was already living - he was welcomed with open arms.

“I worked for one year in the bank and then I went landscaping with Jim and John Travers from County Leitrim,” he said. While working alongside the brothers, Tom learned his trade. Before long he was out on his own running his own landscaping business.

Meanwhile, last Sunday’s celebrations in Philadelphia began with Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Nelson Perez and Chaplain Father Kevin Gallagher. The parade, afterwards, was led by Joe Tobin and the Philadelphia Emerald Society Pipe band, Bishop Shanahan High School Choir and Cantor Karen Boyce McCollum at St Patrick’s Church. The theme of this year’s parade was: ‘St Patrick, Bless Philadelphia With a New Dawn of Hope’.

“The Parade here in Philadelphia is the second longest running St Patrick’s Day parade in America,” explained Tom.

“It’s such an honour for me to be the Grand Marshal this year. I suppose I was lucky enough to be proposed by the Cavan Association here.”

Indeed, it was through those associations and his involvement in the local GAA clubs that Tom established himself in Philadelphia. He and others now help Cavan youngsters, who go to Philadelphia in search of a better life, to call it home.

“We have helped people over the years to get accommodation and we support all the Irish who arrive here,” said Tom. “There are a lot of us here.”