In my family, being Irish is like religion. It's going to be tough getting through this day without the remaining members of the clan gathered around the table singing "The Black Velvet Band" and "Take Me Home to Mayo."

But they are old now and we just can't risk infecting them with the coronavirus. It just hasn't been a proper St. Pat's since me ma passed away, and now this. But we'll shoulder on.

Memories are what sustain us when times get difficult. And oh, the memories are rich. There was a time not that long ago when New Bedford was the place to be on St. Patrick's Day. Bunraddy's Pub – where Antonio's stands today – and before that Fiddler's Green up at the airport would celebrate our Irish heritage every weekend and not just St. Patrick's Day. Such characters as Toby Lynch, Eddie Dillion, Tom Kennedy, Dick Lewis, Dan Smith, and Billy Mulligan would keep the music playing well into the wee hours.

Richard Saunders, Charlie Lariviere, Stephen Penler, Roseanna and Ronnie Camaioni and Ray and Cid Roberts brought the Irish renaissance to New Bedford in the 1980s and it was huge. The legend of the Irish Mafia loomed large in those days with Markeys and Saunders and Sullivans and Callaghans and Tierneys.

This St. Patrick's Day will be a day of reflection as we practice social distancing to avoid spreading the COVID-19 virus. The music and the laughter and the lifelong friendships associated with that special time in New Bedford will sustain me in my solitude.

Somewhere up in Heaven, Grandpa Prescott and Ma and Auntie Ella and Uncle Bud and Stevie will be gathering today, and if you are very still and you listen very closely you will hear them sing, "Oh Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling. From glen to glen and down the mountainside."

Happy St. Patrick's Day to one and all. Let's hope it is peaceful and safe.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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