Three lasses to represent Irish clubs in Albany’s St. Patrick’s parade

On Saturday, Meghan Walsh, Kelsey Quackenbush and Beatrice Lease will appear as regal and colorful q

An Irish songwriter once described the “Queen of Argyll,” a serene and sensational woman:

The swan was in her movement,

and the morning in her smile;

O the roses in the garden,

they bowed and asked her pardon,

For not one could match the beauty

of the Queen of all Argyll.

There are exceptions to the verse. On Saturday, Meghan Walsh, Kelsey Quackenbush and Beatrice Lease will appear as regal and colorful queens of their respective Albany County Irish clubs. As “Miss South End,” “Miss Colleen” and “Miss Limerick,” respectively, they will wave to a Gaelic-spirited and emerald proud crowd that will jam sidewalks during Albany’s 60th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade.

The parade steps off at 2 p.m. at Quail Street and Central Avenue. Musicians, dancers, firemen, police officers and politicians will march east, merging with Washington Avenue. The procession will turn at City Hall and continue east down the State Street hill. A left turn at Pearl Street will put the marchers on their final blocks.

While there will be dozens carrying pipes and bunches showing off Irish steps, there will only be three queens.

Miss Limerick

Beatrice Lease, 15, of Watervliet will represent the delegation from North Albany, the Limericks. As “Miss Limerick,” she will wear a deep green robe with a tiara on her head and shamrock-shaped earrings. The green, orange and white sash across her robe will read “Miss Limerick.”

“It means a lot,” said Lease. “A couple years ago, my mother [Kim Lease] was the Limericks’ marshal in the parade. It’s just fun to be up there, to be on the float, to represent.”

Lease, a sophomore and a basketball and soccer player at Watervliet High School, wrote an essay and interviewed with key Limericks to earn her green robe.

“For the Limericks, it’s a very big deal,” said Kim Lease. “It’s a long-standing tradition. We’ve been around for 54 years. This is from my generation, my father and mother to me, and now to my daughters. It’s very proud.”

Bill Andrews of Albany, chairman of this year’s parade, acknowledged the link between the young Irish queens and tradition. “The Irish queens are a symbol of the heritage,” he said. “It’s a way of passing on the tradition to the young, whether it’s the girls who become the queens or the young men who march. It’s a way to pass on the heritage of St. Patrick.”

Andrews also said tradition means religion. He said many who participate in the parade begin their day at 9 a.m. services at Holy Family Church (formerly St. Patrick’s Church) on Central Avenue.

For misses Walsh, Quackenbush and Lease, dressing as ambassadors also offers a chance to educate. “They represent the dress and the customs of Ireland, which the adults are trying to instill from generation to generation,” Andrews said.

Lease and her friends on the Limericks’ float — twin sister Anna and friend Shannon McCann are part of the queen’s court — will entertain two crowds on Saturday. The annual North Albany parade will begin at noon; once the local march has concluded, Limericks will hustle over to Albany for the 2 p.m. starter.

“It’s a long day,” Kim Lease said. “We can’t wait to get back to the post and have corned beef and cabbage.”

Miss South End

Meghan Walsh, 7, is also expecting grand times. The young lady from Wynantskill — a first-grader at George Washington Elementary School — will wear a green and white dress, a white ribbon in her hair and white shoes. Her tri-color sash will identify her as “Miss South End.”

Meghan can smile when she thinks about the mobile Irish party in which she will participate on Saturday. So does her father, Ed Walsh.

“The reason she’s ‘Miss South End’ is I was born and raised in Albany,” Walsh said. “She’ll be my family’s fifth generation involvement in the South End Irish. Her aunt and my cousin were ‘Miss South End’ before her. It’s a Walsh family thing.”

Meghan likes celebrating St. Patrick’s Day a bit early, with her family on parade day. She’ll be waving and smiling to admirers on Saturday.

Miss Colleen

So will “Miss Colleen.” Kelsey Quackenbush, 14, a freshman at Shaker High School, is happy to stand up for the Menands St. Patrick’s Club. “We go to the Menands Firehouse in the morning, then we go to the parade, then we go to the party afterward,” said Quackenbush, who lives in Latham, loves skiing, skating and shopping and was selected at random for royal parade duty.

“It should be really fun,” she added. “Everybody’s going to be looking at me and there’s going to be lots of people there. It’s a really big honor.”

Like “Miss Limerick,” the Menands “Colleen” will wear a deep green gown.

“It’s more like a cape,” she said. “It doesn’t have any arms, but it’s warm. That’s all that matters.”

Categories: Life and Arts

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