Four Places to Embrace Regina’s Irish Community
St. Patrick’s Day is approaching, and with it comes the annual tsunami of green rimmed glasses, shamrocks and sequins. Although it has always been a popular holiday, St. Patrick’s Day has seen enormous growth thanks to Regina’s proud Irish community. Over the past few years, this community has swelled in numbers, with many Irish arriving here to pursue careers in construction and healthcare. This influx of Irish culture has led to an explosion of Irish food, drink, dance, and sport throughout the Queen City.
To better understand Regina’s Irish community, I headed straight to the source: an Irish pub, or Shannon’s Pub & Grill, on 2118 Robinson Street, to be exact.
Shannon’s is an excellent place to socialize, make friends and have a craic (fun) time. I was also told some fantastic things about their menu, so I couldn’t wait to try it. The first thing I ordered was an Irish Poutine, which is a classic Canadian poutine with a cup of lamb stew replacing the gravy. I was a little leery about the lamb stew, but I actually found it very good. After that, I sampled Shannon’s Burger, which is a homemade patty soaked in Guinness and covered in fried-to-perfection bacon. As a side dish, I tried to be a little more exotic and ordered curry.
I thought it was odd that curry would be on an Irish menu, so I asked about it. It turns out that curry is a very popular dish in Ireland. I learned that when Britain colonized India, many of their traditional foods made it back overseas and curry was one of them. Both the British and the Irish adopted it, but it grew in popularity in Ireland and has now become one of their dietary staples.
This became even more evident when I visited Ceilidh Surprise, on 1359 Broad Street. This family owned business opened in 1996 and has become the city’s most popular shops for all things Celtic – including traditional Irish tea, chips, pop, candy and curry. Ceilidh Surprise has become so famous for their Celtic food and drink that they even do special orders to bring it in from overseas. Their most popular food are their Tayto chips, which are commonly used as the sole filling in traditional Irish chip sandwiches.
Consumables aside, Ceilidh Surprise also sells children’s toys, clothing, jewellery, license plates and dance duffle bags. Their new line of Dream Duffel bags has even been described by their customers as a “dream for parents and kids”. These bags alone make Ceilidh Surprise one of the best places to shop in the city for those who practice Irish dance.
As the Irish community grows, so too does the popularity of Irish dance, and this has led to several schools popping up around the city. One of these schools can even be found at the Irish Club of Regina, which was established in 1970, but has roots dating back to 1925. The Club started their dance group in 1995 and today offers classes for both beginner and advanced students. These dancers perform a variety of times throughout the year, but are most widely known for their role at the Irish pavilion at Regina’s Mosaic: A Festival of Cultures, which runs this year from June 1st to 3rd.
The Irish Club of Regina also gets together for a wide variety of activities throughout the year, such as group barbeques, bowling and pizza nights, Christmas parties, and their annual St. Patrick’s Day dinner and dance which is March 18th.
Another group that has been promoting Irish culture the past few years are the Regina Gaels, a member of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). The Regina Gaels were established in 2013 as a Gaelic football team, and were the first GAA club to exist in Saskatchewan. Since then, the team has won the Western Canada Junior Football Championship in 2014, 2015, and 2016. In 2016 they also had members represent Canada at the 2016 GAA World Games in Dublin, Ireland.
In 2015 the Gaels also established a hurling team, and won the Western Canadian Championship that same year.
For those who are unfamiliar with these sports, Gaelic football is a mix of lacrosse, soccer and basketball. Unlike soccer, the players can use their hands to carry the ball and throw it. Hurling, on the other hand, is similar to lacrosse as the players use a stick to scoop up the ball, but the sticks are much smaller and made of wood. Both sports score points by sending the ball either over the opposing team’s crossbar, or under it into the net, for 1 or 3 points, respectively.
The Irish community in Regina is not only a large part of the city’s identity, but it’s a rapidly growing one. Everywhere I went to learn about the Irish, I heard personal stories of new arrivals and their challenges of moving from the Emerald Isle to the Land of the Living Skies. Subtle things we take for granted here – ranging from basement suites to barren prairie landscapes – can seem both amazing and terrifying to somebody who is not familiar with them.
This St. Patrick’s Day, be sure to visit some of these locations and learn about our Irish community. As the Irish poet William Butler Yeats once said, “There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.”