UNITY: Gathered guests enjoying a traditional Chinese Lion Dance in the residence of the Consulate General of Ireland, San Francisco on 29 February to mark the Chinese American/Irish American joint project

San Fran St. Pat’s Parade Celebrates Chinese-Irish Unity on Transcontinental Railroad

In a groundbreaking cultural collaboration, Chinese and Irish cultural leaders are uniting in San Francisco to pay homage to the pioneering spirit of their ancestors who built the United States' first Transcontinental Railroad.

At the heart of this year's St. Patrick’s Day Parade in San Francisco on Saturday (16 March) will be a distinctive float that commemorates the sacrifices and achievements of the Chinese and Irish laborers involved in the gruelling nation-building project. 

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In late February 2024, amidst Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations, the Irish Consulate in San Francisco hosted a gathering of Chinese American and Irish American community leaders to launch the trailblazing collaboration which will culminate in an exhibition in the museum of the planned new Irish Cultural Center.

This exhibit will feature a replica of the celebrated laurel tie, sections of railroad ties and tools, alongside stories of the diverse workforce that constructed the railroad. Notably, the tracks, sourced from Sam Francisco’s Irish Hill, will be generously donated to the museum of the new Irish Cultural Center, with other artifacts going to a display in the Chinese community.

ALL ABOARD! Liam Reidy at last year's San Fran St Pat's parade

ALL ABOARD! Liam Reidy at last year's San Fran St Pat's parade

“This endeavor is a testament to our commitment to celebrating our rich heritage and the bonds that unite us,” said UICC President Liam Reidy. 

The completion of the first Transcontinental Railroad in 1869 at Promontory Summit, Utah, marked a significant milestone in American history, made possible by the tireless efforts of many, including notable contributions from Chinese and Irish workers. The remarkable achievement of laying 10 miles of track in one day on April 28, 1869, stands as a testament to their dedication and hard work. 

The dedication to honoring these workers has been bolstered by the efforts of the Friends of the Laurel Tie and collaborations with local historical and cultural societies. These partnerships have facilitated educational outreach, presentations, and commemorations, culminating in the inclusion of a special float in the 173rd San Francisco St. Patrick’s Day Parade for 2024.

The ‘laurel tie’ symbolize the laborers—Chinese, Irish, Italians, emancipated African Americans, Mormons, and more —  who toiled to build this monumental project." The laurel, an ancient emblem of victory, fellowship, and peace, aptly represents the unity forged in connecting our nation,” says Patrick Goggins of the Friends of the Laurel Tie and the United Irish Cultural Center.

Anyone interested in seeing the float or joining the UICC contingent should look out for Parade Unit #31. The parade begins at 11:30 am at 2nd and Market Street and heads toward San Francisco City Hall.