UNCW’s Paul Townend to Serve as Co-Grand Marshal of the 2020 Wilmington St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Friday, February 14, 2020

UNCW’s Paul Townend, who serves as associate vice chancellor and dean of undergraduate studies, will join his mother, Mary Theresa Townend, a native of Cork City, Ireland, as Co-Grand Marshal of the 2020 Wilmington St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Townend is a history professor who specializes in Irish and British history.

“We are not yet dyeing the Cape Fear River green, but Wilmington, like other southern port cities such as Charleston and Savannah, has some Irish history and heritage, and as Wilmington becomes a city of transplants from all over, that sense of being part of the Irish story across the world is only going to grow,” Townend said.

The parade, scheduled at 11 a.m. on March 14, will be followed by an Irish festival with food, beverages, live music and traditional Irish dancers. This event marks Wilmington’s 21st St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The UNCW Department of History is an event sponsor.

“It was wonderful to be asked, and I was even happier when they agreed to have my mother serve as co-marshal,” Townend said. “She grew up in Ireland. After she came to America as a nurse in 1963 with my English dad, I grew up going to Cork in Ireland to visit her family, and having them come to us in the states. My Irishness is all about hers.”

Townend researches and writes about modern Britain and Ireland. He has published several books and articles that explore these cultures, and often shares his expertise about historical matters locally and internationally. He says it is a privilege to make an academic career teaching and writing about the place he loves.

“My experience on the ground in Northern Ireland led me to realize how important history is to how people understand problems, and how they understand themselves and others,” Townend said.

Mary Theresa Townend, like her son, is an active volunteer in the Wilmington community, according to the Wilmington St. Patrick’s Day Committee.

“Paul and Theresa’s appointment as Co-Grand Marshals of the parade illustrates the continuing efforts of the Cape Fear Irish-American community to expand its presence, awareness and outreach in the region and to celebrate an ongoing tradition of education and service,” said Joe Costy, committee spokesperson. 

Costy also noted that the committee has appointed Cape Fear Literacy Council (CFLC) as the parade partner. For 35 years, CFLC has been providing individualized education so that adults are able to contribute to the community through their improved literacy skills. CFLC and the Wilmington St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee are also hosting a book drive and the 3rd Annual Irish Music Night, Feb. 15, to support literacy.

The parade will begin at the corner of Nutt and Hanover Streets in downtown Wilmington and will finish at the festival grounds located between Dock and Market Streets.

For more information, visit Wilmington’s St. Patrick’s Day Festival.

--Alex Churchill ’21