Mark Shortall has a unique perspective on his duties as grand marshal of the Hampton Bays St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
“I think I’m to say a prayer to ask for a bit of sunshine for the parade day.” The Dublin native will definitely be bringing a lot of Irish pride to his job as Grand Marshal. Shortall was surprised and honored to be chosen by the Hampton Bays Parade Committee of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Michael Collins Division 11, the group that has organized the parade for the past 11 years.
The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), Division 11 has been a part of the Hampton Bays scene since 2001, founded by Michael Heaney and 15 original members. Currently, there are over 130 members and a flourishing Ladies LAOH with 80 members. Although the AOH is relatively new to Hampton Bays, the organization claims roots going back to Ireland in the 1800s, getting a start in the US in 1836. The group has done more than sponsor parades—in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the AOH raised more than $200,000 to aid victims of the storm. St. Patrick’s Day is an opportunity for the AOH to show off their Irish pride and invite all the wannabe sons and daughters of Erin to join the party. Shortall had no idea he was even being considered for grand marshal this year. “Usually the Committee meets to discuss who is deserving of the honor. We hadn’t gotten around to much discussion of this year.”
When the Committee announced him as Grand Marshal at their annual ball, which was held at Oakland’s this year, Shortall was happy to accept the honor and is looking forward to stepping off at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 21. Of getting advice from the grand marshals who have preceded him, Shortall said, “I never inquired about any tips because I never thought I’d be in this position.”
This may be Shortall’s first foray into grand marshal territory, but he’s no stranger to parades. As a member of the Eastern Long Island Police Pipes and Drums, Shortall marches in about six or seven parades a year, most of them clustered around St. Patrick’s Day, but this is his first time leading a parade. It’ll be a long day for Shortall, beginning with a mass at St. Rosalie’s Church at 8 a.m., but he’s looking forward to every moment of his tenure as Grand Marshal. “I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.”
When Shortall isn’t leading parades down Montauk Highway, he is busy as co-owner of Buckley’s Inn Between, an Irish pub and restaurant where you can get a warm welcome, a choice of seating in a family friendly dining room or the chummy bar scene, and some Irish pub grub like bangers and mash. If you’ve been yearning for shepherd’s pie, you now know where to go to get your fix. Of course, corned beef and cabbage is a menu staple as well.
Shortall arrived in the states from his native Ireland in 1990. “I had no plans at the time to open a restaurant—different circumstances brought me out to eastern Long Island from Queens. It’s a bit of work and dedication.” Shortall found that running a restaurant was a perfect fit for his gregarious Irish nature.
Shortall enjoys all the fun of St. Patrick’s Day, but the holiday has other significance for him. “It’s a celebration of Irish culture in a foreign country. We are proud of our heritage.” That heritage is pretty impressive—Irish-Americans who’ve made good include Walt Disney, Gene Kelly and no less than 22 U.S. presidents who claim to have a tie to the Emerald Isle. The rest of us will just have to content ourselves with being Irish for just one day of the year.
There is something else that will have Shortall’s Irish eyes smiling. His 14-year-old daughter, Eileen, will be on hand to watch her dad lead the parade. Shortall’s advice to parade spectators is simple. “Think sunny thoughts. And if you’re planning on visiting Ireland, go in the summertime, because the rain is always warmer.”
The annual Hampton Bays St. Patrick’s Day Parade takes place on Saturday, March 21, at 11 a.m., beginning at Hampton Bays Elementary School, Ponquogue Avenue, Hampton Bays. For more info, visit aohdivision11.org.