With all the fun St. Patrick's Day brings, this year, there will be a bit of woe.
Sadly, the Armstrong Atlantic State University Irish Studies Club's 27th annual Sebastian Dangerfield St. Patrick's Week Irish Literature Talk and Coffee Reception (whew!) will be its last.
Over the years, the talk and coffee has become one of Savannah's most celebrated Irish-themed events. It all began in 1987, when Frank Clancy, assistant professor of literature, went to English department head Robert Ingram Strozier for approval for a new event.
Clancy has been teaching at Armstrong since 1974 and specializes in Irish studies. He spent two years in Dublin, Ireland, attending programs on Irish literature.
"I said I had an idea for an event that would highlight an Irish writer every year and would be held around St. Patrick's Day," Clancy says. "I thought it was time that Armstrong did something to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.
"We held classes on St. Patrick's Day. I said, 'Why not have a St. Patrick's Day party with an academic twist?'"
Combining "the academic, the secular and the profane," the event is named after a character in J.P. Donleavy's novel, "The Ginger Man," which Clancy read in college. The main character is an American living in Dublin who is a rogue, but a charming one.
"I decided to name it after him because he was the patron saint of drinking to undergraduate students everywhere," Clancy says. "Bob Strozier brought some Irish whiskey along.
"We moved it to Jenkins Auditorium and expanded it," Clancy says. "It was a successful attempt to bring St. Patrick's Day to Armstrong."
The final talk, set for noon March 14, will focus on "The Ginger Man's Dublin." The event is free and open to the public and will be at Jenkins Hall Auditorium on the AASU campus at 11935 Abercorn St.
Each year, the Dangerfield Award is given to "the most outstanding Irish representative." Like everything else, it's given in fun, and not always to someone who's Irish - or even human, for that matter.
In 1988, Clancy presented the award to University of Georgia mascot Uga, an English bulldog.
"We gave him a doctorate in Irish literature," Clancy says.
"The doctoral diploma was awarded to him for his scholarship and research on German philosopher Nietsche on the poetry of William Butler Yeats. He inhaled the free ginger-man cookies."
Clancy arranged for picketers to stand outside to "protest" the outrage of an Irish award going to an Englishman. A student dressed as a bobby came on stage when Uga was brought out.
Before the talk, Clancy hinted that the award recipient was "probably the most famous Englishman in America."
"At that time, Uga had the cover of Sports Illustrated," Clancy says. "It was possibly the most popular magazine in the country. People were trying to figure out who it was."
At last, the day arrived.
"Mrs. Seiler was there with Uga," Clancy says. "He had on a wonderful little green sweater.
"We had the Armstrong cheerleaders come out and cheer for Irish writers. Uga thought there was about to be a kickoff, and he was hellbent to get out there and start the game.
"Mrs. Seiler had a hard time holding him back," Clancy says. "He couldn't wait to get to the free ginger-man cookies. He was the only Englishman worthy of the award."
One surprise winner of the award was Joe Mahaney, then chairman of the Chatham County Commission.
"There was controversy during Hurricane Floyd, when an evacuation order was given," Clancy says. "Some people thought it was ill-advised and there was no need to evacuate.
"We had an Englishman in the audience and he got up and allowed as how he got information that there was a plot to disrupt the ongoing of this Irish event, and he thought we should evacuate. Joe Mahaney came on and said there would be no evacuation while he was there, and because of his courage, we gave him the Dangerfield Award."
Pickets and interruptions in the auditorium are common at the talk, none of them authentic and most arranged by Clancy himself.
"At one, I arranged to have protestors with signs that said, 'Clancy is a fascist, communist and sexist,'" he says. "It drew quite a bit of attention."
The typical shenanigans are expected for the final talk, as are the usual niceties. The "Dangerfield nightingale," Melanie Mirande, will perform, Tony Morris will recite Irish poetry and Strozier will introduce Clancy.
"Bob Strozier is the Irish button man," Clancy says. "He has 190 buttons on his green coat, and he serves as the master of ceremonies each year."
If you're at least 21, Irish coffee will be served at the reception, free of charge. The whiskey is provided by Kevin Barry's Irish Pub.
"I'm retiring after 40 years, so this is the last Dangerfield talk," Clancy says. "Enough is enough."
There is a possibility that one of Clancy's colleagues will take over the Dangerfield talk, but nothing has been finalized. During its tenure, the talk has inspired pranks around the world.
One year, someone wrote into a Donleavy website to claim that at Clancy's talk on James Joyce, he was challenged to recite the final five pages of "Finnegan's Wake" from memory. The writer then claimed that Clancy went on to recite 50 final pages.
"That is virtually if not literally impossible," Clancy chuckles. "That's how mythic the thing got to be.
"It's been such a delight to entertain this party over the years. I hope Armstrong will continue to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in some way on campus.
"When the Dangerfield talk goes, unless somebody picks up the banner, this will be the end of the St. Patrick's Day party on the Armstrong campus," Clancy says. "I'm sorry to see it go."