If you’re heading to Ireland for St. Patrick’s Festival this weekend, you might spot Star Wars’ Luke Skywalker, aka actor Mark Hamill, who has been named the Dublin festival’s international guest of honour for 2018. This inaugural role means that the actor will take a seat in the Presidential stand to view the city’s world-famous parade on 17 March, alongside the country’s president, Michael. D. Higgins.
The new honorary role has been created to celebrate the achievements of an individual from the worlds of business, the arts or the media, who has a special connection with Ireland. “Mark has a special affinity to Ireland through his filming of Star Wars and his family history and he has done much for our film industry,” says Susan Kirby, St. Patrick’s Festival CEO. “We’re looking forward to welcoming him back ‘home’ to celebrate our national holiday and St. Patrick’s Festival with us.”
Audiences worldwide were introduced to the savage beauty of Skellig Michael, an island off the coast of Kerry, in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The location has since drawn visitors from all over the world. “We’re extremely grateful to Mark,” says Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland. “Our Star Wars campaign, including our films with Mark Hamill praising the beauty and people of Ireland, has been seen by over eight million people around the world, whetting peoples’ appetites to come and visit the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland.”
In addition to Mark’s Star Wars connection, research into his family history has found that he has a double-link to Ireland. His great-grandmother, Elizabeth Keating, was born in Kilkenny in December 1873 and left Ireland for the US when she was still a teenager. Further back, John Keating married Margaret Foley of Gurteen in Carlow Cathedral in 1822.
A second family line connects Mark to the Harvey family, possibly from Donegal, who were Famine immigrants who settled in the US. In 1864, Frederick Mumford, a young English sailor, was married to Mary Harvey, a recent Irish immigrant. These are Mark’s great-great-grandparents and they settled in Manhattan where they had five children.
A cast of thousands of musicians, dancers, storytellers and performers will take part in the festival’s artistic programme of events, inspired this year by the theme of “home”. The festival parade will weave its way through the heart of the capital city, celebrating the theme through a variety of performances and street theatre. This year will also see over 2000 band members come from worldwide to deliver dazzling rhythms and uplifting music that will reverberate throughout the city’s streets.
For further information on St. Patrick’s Festival, see here.