Sun to set this year on Dublin’s special St Patrick’s vampire

Drac made his first appearance at the St Patrick’s Day parade in 1968

Drac taking  the law into his own hands during the Dublin St Patrick’s Day parade.  Photograph: Alan Betson

Drac taking the law into his own hands during the Dublin St Patrick’s Day parade. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

It would be a stretch to say the St Patrick’s Day parade has sucked the life from Paddy Drac, but after half a century the sun is finally setting on one of the festival’s most recognisable faces.

It all began in 1968 when Drac, with a homemade cloak and improvised fangs, slipped unseen onto the parade route at D’Olier Street. The rest has been a creepy kind of history.

“I still enjoy doing it, but I am [at it] 50 years now so I thought I would hang up my cloak,” he says ahead of his final outing this weekend.

It brings an end to a unique era of ghoulish entertainment in which he has been a constant presence on the pages of newspapers, photographed with everyone from Charles Haughey to Joe Dolan.

A genuine Dublin fixture, Drac – real name Patrick Finlay – first donned his cape in a promotional shoot for a local travel agent selling cut price trips to Transylvania.

After that he became involved in charity work, particularly for special needs children, and soon began doing his own shows during which he would emerge from a coffin and “do the Munster Mash”.

Drac’s shadow

But it has been the parade that cast Drac’s shadow headlong into the public imagination. When a leg abscess once threatened his annual attendance, he told his son Graham: “I have to do the parade; if I die on the St Patrick’s parade I will die happy.”

Over time the 75-year-old entertainer mastered the dark arts of becoming a vampire – fangs skilfully crafted by a dental mechanic, white hair sprayed black.

“I have had a few cloaks over the years. I had a beautiful one once, but I left it in to get cleaned and it shrunk.”

In a haunting case of life imitating art, Drac spent his working years behind the wheel of a hearse for Rom Massey & Sons Funeral Parlour, and his boss helped supply the coffins used as props in his shows. “I am the only person alive who has been through 24 coffins. Not many people can say I am on my 25th.”