Rain and cooler temperatures made for ideal conditions to celebrate St Patrick's Day with a glass of Guinness and a bowl of hearty beef stew at Whanganui's Grand Hotel yesterday.

Lunchtime crowds enjoyed listening to Irish tunes played by Michael Smyth with Muirsheen Durkin featuring Pam Heskith on vocals, David Richardson on accordion, Karl Frost on violin and 17-year-old multi-instrumentalist Daniel Aldersley playing penny whistle and mandolin.

Despite the authenticity of their sound, none of the band members can claim to be Irish, although Pam Heskith said she has Irish and Scottish heritage.

"I can wear my orange lipstick with my green boots," she said.

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Staff and patrons dressed in their best greenery to celebrate the day and bartender April Hoskin coloured her hair especially.

Grand owner Neville Gorrie was wearing his leprechaun hat while he waited on customers and said he was looking forward to a busy night ahead.

St Patrick is believed to have introduced Christianity to Ireland around 450AD and March 17 is possibly the date of his death.

In Ireland, the day is both a public and a religious holiday.