Tag Archives: St. Patrick’s Day

Erin Go Bragh: Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day

Beannacht La Fheile Padraig

Beannacht La Fheile Padraig

Yay! It’s St. Patrick’s Weekend again. (It used to be just the one day, until the marketers, the Irish Tourism Board, and the drinks companies got their hands on it. Now it’s a five-day festival.) So it’s time to celebrate Ireland and the Irish. But please do it right, okay?

John Ford’s The Quiet Man (1952)  has a lot to answer for; and the less said about Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959) the better. Hollywood has always had a slightly different view on Ireland than the rest of us. I suppose marketing what the country is really like is difficult, and not as profitable for the movie studios. But this is a country that has given the world Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy, Colin Farrell, Gabriel Byrne, Brenda Fricker, Ruth Negga, and the Cusack family among others.

Wrong on so many levels

Wrong on so many levels

We have gifted the world the collective genius of Bram Stoker, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Roddy Doyle and Maeve Binchy. To the music world, no better luminaries than Thin Lizzy, Rory Gallagher, Sinead O’Connor, Van Morrison and, um, Westlife have graced concert stages and turntables.

(We do, however, offer our humblest apologies for James Joyce and Bono. Although I suppose it’s part payback for EL James and Justin Bieber. Ain’t nobody got time for these!)

Our sports stars regularly attend major events, such as the Olympic Games and soccer tournaments, and while we may sometimes over-achieve (except for Katie Taylor, who is made of pure awesomeness), we’re normally good value for money.

Van the Man

Van the Man

Yes, we do have our celebrated alcohol afficionados: George Best, Brendan Behan, Shane MacGowan to name but three. But overall, our contribution to the world of arts and entertainment should more than surpass whatever stereotype and cliched viewpoint there is of us. And while I agree that my country is awash with alcohol and drugs, and that far too many of our youth are following in the footsteps of their elders – thereby running headfirst into a health crisis – I sense a small level of change in our society. It is my hope that in, say, ten or twenty years time, we will have outgrown our addiction to alcohol and perhaps embraced our cultural heritage rather than our history of oppression.

While it’s always important to remember our past, it’s more important to learn from it so we don’t fall into the same traps our ancestors did. We’re better than that. Ireland is better than that. The world deserves and needs what we can offer.

 

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Ireland and the Irish: 20 Random (some true, others not) Facts

 

We do not exist. At all, at all.

In honour of St. Patrick’s Day, our national holiday, and because a friend asked me for some facts and figures about this wonderful country of mine, here are 20 random (and I mean random) facts, cobbled together from various resources: books, television, cinema, the arts and, of course, the pub. Some of these interesting tidbits may be accurate (at time of posting); others may contain about as much truth and relevance as our political parties (yes, Fianna Fail, I’m looking at you).

 

1. St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17 and is a time for feasting and celebration (or, if you’re around the Temple Bar area, a time for avoiding puking teenagers and chuggers). The Day is now a Festival, which brings to this country a large number of tourists, eager to check out all things Irish. Unfortunately for the Irish economy, most of them never return. St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland. Cheers for that, said the druids as they were matched to their deaths. He is also rumoured to have cleared the country of snakes. Where was he when the IMF were in town last November?

2. The Irish believe that on Judgment day, Jesus Christ will be the judge of all people, but St. Patrick will be the judge of the Irish. Simon Cowell obviously didn’t want the gig, then. But we Irish have talent.

3. George Bernard Shaw, Bram Stoker, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, W. B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, Richard Harris, Pierce Brosnan, Alec Baldwin, Cillian Murphy, Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Harrison Ford and Colin Farrell are some of the famous Irish. What, Clooney? Yes, I believe his grandmother was Irish. If Gorgeous George played soccer, he’d have qualified to play for the Republic of Ireland.

4. Ireland is also very popular as the home of pop music with Westlife, Horslips, Boyzone, Thin Lizzy, Clannad, Boomtown Rats, The Corrs, The Cranberries, Ronan Keating, Gilbert O’Sullivan and U2 as some of the world famous bands and singers. We do, however, unreservedly apologise for inflicting Jedward upon an unsuspecting public. It will not happen again.

5. Ireland last won an Oscar in 2007, when Glen Hansard (of The Frames) and Markéta Irglová picked up the award for Best Song, “Falling Slowly” from the movie Once. Glen is also famous for playing Outspan from the popular musical comedy The Commitments. (Am Irishman won an award last year, for his special-effects work on Avatar, but for the life of me, I don’t know his name. Sorry, man.)

6. According to the Irish laws, there is no death penalty found in Ireland. It is for this reason alone that Jedward and Dustin the Turkey are still amongst the living.

7. The national religion is Roman Catholicism, of which most of the population are of the non-practicing variety. Mass attendance has plummeted in recent years and a time will come when priests will be as easy to come by as gold under a rainbow. Which leads me to…

8. Leprechauns. There are NO leprechauns in Ireland. There never were, okay? Don’t let Walt Disney tell you any different. To insinuate their existence is to insult the intelligence of every right-thinking Irish person in the country. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

9. Couples in Ireland could marry legally on St. Brigid’s Day (February 1st) in Teltown, County Meath, as recently as the 1920’s by simply walking towards each other. If the marriage failed, they could “divorce'” by walking away from each other at the same spot, on St. Brigid’s day the following year. The custom was a holdover from old Irish Brehon laws, which allowed temporary marriage contracts. Think of the legal fees that saved.

10. Titanic, the Unsinkable ship, which sunk in its maiden voyage, was made in Ireland. The iceberg that sunk it was placed there by God. Even He liked to get one over the Irish.

11. The phrase “The Fighting Irish” is a fallacy, created by the British because of the way we behaved when under the influence of intoxicating liquor. This explains why we don’t riot against the government, unlike other countries. We just vote the feckers out. We’re all about democracy, we Irish.

12. The Celtic knot is one of the most famous Irish symbols that stands for continuity of life. Apart from this, the harp, the Shamrock, and the Irish wolfhound are some other famous symbols that belong typically to Ireland. Well, these and Guinness, I suppose.

13. In Ireland there is a place called Hook Head, and another village called Crooke. According to historical accounts, the English Oliver Cromwell, in his plan to siege Waterford had devised to options, either to take ships around Hook Head or march through Crooke village. This was the origin of the phrase “by hook or by crook.” As Michael Caine would say: “Not a lot of people know that.”

14. The veteran Oscar-winning director John Huston spent his last years in Ireland. Indeed his last movie was an adaptation of James Joyce’s Dubliners. His daugher Anjelica is a regular visitor to these shores.

15. One of the most popular radio shows in rural Ireland is still the weekly broadcast of local obituaries. One day I’ll hear my name mentioned and then it’s sayonara, Jimbo.

16. Vikings were believed to establish Dublin. Many centuries later, the name of Dublin can be found in many towns such as California, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Texas. We Dubs are like sand: we get everywhere.

17. The longest place name in Ireland is Muckanaghederdauhaulia, in County Galway. No, I don’t know how to pronounce it either. Mucka will do me.

18. Contrary to common belief, we Irish don’t hate the British. We support soccer teams, like Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Leeds United, Tottenham Hotspurs, Aston Villa and Glasgow Celtic. We watch their television programmes more than we’d watch our own: Eastenders, Coronation Street, Match of the Day, Only Fools and Horses and Doctor Who are all ratings winners every week. The only time we don’t like the English is when their national team plays in either soccer or rugby. Just Google “Who put the ball in the English net?” and see what happens. On a more recent note, the Irish cricket team scored a famous victory over their English counterparts at the ICC Cricket World Cup. I wished I was there to see it.

19. The origin of the word “slogan” is Irish, the sluagh-ghairm. This means “war cry”.

20. No list about Ireland is complete without mentioning the Gaelic Athletic Association. A completely amateur sports body, the GAA is Ireland at its finest; supporting its codes, football, hurling, camogie and handball from parish levels right up to county and international standards. Nowhere in Ireland will you find more colour and atmosphere than at Croke Park in September, when the All-Ireland Football and Hurling Championship winners are crowned.

I hope you enjoyed this list. Some of the information I gleaned from other webites, but all commentary and jokes are mine. Thank you for reading, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Allie and The Day After.

It was the day after St. Patrick’s Day. Allie and I were walking down O’Connell Street. The place looked like a bomb hit it.

“It reminds me of a Roland Emmerich movie,” Allie said.

“At least you don’t look out-of-place,” I replied. “Lots of people are still wearing their green hats.”

For those who don’t know, Allie is an aardvark, a five-foot-two, talking blue aardvark. Except when he talks, only I can hear him. He’s not my pet as such. It would be more appropriate to say that he adopted me (the reason for which, I’m still trying to figure out — just go with it, okay?). He likes wearing hats and is fond of the the Stetson I brought back from Texas last year. But in spirit of all things Irish, Allie decided to wear a green leprechaun hat, with Kiss Me, I’m Irish stamped at the front. It would be cute if it didn’t look ridiculous.

Two ambulances and a Garda squad car ran a red light as we passed by Clery’s. “The morning after the night before,” I sighed. “Between St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween, some folk don’t know how to enjoy themselves properly.”

“I thought you left your soap-box at home, Jimbo.”

“Never mind.”

Allie spotted something on the ground. He sent his snout to investigate. (I call it a snout. I think the proper term is proboscis, but it sounds a bit lah-deh-lad.  So snout it is.) He shivered.

“I’ve never seen the likes of it before,” he said. “What is it?”

“It’s vomit.”

“But it’s green.”

“It’s Irish vomit. Allie. Do you want me to get back on my box again?”

The aardvark shook his head. “Once a day is enough. Let’s grab some breakfast.”

We went to the Kylemore and ate a full Irish: rashers, sausages, scrambled egg, black and white pudding, hash browns, toast and coffee. Allie paid, using his ‘magic’ credit card. (Don’t ask.) As far as I could tell we were the only ones eating. Everyone else was nurturing liquids of some kind, re-hydrating after a hard night’s festivities…okay, I’ll stop pontificating now. Allie is right; once a day is more than enough. Anyway, breakfast is good at Kylemore.

“So what do you know about St. Patrick?” Allie asked.

“Only what I was taught in school,” I said, munching on a sausage. “He was brought to Ireland by Vikings — from Wales, I think — and began converting us pagans to Christianity. He had a think about snakes, didn’t like them at all, so he got rid of them. He should have done the same with lawyers and bankers, but I don’t think there were too many of them around in the 5th century.”

Allie sucked up the last of the egg. “Wrong,” he said.

“I thought it might be,” I replied. “What’s the real deal?” I have become used to Allie rewriting history. He says he’s ageless and has “been around a bit.” Take from that what you will. He’s my aardvark, not yours. (Or I’m his Jimbo…one or the other.)

“St. Patrick was but the first of many to come from Wales to Ireland. It was not to convert the people to a new religion, though. It was for something else entirely.” He paused for effect.

“Go on, then. Tell me.”

“It was in the name of sport.”

“What?”

“Jimbo, the answer is right in front of you. Every two years, the Welsh, the Scottish, the British, the French, and now the Italians invade this country of yours. They pillage, lay waste to man and beast, and buy silly hats, all for sport.”

The sound I heard was the penny dropping.

“But that’s rugby, Allie. Rugby wasn’t around at the time of St. Patrick.”

“Patrick wasn’t a saint, he was a fly-half for Wales. His drop goals won the first Four Nations Championship in 461AD. Patrick didn’t bring Christianity to Ireland, he brought the Rugby Football Union.”

“They don’t teach you that in Religious Education classes,” I said.

“That’s because the archives have been tampered with.”

I put my fork down and stared at him. He blinked once, made a sucking noise with his snout and then gave his full attention to his hash browns.

“We need more coffee,” he said.