Erin go bragh.
Translated, that’s “Ireland Forever,” and we celebrate it March 17 on St. Patrick’s Day.
I was actually on the auld sod just last October. I went over to trace my Irish ancestors. Family lore has my Irish great great grandfather, Michael Fitzpatrick, coming to Wisconsin from Tipperary in 1844. Two years later he sent for his wife, Johanna. Seems they got out just in time to miss the potato famine, which started in 1846.
Briefly summarizing Irish history, it was settled back in the Stone Age. My wife and I went inside a religious mound near Drogheda built before the pyramids in Egypt. Unfortunately for the Irish, they picked a place with few natural resources and a love-it-or-leave-it climate.
The Irish were quite adept at procreation, which yielded a lot of poor peasants, mostly for export and often to places where they weren’t warmly greeted.
The Irish Catholics built a lot of stone castles, churches, and abbeys. The English Protestants knocked most of them down in 1650, but you can still visit them if you like ruins. Ireland has more than its share of golf courses. They are very green, but be sure to bring umbrellas and sweaters because it’s always wet and chilly.
Despite its dubious past, Irish emigrants and their decedents have a remarkable fondness for a place they all wanted to leave. This can be traced to a handful of great poets and writers who romanticized the place, a wealth of hauntingly beautiful folk songs about lost loves and bygone places, and an abundance of Irish whiskey and Guinness stout.
For good or ill, St. Patrick’s Day has become a drinking man’s holiday. Most American won’t admit it, but we really prefer our own booze. Guinness is a heavy, dark ale. My son, whose middle name is Fitzpatrick, has been to their brewery and does drink Guinness, but he once admitted that his college fraternity usually added ice cream and made Guinness floats on St. Patty’s Day. Most American bars cheat by adding green dye to light lager and call it Irish beer.
If you do celebrate this Sunday, do it responsibly. I gave up hooch several years ago and I recommend it. I haven’t seen a leprechaun since, I no longer worry about roadblocks, and March 18 mornings are pain free.
But the music is still haunting, and, faith ‘n begorrah, I wouldn’t mind a piper at my wake when I go.
Erin go bragh.