March 17, 2011

I'm Wearing Green Today!

shamrock boutonierre from

I had another idea for this post, but I will put that aside for St. Patrick's day, put on the green and celebrate my deep Irish heritage.  By deep, I mean I have to dig a little deeply to find my bit of Irish heritage.  Nevertheless, I have always felt an affinity for the Gaelic territory of my Irish ancestor, my mother's grandmother on her father's side. 

My great-grandmother Mary was born some time around 1881 (my sister reminded us all in the family in an email this morning) in the city of Letterkenny, which is in County Donegal in the Ulster Province of Northern Ireland. 

Letterkenny in 1910

Mary married my great-grandfather, a Scotsman, and they emigrated to Canada.  This great grandmother is the only Irish ancestor on both sides of my parents' families that I know of, and even her ancestors were originally from Scotland.  Even so, she was Irish and it is due to this strand of lineage that I feel justified in celebrating this day, as I always have.  (Incidentally, the unique shape of mine and my mother's nose came from that Irish/Scotch branch of the family, as I found out when my mom showed me photos of my great-grandparents.)

Usually I like to celebrate St. Patrick's day by going to a dance.  A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I spent the night dancing our socks off to the Gaelic/Latin/Funk band The Paperboys, and since we didn't make it to hear the fiddler April Verch last Friday night, I have decided that The Paperboys dance was my official St. Patty's day dance, albeit early.  Today, I am wearing green and very much looking forward to the landscape around me doing the same.  St. Patrick's day is always a wonderful sign of the fullness of the spring to come. I present the following ten reasons to love the Irish by way of tribute to this day which has been embraced by people in many corners, even by the orthodontic office where my daughter had her braces re-tooled this morning.  It was decorated with shiny foil shamrocks all over the place.

One Canadian's Top Ten Reasons to Love the Irish  (in no particular order)

1)   The Commitments soundtrack (I think the D.J. played 'Mustang Sally' every night at the night club where I danced with my friends in the 1980's)

2)  Guinness stout.  Mmmmmmm.....although I didn't appreciate it until about ten years ago

3)  U2  (see here for an account of the time I finally saw the band live after being a fan since 1984)

4)  The Humble Shamrock.  St. Patrick used the shamrock to illustrate the concept of the three-in-one Holy Trinity when bringing Christianity to the Irish.  I believe the shamrock is also a symbol of the luck o' the Irish, at least here in Canada.

5)  Irish Film.  There is something magical and mystical about the Irish films I have had the pleasure to see.  Some of my favourites include Once, Three Boys (and girl) from County Clare and Into the West, and as I stated above The Commitments.  A rich sense of humour, and often plenty of swearing, is also evident in these films.

6)  Fr. Ted.  We love this show about three very unlikely priests from Craggy Island. 

7)  Irish music.  When I'm in the mood I love to listen to some good, traditional fiddle and harp-centric music.  The Chieftains are a favourite, as well as the grittier, more modern sounds of The Pogues and The Waterboys.

8)  Irish history.  Often sad and full of conflict...but fascinating!

9)  The Irish accent.  It is lilting and musical and probably one of the most fun accents to attempt to imitate.

10)  St. Patrick's Day!

Erin go bragh! 

I cannot seem to find a source for the photo above of Letterkenny in 1910.  I just found it on Google images.  I apologize to whomever it is credited.


  1. I love the name Letterkenny, and what a beautiful place. I really like Irish dancing and music, too. And I love to watch Riverdance.
    Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!

  2. I forgot about Riverdance! My kids used to like to dance along to the video when they were little :)

  3. nice...u2...finally getting to see them in June...after having tickets twice and still not seeing them...ugh...and guinness, mmm....nice i like dancing too...though you probably dont want to see me river dance...

  4. Happy St Patrick's day to you.

    You should try one or two of our poets or/and short story writers. Just not the misery-lit. That I still cannot figure, why in Gods name would you write about a fictional version of hell on earth pitched in a minor key while your neighbours were still going through the stuff or similar.


  5. You have promoted the day perfectly and know how to enjoy it. How wonderful that you know your family history in such detail.

  6. How lovely that you get a day to celebrate a part of your heritage!

  7. Lovely post. Enjoyed your top ten. I concur...and we love the Shamrock symbolism as well. I always have to buy Guinness at St. Pat's not only for the sipping but it is a key ingredient in the Killeny Glen Shepherd's Pie! YUM!

    I am a bit late but HAPPY SAINT PADDY's DAY!

  8. Happy St. Patty's Day! I do think that Ireland would be a really wonderful place to visit some day.

  9. Brian: I hope nothing stops you from going to that U2 concert this time. I'm pulling for you!

    Vince: I thought of my abysmal lack of knowledge when it comes to Irish lit. I read a beautiful James Joyce short story called 'The Dead', and it was beautiful. I also read a ex-pat's account of his growing up in Limerick...VERY depressing. Thanks for the link. I will have to expand my reading list, obviously.

    Paul: I am lucky to have relatives who have done the research!

    Diane: Yup, I've always enjoyed this day :)

    Jill: Shepherd's Pie with Guinness? I concur...Yum!

    Knitika: I do too and I hope to get there someday! I visualize myself sitting in a pub near a table of musicians having a good old jam session!

  10. Chucking out loud. That wasn't a link it was a life sentence. Did you not see the laughing emoticon.
    Yeah, Angela's ashes was the first Limerick novel, but there are more.
    On the Guinness. Try frying off the meat first, then marinade it overnight. Then cook on a low heat in the oven for about 5 hours with a fill of veg.

  11. Oh! I thought you were just being kind about my ignorance :) Yes, Angela's Ashes! (I couldn't remember the title.) Do you know my kids have to read it in their last year of high school? Ugh!
    Thanks for the Guinness tip.

  12. Love, love, love the music of The Commitments! When Bob and I did our cycling tour of southern Ireland a few years ago we were SO impressed with everyone we met who knew the history of their country inside out and upside down. In one walking tour we did we learned that ALL Irish students who attend (free!) Dublin University are required to host these walking tours one summer of their time at the university. We loved the country, the people, the food and even though we're not beer drinkers we tried a Guiness right from the factory.

  13. Ah yes, can't believe I forgot the pub music - loved it (but could have done without the wall of cigarette smoke!).


I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!