Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patricks Day


As some of you know, I am from Irish descent from the Bowman clan on my mother’s side, and the Shell and Coffey clan on my father’s side. Therefore in keeping to my commitment to bringing you the best in education I am submitting this for your enlightenment. It is a little long and I paraphrased it from a local rag called “Tidbits,” but being a good Irish boy I must take the time to pass on a few tidbits about the Irish on this day of days – St. Patrick’s Day.

First of all, St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish. He was born in Scotland and was brought to Ireland as a slave. I won’t go into his whole story because that is what God made Google for.

But the Shamrock? No, the official emblem of Ireland is the harp. The Shamrock only gained fame as a symbol of Ireland after St. Patrick used its three leaves as a visual aid to explain the Holy Trinity (no, not Curly, Larry and Moe.)

It is also true there are no snakes in Ireland. Legend has it that St. Patrick charmed them all into the sea, but the truth is that snakes can’t survive anyplace where the ground is frozen year-round.

Potatoes are not native to Ireland, either. It is believed that it was first harvested in Peru and didn’t make it across the Atlantic until 1589.

Ireland was one of the first European countries to assign last names to families. This practice started around the year 1000, when the countries population increased so quickly that first names alone weren’t sufficient to identify individuals. The prefixes “Mac” and “O” were added to the first name of the father or grandfather to create a surname. So MacDonald means son of Donald, and O’Brien translates to son of Brian.

Be careful when making reference to Irish Whisky (Note the absence of the ‘e’ as compared to American whiskey.) The Irish are proud and protective of their spirit-making heritage, and by law, only whisky made on the Emerald Isle can be labeled Irish. There are several subtle differences between Irish Whisky and Scotch, which is distilled in nearby Scotland. The barley is dried over an open peat fire when making Scotch, giving it the smoky flavor. Irish Whisky makers dry their barley in a kiln and distill the beverage three times, resulting in a cleaner taste.

Modern recipes for Irish stew may call for ingredients like bay leaves and olive oil. But if you want truly authentic Irish stew, the origin was prepared from the least expensive, most readily available ingredients. It would include Lamb or mutton, potatoes, onions and parsley. Some wealthier farmers could add turnips and carrots to the mix. The soup stock was flavored with sheep shanks and neck bones.

Ireland has the world’s highest per-capita number of NATURAL REDHEADS. However, the trait for red hair is a recessive gene. So if a redhead marries someone with dark hair, the couple’s children will most likely have dark hair. Eventually, the number of natural redheads will diminish; not only in Ireland but across the globe. Some geneticists estimate that naturally red hair may become virtually extinct within the next 100 years.

Michael Flatley, the man whose name is synonymous with the Irish Riverdance is really a yank. He was born in Detroit and raised in Chicago.

Bono (Paul Hewson) is Ireland’s most famous rock band, U2, lead singer. He stared using the Bono name after seeing it on a sign in the window of a Dublin hearing aid store. The sign read “Bono Vox,” a corrupted version of a Latin phrase meaning ‘good voice.’

The Irish Rovers’ signature tune, “The Unicorn” always garners heavy radio airplay at this time of year. It was compose by Shel Silverstein, who was amused that people thought it was an Irish song of old. It was, in his words, “…written by a Jewish guy from Chicago.” He also wrote Johnny Cash’s hit “A Boy Named Sue” and Dr. Hook’s “The Cover of The Rolling Stone.”

In the late 1800’s the potato famine led hundreds of thousands of Irish to immigrate to the U.S. But due to overcrowding conditions, jobs were hard to find, so they took tough-to-fill pubic service jobs. This is why Boston and New York have long had a higher percentage of Irish-blooded policemen and firemen.

Corned beef and cabbage may be the traditional St. Patrick’s Day dinner in the U.S. but only the cabbage part is really authentic. In Ireland, the official complement to cabbage is bacon.

Now, go out and drink a pint of green beer for me.

Erin Go Bragh (Ireland for Ever)
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Pete Lamb said...

Nice blog - you got the bit about whiskey wrong though - Irish whiskey is spelt with an e its Scotch whisky that isn't!

Brother Dave said...

I shall gladly drink a pint of George Killian's Irish Red ale today. Tomorrow I shall make some Irish stew.

Today I will be wearing something green however.

Thanks for the history lesson.

Christine said...

When I was going to Ireland, I was instructed to bring back a bottle of Irish Whisky for my late father in law. Knowing nothing about the stuff, I just asked for something that is made there and isn't exported. It occurred to me later that if it was much good, it would probably be desired in other places. :-)

e.Craig Crawford said...

Great info. I don't drink green beer, nor eat green eggs.

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

coffeypot said...

Pete Lamb, you are absolutely correct. I checked my notes and I wrote it up wrong. My Apologies to both the Irish and the Scots.

BD, If I drink any beer at all it will be either Bud Lite, Sam Adams or Blue Moon. But I am wearing the green as you will see in my next post.

Christine, I would think that bringing home the true local stuff would be more appreciated and valued than the whiskey you can buy anywhere. You did good!

e.Craig, I don’t either, and same to ya, laddie.

When Darkness Falls... said...

Ha! Very informative! My mother was half Irish and a full blown red head. Out of her 6 kids, none of us were born with red hair.

teri said...

I'm glad someone is trying to set the heathens, straight on Ireland facts.

We Irish have to stick together!