Yet he and so much of the traditions associated with the Festival have their origins far beyond our green shamrock shores.
So for instance:1. St. Patrick- British & Roman!
Patrick himself was actually Romano-British, the son of a Roman
official that was taken as a slave by Irish sea raiders probably from
(at Hadrian’s Wall) in northern Britain in the early 5th
century. Even his adopted name is not Gaelic, coming from the Latin term ‘Patricius
Yet, as we say in Ireland, the invader/foreigner oftentimes becomes 'more Irish than the Irish themselves'
(except for a few Northern
Unionists!). Though sent as a prisoner to Ireland & forced to work
as a slave looking after sheep in the mountains, Patrick decided to
return to Ireland as a Christian missionary years after his escape.
2. Guinness- Invented by Londoners & with some later support from the British Army!
'Guinness' was copied by Arthur Guinness from an 18th
century London drink made out of roasted barley. The beer was known as
‘porter’ because it was originally popular with the porters (carriers)
Garden. Arthur Guinness switched from producing the more common ale at
his Dublin brewery. However Guinness was initially not well received
because of the owner’s support for the British colonial regime and his
opposition to the republican United Irishman during the rebellions of
the late 1790s.
Guinness’ international reputation had also a lot to
do with the British Army! In WW1, the high-energy consumption ‘porter’
breweries in mainland Britain were closed down by the government to
concentrate the national energy resources on the armament production
factories. However Guinness and the porter breweries in Ireland were
allowed to stay open thus giving them a virtual trade monopoly in the
then British Empire that stretched across five continents.3. Irish Pub- Viking roots!
The 'Irish pub' was actually created by Viking invaders in the 9th
century in their new slave-trading settlements of Dublin, Cork,
Limerick etc. Common to all these Viking cities was the presence of a
'tavern' where Vikings, after grueling days or months spent fighting,
raiding, pillaging or trading could come to enjoy the delights of beer,
music and food served by gorgeous-looking Celtic wenches.
thousand years later (in 1996), I returned the favour to our Viking
brethren by managing the first Irish pub in Iceland- ‘The Dubliner
’ in Reykjavik! (pubs were only legalized in that country in 1989)4. 'St. Patrick's Day Festival Parade’ -an American invention!
It originated in the mid-18th
century American cities of Boston and New York where it was created by
Irish Americans longing for their homeland and an opportunity to promote
their heritage. The first parade took place in New York on March 17th
in 1762 when it was led by Irish soldiers serving in the British Army! By the 19th
century, it had became a powerful expression of Irish nationalism and the struggle against British colonial rule in Ireland.
5. Irish Whiskey -the essence of the Middle East!
The process of creating whiskey(from the Gaelic 'uisce beatha
= 'water of life') - 'distillation' was learnt from Coptic or Arab
alchemists by studious Celtic monks. The former used it for medicinal
purposes. However, we Irish soon saw its greater significance in the
hospitality and entertainment sectors!
6. Sexy Irish Traditional Dancing- another American invention!
Irish step dancing only gained an international appeal in the 1990s
thanks primarily to the efforts of an American, Michael Flatley
This Irish-American from Chicago created the choreography for the 'Riverdance'
show and, with fellow lead dancer Jean Butler, led the show to amazing success as the intermission act in the Eurovision
Song Contest in 1994. Irish step dancing has never looked back since and Riverdance
has generated a myriad of successful offshoots. Not only that, but the dour unsmiling
Irish dancers of previous eras were transformed into vivacious high-kicking Irish cailíní
figure-hugging attire. Furthermore, modern Irish dance now unashamedly
embraces elements from other cultures (Russia, Arabian) increasing its
international appeal even further.
portrayed all that was good and important about Irish-Americans. When
Irish traditions were dying out in the Emerald Isle, it was they that
for centuries nurtured and kept alive the flame of Celtic culture.
7. There is no such thing as Irish 'Craic'!
is looked on today as an Irish word denoting a quintessentially Irish
form of fun (drink, music, amusing & friendly conversation).
fact there was no such word in the Gaelic Language until the 1970s. It
is actually an old English(!) word spelt 'crack' that meant in
Elizabethan times 'to boast', 'to banter' or 'to tell a joke' as in the
term 'to crack a joke'.8. 'Irish Coffee'- invented for the benefit of American tourists suffering from the Irish weather!
On one cold evening in 1942 at a small windswept airport terminal on the west coast
Ireland, the local chef felt pity for the tired and freezing passengers
who had just embarked from a seaplane that had to turn back from its
trans Atlantic journey due to atrocious weather conditions.
Being Americans, he knew
that they would enjoy a cup of hot coffee (not then much consumed by
Irish people) topped with fresh cream. But because of the freezing
conditions, he decided to spice it up with a shot of Irish whiskey.
Legend has it that one of the passengers, remarking on the unusual taste
of this drink asked, "Hey Buddy, is this Brazilian coffee?", to which
the chef Joe Sheridan replied, 'No, that's Irish coffee'. And so,
history was made!
9. Irish Songs-written by English, Americans, Scots & Australians!
of those great 'traditional Irish' ballad songs that are sung with such
gusto every night by broken-hearted inebriated Galwegians or Dubliners
in some Irish pub across the world were in fact written by English,
Scotch, Australian or American!
(Click on song title below to hear the song)
For instance Dirty Old Town
(that many mistakenly believe refers to Dublin) was written by the (Scottish-) English socialist folk singer Ewan MacColl; From Clare to Here
by English singer songwriter Ralph McTell; Willie McBride/Green Fields of France
by Scottish Australian Eric Bogle; Danny Boy
by English lawyer Fred Weatherly; My Wild Irish Rose
and When Irish Eyes are Smiling
by New York Broadway star Chauncey Olcott; and the late great American country music star Johnny Cash wrote Forty Shades of Green10. Irish Traditional Music- reinvented by British Punks
was a London-based Punk group of mixed English & Irish background
that shook Irish music to its foundations and re-invented it for a
modern Western youth audience. The anti-establishment Pogues
, led by their brilliant lead singer and lyricist Shane MacGowan
that revitalised Irish music and brought vibrancy, youthfulness,
relevancy and radical politics back into a staid Irish music scene.
Formed in 1982, the inventors of Celtic Punk fused traditional Irish folk with contemporary English punk and rock.
The name 'Pogues
' comes from Pogue Mahone
, the anglicisation
of the Irish 'póg
,' meaning "kiss my ass".
As with Riverdance
their music was oftentimes condemned by the native Irish purists who
preferred to keep Celtic culture in a sealed box untainted by outside
Silly people! Like all cultures, Irish traditions are
ever-changing, are constantly borrowing and being re-shaped by external
influences.A traditional Irish (honest!) Toast
In honour of the day itself, may I send you all an old and heartfelt Irish blessing:
"May your glass be ever full,
May the roof over your head be always strong,
And may you be in heaven
half an hour before the devil knows you're dead!"