‘For each petal on the shamrock, this brings a wish your way – good health, good luck, and happiness, for today and every day.’ (Irish Blessing)
St. Patrick’s Day is upon us and it’s a day that makes me feel very Irish and connected to people with Irish blood all round the world.
For me, St. Patrick’s Day is just that ~ never, ever Paddy’s Day or Patty’s Day. Nor is it a day of mad drinking, green beers or leprechaun hats.
I think an honouring of St. Patrick’s Day goes back to my school days in Castleblayney , Co. Monaghan when I was six or seven and the whole school would congregate in our gymslips and Gaberdine coats out on the avenue and sing Hail Glorious Saint Patrick on the eve of March 17th.
The other song that always comes to mind on St. Patrick’s Day is one written by Chauncey Alcott (1858-1932) who was a stage actor, songwriter and singer, born in New York and of Irish descent:
St. Patrick’s Day is a day when I find myself thinking ‘as Gaelige’ (in the Irish language) and I’d like to wish everyone who is Irish, loves Ireland or feels a sense of Irishness
While I’m certainly not a huge St. Patrick’s Day person in terms of getting all decked out in green and wearing shamrock, I find myself being more and more aware of my Irish identity as March 17th looms.
Here are the things that I love most about this native country of mine:
1. The fact that Ireland is an island with miles and miles of glorious and diverse coastline.
2. The accent, or should I say, the range of Irish accents and the way I only hear my own Irish accent when I’m not in Ireland!
3. The long and ongoing tradition of the arts, and especially poetry, through names like W.B. Yeats, Patrick Kavanagh, Seamus Heaney, Brendan Kennelly, Paul Durcan …..
4. The Irish passion for sport … hurling, horse-racing, rugby, soccer, athletics, boxing…
5. Travelling along back roads through the countryside soaking up the colour and the nods of familiar strangers.
6. The buildings ~ from iconic places like Trinity College, Dublin to tiny thatched cottages with red doors out in the middle of nowhere.
7. The incredible diversity of Ireland’s people ~ layered with an intriguing complexity, warmth and quick wit.
They were selling pots of fresh shamrock in SuperValu here in Tramore yesterday. The pots were sitting in a cardboard box lined with newspaper at the entrance to the store so I did my whole shop with shamrock on my mind and the pot staring up at me from the trolley with its green Irish eyes.
Oh, lots of memories of Mother pinning shamrock onto the duffle coat of my youth on St. Patrick’s Day; making shamrocks from cutting up old Cornflake boxes and mixing paint to try to get the exact shade of green; but most of all what dominated my thoughts was the village of Ballyhale, Co. Kilkenny.
For years, I used to pass through Ballyhale on my way from Dublin to Tramore ~ that was in the days before the new motorway was built. I always thought of it as a sleepy little village and the one that indicated that there was only Mullinavat and Waterford before the home strait to Tramore.
However, my perception of Ballyhale changed forever on a September night in 2009 when I was one of thousands in the village at the homecoming of the victorious ‘four-in-a row’ All-Ireland Kilkenny hurling team. Many of the key members of that team were from the Ballyhale Club ~ Ballyhale Shamrocks ~ Seamróga Baile hÉil. We’re talking about absolute greats like Henry Shefflin, T.J. Reid, Michael Fennelly, James “Cha” Fitzpatrick, Colin Fennelly …..
I just had to go and have a look at the grounds where these men had trained since they were kids ~ Páirc na Seamróg. I was half expecting to see a miniature Croke Park but here was typical village set-up and the pitch even looked a bit lopsided to my star-struck eyes.
The shamrock symbolises so much; it has given its name to thousands of places all round the world. (I g0t 58,800,000 results when I googled it today). But more than anything, the shamrock evokes a pride and passion about Ireland and Irishness and I can tell you I never saw such pride as was shown for the Ballyhale Shamrock boys that amazing night.
I’m all of a dither about St. Patrick’s Day. Everywhere I look there’s ‘stuff’ about it and in many ways it just doesn’t quite rock my boat. (Now there’s a phrase I never thought I’d use.)
See, can”t you smell a right dither in there?
I’m Irish, live in Ireland and I would say that I’m passionately in love with the country. The fact that my blog is green is no coincidence.
The psychoanalyst in me is screaming that my dither is because I never got to go in a St. Patrick’s Day parade when I was young.
One of my most vivid childhood memories of St. Patrick’s Day is from 1968. We had moved to Drogheda just about a month before and on St. Patrick’s Day, I hung out the window of our house watching the parade go by with bands and all sorts of flair and I wondered what it would take to ever feel like an ‘insider.’
If I’d had any sense I would have told someone, grabbed a green apple out of the bowl on the kitchen table, donned my bright green raincoat and dove into the mix of marching music. Thing is, I didn’t have any sense ….. but I can feel some coming on 45 years later!