St Paddy’s Day is coming up soon. Patron Saint of Irish Bars and alcohol – at least, he should be. The world will turn green with envy of all things Irish on March 17th, and everyone will find a distant relative through the miracle of Ancestry.com to lay claim to Irish origins. The Irish Bars will be a-buzzing. These days, anywhere you travel you can find an Irish bar. Seems the whole world loves Ireland and all things green.
I’ve often wondered why St Patrick’s Day has become such a global phenomenon. Everyone wants to be Irish it seems. True, the Irish seed is spread far and wide, and many in the New World like to claim roots back to the Old. Maybe it’s the result of that Catholic dogma on contraception, I don’t know.
The leprechaun – bastard child of an evil spirit and a degenerate fairy
I know the Irish have a certain, I don’t know – je ne sais quoi. Their traditional dance was revolutionised by Riverdance, There’s Guinness, of course, beloved of pregnant women as the only legitimate alcohol during pregnancy (good for the iron apparently). They might lay claim to fantastic music – but the only notable bands I can recall are U2, Sinead O’Connor and the Cranberries. They have a few decent actors – Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell. They’ve got the leprechaun, that bastard child of an evil spirit and a degenerate fairy. And we talk about the ‘luck of the Irish’ – presumably the same luck that led to the potato famine, killed a million and drove a million to new lands to start afresh, to a new life running an Irish bar.
It’s probably the lure of that leprechaun’s pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that led to still more mass emigration from the rain sodden Emerald Isle – the Irish diaspora. Irishmen trying to dig once more for their fortune, having failed once with those blighted potatoes. Although the joke’s on us if we think they failed. Every one of those Irish bars is a pot of gold.
I’ve often wondered why the Irish became the butt of the joke for the English. Every country has their butt, I guess. The French like to ridicule the Belgians, Americans and Germans ridicule Poles, Canadians pick on Newfoundlanders. But in my childhood the Irish jokes were always the ones, and more often than not, told by an Irish comic. A couple of my favourites are:
Q: How do you confuse an Irishman?
A: Show him three shovels and tell him to take his pick
Or this one:
Three men are at an Irish bar in London.
The first says to the second man, ”so where might you be from then?”. The second man says, ”I’m from Ireland myself”. The first says ”I’m Irish too, where ’bouts may you be from?”
”Cork City is my home”, quoth the second.
”Well so am I,” says the first, ”and where did you go to school?”
”What a coincidence, what year did you finish?”
”98,” replies the second man.
”That’s my year. We must have been in the same class!”
The third man at the bar turns to the barman and says, ”have you even seen anything like this before?”
The barman says ”oh, don’t take any notice of the O’Brien twins, they’re drunk again”.
So, I’m confused as to how the butt of the jokes got to be the cool kid on the block. Maybe it was jealousy? Whatever, I’m sure that in the Patron Saint locker room, Paddy must get some serious abuse.
George was holding court once more in the Saintly common room, bragging about his exploits and bemoaning his lot.
“Dudes, I slayed a dragon, rescued the king’s daughter and saved the kingdom. I’m the Patron Saint of England, Portugal, Germany and a bunch of other places that no longer exist. Who else can claim such heroic exploits?”
George turned to the collected saintly brothers, “Nick – all you did was to give out gifts to the kids, and they gave you the most awaited holiday of the year. Valentine – famous for sending letters? So they gave you the holiday of lovers? Paddy, you drove out snakes? Really? Yet the whole world knows your name and the English can barely remember my Saint Day. What gives?”
Paddy stood, looked George directly in the eye and said, “George, what can I say? No-one likes a show-off”.
So maybe that’s the secret of the Irish. Success in the face of adversity. George represents the oppressor, whilst Paddy represents the oppressed. And who’s going to turn down any excuse for a party?
Happy St Patrick’s Day, whether Irish or otherwise.