Thursday, March 17, 2005

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

The Irishness of Me

I'm BAAAACCCKKK!!! Just in time to enjoy some St. Patrick's Fun!

Okay...I'm not the most Irish person that I know. I haven't joined the Hibernia Society, though I've thought about it. It's just, I've never been much of a joiner. But, I think I can claim some Irishness.

For starters, today is my Birthday. Yep, I was born very early in the morning on St. Patrick's day.

Secondly, my grandmother's grandmother (my great-great grandmother) on my Dad's side, Mary Murphy, came from Munster, Ireland in 1898 to America with her two sisters Kitty and Katherine. All three were lately widowed and decided to come to America to seek their fortunes. Kitty married a Penderghast in Kansas City; Katherine a Snyder and Mary married Own Mae Howard, a Cherokee Indian from Tennessee. They had seven sons, the youngest was my great grandfather.

Thirdly, my grandfather's grandmother was French-Irish who married the son of a couple who came to America from Lichtenstein in 1851 having had their name Anglo-sized from Heindrick in the way that many immigrants did to "fit in" or simply because the clerk didn't know how to spell it.

We are the story of the post revolution immigration to America.

I always loved everything Irish from the campy to the realistic. My dream vacation would be to spend a week or two in Ireland just hiking the country side and looking at the greenness of the land.

My favorite Irish Songs are:

Danny Boy which was actually written by an Englishman to the tune of an Irish Aire. On my 26th birthday, not long ago (ahem), four of my friends from Philadelphia took me to see The Lord of the Dance with Michael Flaherty as the lead dancer. I think it was the best time of my life. I remember wanting to get up on the stage and dance with them even if I looked far less graceful than they. It was that fantastic and that inspiring.

After the musical, my friends decided that we would go to an Irish pub in town. Actually, two of my friends decided that we would. My third friend, Wendy (the second Wendy I knew) was from Britain. At first, she refused to go. The Irish were all a bunch of terrorist rebels who, if not directly involved were implicitly involved in the bombings by the IRA in England. Further, she said the Irish Pubs in the United States filtered money to the terrorists through "charity" groups and other aid programs (sound familiar?). Of course, by then, Clinton had worked with Blair to move towards peace at least with the Sinn Fein. Still, my friend was unhappy, but, since it was my birthday she consented to go, but insisted that she would throw up if they sang Danny Boy.

They, the live band, sang it three times and it was played at least two others by the DJ. We, my other friends and I, sang it as loud as possible. My friend Tricia (short for Patricia) was black haired Irish with blue eyes and I am red haired (well, with a little grey these days) and green eyed. British friend was red haired and blue eyed (her ancestors being protestant Irish who had moved to Liverpool in the 19th century) and then, Italian friend, brown hair and brown eyes. We were the terror of the bar.

The lines to get in were long and you had to stand four deep at the bar trying to get a drink. The bar tender/bar owner was about 50 something and saw us waiting behind the hordes of men. He told them briskly to "get the hell out of the way and let the ladies get up to the bar". The men in front of us were mostly in their 20's and were quite stunned I think. At first, they hesitated, then the bar tender/bar owner's father (we later found out) with a mane of white hair and a beer in his hand who was sitting at the bar in front of them gave the one nearest him a little shove and asked the boys where their manners were. They finally started moving out of our way. We were, of course, a little apologetic considering how long they had to have been standing their to get a chance to get a beer.

The old man of the bar told us to stop apologizine and, since the young men in question had hesitated so long, they could buy us our first round of drinks. He said it looking right at them, challenging them to say "no" while the bar tender and few people I figure to have been regulars snickered loudly. We had no idea yet about the old man's connection to the bar. The bar tender asked us what it would be and we all dutifully ordered beer and a shot of Irish Whiskey. Jamison I think. He set them up, ignoring the rest of the crowd and then looked straight at the boys and told them, "that will be 28.50."

We were digging in our pockets frantically to pay. We were a little embarrassed. The bar tender refused to take our money and looked at the boys again, "28.50, boy-o's and hurry it up, I've got other patrons to serve." I had a feeling that he wouldn't have served them again the rest of the night if they didn't pay.

We thanked the boys profusely, still giving them apologetic looks, but, inwardly, I think we were all flying high. That had to be one of the coolest things that ever happened to us. My Irish friend Tricia thanked the bar tender and the old man. The old man asked if we were Irish and Tricia explained who was who, introducing us (the boys had walked off with their beer by then). She told him it was my birthday. He called the bar tender over and told him. They asked for my driver's license. After looking it over for a few seconds, he held it up and shouted to the bar, "It's Kat---- Birthday! Everyone, wish her a happy birthday!" and they all shouted, "Happy Birthday!" He then clipped my driver's license on a string over the bar and told us our drinks were now free on the house.

We chatted with the old man for awhile. He explained the bar belonged to his son. They were serving authentic corned beef and cabbage later so we should stick around, plus the three bands they had hired to come in.

The band heard it was my birthday and insisted that I choose a song to play. By then I'd had a couple shots of whiskey and was feeling my Cheerios so I told them to play Danny Boy for me and dedicate to my friend Wendy. They played the song and my friend rolled her eyes in disgust, but we were all pretty drunk by then so me and Tricia and Debbie put our arms around Wendy (she in the middle) and each other and began singing at the top of our lungs with the entire pub joining in. We swayed back and forth as we sang it. By the third round of the song, Wendy finally gave in and started singing with us.

Of course, later, when she was sober, she told us never to expect her to do that again.

You can guess what we did the next year on my birthday.

I love this song, too,Come Out Ye Black and Tans which tells the story of an angry Irish Rebel shouting for the British Constables to, dressed in khaki and black beret, to come out and fight him like a man instead of kncoking down their doors in the middle of the night.

This is one of my favorites, Whiskey in the Jar. I have it on CD by Metallica (a remake of course). My brother burned the disc for me and for a long time, I had no idea who made this version, but it now plays on a regular basis in my truck when I am feeling a little reckless and in the need for speed. This song is about an Irish bandit and his unfortunately, faithless love Molly.

If you spend time listening to Irish songs, apparently, most girls named Molly were faithless loves and girls named Kathleen or similar were pure as the driven snow.

Lastly, from the Chieftans "Long Black Veil" album, a remake of The Foggy Dew which tells the story of the Easter Rebellion of 1916. I always loved this song and the Chieftan's remake is dark and broody, like the Irish rebels themselves. I couldn't find an MP3 to go with it, so the midi will have to do along with the all the verses.

'Twas down the glen one Easter morn
To a city fair rode I.
When armed line of marching men
In squadrons passed me by.
No pipes did hum, no battle drum
Did sound its loud tattoo
But the Angelus bell o'er the Liffey's swell
Rang out in the foggy dew.

Right proudly high over Dublin town
They hung out a flag of war.
'Twas better to die 'neath an Irish sky
Than at Suvla or Sud el Bar.
And from the plains of Royal Meath
Strong men came hurrying through;
While Brittania's huns with their great big guns
Sailed in through the foggy dew.

O' the night fell black and the rifles' crack
Made "Perfidious Abion" reel
'Mid the leaden rail, seven tongues of flame
Did shine o'er the lines of steel.
By each shining blade a prayer was siad
That to Ireland her sons be true,
And when morning broke still the war flag shook
Out its fold in the foggy dew

'Twas England bade our wild geese go
That small nations might be free.
But their lonely graves are by Suvla's waves
On the fringe of the gray North Sea.
But had they died by Pearse's side
Or fought with Cathal Brugha,
Their names we'd keep where the Fenians sleep
'Neath the shroud of the foggy dew.

The bravest fell, and the solemn bell
Rang mournfully and clear
For those who died that Watertide
In the springing of the year.
And the world did gaze with deep amaze
At those fearless men, but few
Who bore the fight that freedom's light
Might shine through the foggy dew.

Ah, back through the glen I rode again
and my heart with grief was sore
For I parted then with valiant men
whom I never shall see more.
But to and fro in my dreams I go and
I'd kneel and pray for you,
For slavery fled, O glorious dead, when
you fell in the foggy dew.

Other Irish Songs here and here

I also love the old Irish tales of the heroes like Cu Chulain the hound of Chulain who received his name after killing his master's hound and, the master asking who would now guard his hall, the boy, then known as Setente said, "I will." From there he became a legendary warrior and hero, the Hound of Chulain.

Of course, no one's Irish legends education is complete without the stories of Fionn Mac Cumhal, also known as Finn McCool.

For other Irish legends and myths go here.

That's it for the Irishness of me. Now I'm off to listen to Irish music and drink some beer.

No comments: