A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
There is no true story about Saint Patrick’s Day. The great storytellers of Ireland have changed the tale around so many times over the years that fact, legend and “that sounds good” are now inextricably woven together. St. Patrick himself was probably English (but don’t say that too loud.) He likely learned his trade in France and showed up in Ireland when the whole place was covered in heathens. When you’re starting with that kind of raw material, you’re going to have a certain level of success in the converting business. There’s also no evidence that he drove the snakes out of Ireland, but, as any Irishmen will tell you, there’s no evidence that he didn’t. This, of course, calls up the annoying habit the Irish have of answering a question with another question. For example, “Are you a carpenter?” “What if I am?”
In actual fact, the St. Patrick’s Day we know and love was started by the people of New York City (Boston claims they started it, the lying buggers) where there are just about as many people of Irish descent as there are in Ireland. The Irish in Ireland don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with drunken parties the way we do in North America – although that’s changing – and most true Irish call St. Patrick’s Day Amateur Night. They watch the North American parades and revelry on TV.
However, if you’re going to get after the Guinness on March 17th, here are a few tidy bits of trivia that you can throw into the mix somewhere between the first “wee touch of Bushmill’s” and “Come out and fight, ye Black and Tans!” Sprinkle these around, and you will amaze your friends and confound your enemies. And if that isn’t Irish, I don’t know what is!
Ireland has produced more Nobel Prizes in Literature per capita than any other country in the world. They have four: Seamus Heaney, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw and William Butler Yeats.
Riverdance actually happens quite a bit in Irish pubs. Overcome by the music, ordinary patrons will get up and dance. Here’s just a word of caution, though: leave it to the locals — it’s their pub.
Ireland is the only place in the world where windmills turn clockwise. Mention this after a couple of adult beverages and then shrug your shoulders and say, “Nobody knows why.“ (Actually, it has something to do with the gearing mechanism, but don’t tell your friends that.)
The Guinness Book of World Records was started by Norris and Ross McWhirter, in 1954, as a handy reference book to settle arguments in pubs. Originally, one thousand copies were printed and given away as a Guinness advertising promotion.
The O’Connell Bridge in Dublin is the only bridge in Europe that’s wider than it is long.
Although he’s no longer qualified to be a saint, you can find the remains of Saint Valentine in Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin.
On average, between 6:00 pm on Friday and 3:00 am on Monday, the city of Dublin consumes 9,800 pints of beer – every hour.
An Englishman, a Scotsman and an Irishman were drinking one night when the conversation turned to death and funerals. The Englishman said, “At my funeral, I want them to say that I was a fine family man, and tell all the people that I was a good husband and father.” The Scotsman said, “At my funeral, I want people to talk about what a good friend I was, loyal and trustworthy.” The Irishman thought about it for a moment and said, “At my funeral I want somebody to say, ‘Look, he’s moving!’”
Irish Proverb: You’ve got to do your own growing — no matter how tall your grandfather was.
There are hundreds of statues in Dublin, and the locals refer to them affectionately and often. For example, the statue of Molly Malone on Grafton Street is called “The Tart with the Cart,” the Two Women by Ha’Penny Bridge are called “The Hags with the Bags” and the water statue of Anna Livia is “The Floozy in the Jacuzzi.” Without using Google, can you guess what Dubliners call the statues of James Joyce and Oscar Wilde?
Speaking of Guinness, Arthur Guinness started brewing his famous beer at the St James Brewery in Dublin in 1759. He was so confident that he would be successful at making beer that he signed a 9,000 year lease on the property. Currently, Guinness pays approximately $60.00 rent every year for the enormous facility.
An Irish curse: “May the curse of Molly Malone and her nine blind illegitimate children chase you so far over the hills of Damnation that the Lord himself can’t find you with a telescope!”
It rains every day in Ireland. They don’t call it the Emerald Isle for nothing. If you don’t believe me, show up without an umbrella.
And finally, when asked about the Irish, Sigmund Freud once said, “This is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever.”
Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everybody!