Sunday, March 17, 2013

Kiss Me, I'm Irish!

Today is a day when all things are Irish, even those that are not.

I'm proud to be of Irish descent, even though, at this point, it is only about 12.5%.  And despite the fact that I'm married to a man named Patrick, he is not one tiny drop Irish, so my poor children are only about 6% Irish.  

My own Irish tale is somewhat atypical.  About 5 generations back, Patrick and Honora Ryan left Ireland to strike it rich in the Australian gold rush in 1852 or so (I'm guessing as a result of the famine).  My great-great-grandfather (my grandmother's grandfather) was actually born in Victoria, Australia.  I had always assumed that the family did not strike it rich, as they returned to Ireland.  Perusing my grandmother's writings, I found out that they did indeed strike it rich and returned to Ireland, only to be burned out.  At that point, they came to the states, and settled in the Cohoes and Latham area.

I found out an interesting fact about the impact of the Irish today:

The Irish laborers, 3,000 strong men built the Erie canal in just 8 years, digging the whole ditch by hand.  They were paid $0.50/day, given room and board (crowded, smelly tents) and 32 oz. of whiskey each day.  They refused to work if they were not given their whiskey.  The Erie canal, which has locks 2-5 in my own hometown of Waterford, NY, linked the Atlantic Ocean with the Great Lakes, and the West.  It made New York City the port and powerhouse that it is today, and vastly shifted the balance of power to the North during the Civil War.  Without those laborers, that war probably would have had a very different outcome.

When the Irish began to emigrate to the Colonies in the 1600-1700's, most were indentured servants, and 75% were Catholic.  Obviously, there was a large influx to the United States following the Great Famine (1845-1852).  So many Irish died on ships coming to the United States, living in squalor, filth and disease, that the ships were often called coffin ships.  Irish-Americans are a tough breed.  Facing discrimination, both of nationality and race, the Irish persevered, never losing their pride or tough work ethic.  The poorest of the poor, the Irish in America have gone on to leave the slums and tenements  receive education, fight for this country and serve at every level of the government from signing the Declaration of Independence to serving as President (22 Presidents claim Irish ancestry, including Barak Obama).  

Moving on from oppression by the British, indentured servitude  starvation and famine, discrimination, "Irish need no apply," and poverty, the Irish in America have bootstrapped themselves up into an unforgettable and undeniable role in this country's history.  It is why I am proud to be Irish-American.  

I have corned beef cooking in the crock-pot, because the best method of Irish cooking is to boil the crap out of it.  I am making Guinness-Oat bread and with slather it with Irish cream butter.  I will drink my stout, raise a toast to all who have fought to make a better life for themselves, and be happy and full.




May you have all the happiness
and luck that life can hold—
And at the end of all your rainbows
may you find a pot of gold.



May your pockets be heavy—
Your heart be light,
And may good luck pursue you
Each morning and night.

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