By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
“Erin go bragh.”
It’s St. Patrick’s Day Weekend, and suddenly there’s not a Frenchman (nor a Frenchwoman) to be found in the whole town.
Those of Irish descent will break out their yearly green ensemble and proudly parade around the town. This day also affords Lewiston’s French descendants an opportunity to break out their La Kermesse outfit in order to join in the parade.
In Ireland, pious Irish men and women honor St. Patrick by flocking to Mass, receiving Holy Communion and prayerful reflection on the Saint’s life—a fitting homage to the man who brought Christianity to her shores.
Contrast Ireland’s celebration to the United States.
Here our celebration of St. Patrick’s accomplishments resembles more a tribute to the Roman God Bacchus than the revered Saint. Parades, off-key singing of Irish songs, eating corned beef and cabbage, then washing it down with green beer, is the order of the day.
In Boston, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated with a twist. On March 17, 1776 General George Washington, from his position on Dorchester Heights, drove the British out of Boston much like Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland’s shore. This historic event gave state legislators cover to reward the loyal Massachusetts state employees with—you guessed it—A Hack Holiday! (I wonder why Portland Maine’s delegation has not thought of this?)
This insures an overwhelming attendance at a political get-together at what Boston’s favorite talk show host and columnist, Howie Carr, coined “Halitosis Hall.”
Throughout our country this celebration starts early in the morning and runs to the wee hours of the following day. In the end, the state of the individual is used to measure festivities. A person that is singing and not under the influence of alcohol had a good time. One whose personality has been seized by the nectar from a bottle had a great time. Prostrating before a toilet bowl into which you are vomiting means this was the best St. Patrick’s Day yet.
One of the more humorous parts of the day is the people trying to sound like they’re Irish. This is referred to as a brogue.
In Boston, where surnames were almost universally Irish, we had three classes of brogue. First, Irish natives from the “Olde Sod.” Second, part-time brogues used by native Bostonians when speaking of the “Olde Sod.” Finally, those born, raised and never left their Boston neighborhood that spoke exclusively with a brogue you could cut with a knife.
In Lewiston we have a fourth category: people with heavy French accents trying to speak with a brogue.
Like every nationality, in order to gain legitimacy, you’ve had to been subjected to “notable victimization.” Do the Irish have plenty of that! The Vikings pillared and burned towns along Ireland’s coast. For centuries the English sent many Irishmen to Heaven and almost succeeded in terminating the race under Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell.
Further adding to Irish injury, the English teamed up with Mother Nature to cause a potato famine, which again almost terminated the Irish race. This caused the Irish to immigrate to America in order to survive.
Upon arriving they were met, like most newcomers, with hostility from those firmly established in America. Through hard work, organizing, establishing themselves politically and maintaining a fierce loyalty to America, they overcame adversities and assimilated into American culture to become proud, productive citizens in the American melting pot.
I’ll conclude with an Irish blessing for my loyal readers:
“May the road rise up before you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May you be in Heaven
A half-hour before the Devil knows you’re dead.”
Lastly, to my paddy/mick friends, Jimmy, Pat, Dave, Matt, Brian, Jack and Bob: “Up The Rebels!”