Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day


That's my gentle giant CuChulainn, an Irish Wolfhound, pictured above. I'm Irish so today is the day my dog and I celebrate. Now I'm not sure what I'm celebrating since the Irish history has been more tragedy than joy but what the heck, for one day nothing is going to bother me. Now I am really Irish, yes indeed. My grandfather came from Ireland after the Catholics in my family had been run out of Scotland back in the 1600's and 1700's.

Okay, maybe they weren't run out of Scotland because my family clan, the Campbells ran Scotland for quite some time. But when the British Empire forced Scotland to adopt the Anglican Church and banned the Catholic Church, all because King Henry VIII wanted to marry Ann Boleyn, the Campbells that remained in power in Scotland had to become Anglicans. So family members were given a choice. Move to Ireland and stay Catholic or convert and remain in Scotland. My ancestors refused to give up the Catholic faith and left their castles and hundreds of years in Scotland behind.

So I'm Irish, even my middle name is Patrick after the great Druid and Patron Saint of Ireland. The Druid part is a little known fact but St. Patrick was kidnapped and raised by Druids and trained in the Druid way before converting to Christianity later in life. One of the companions of Druids was the Irish Wolfhound and it was Queen Elizabeth, not the Irish, who personally saved the Irish Wolfhound from extinction when she banned the sale or transport of Wolfhounds from Ireland or England in the late 1500's.

Here in Southern Maryland we have the first English colony that allowed Catholics to practice their faith because Lord Calvert, who was also Lord Baltimore of Ireland, was a Catholic. You should read some of my stories on St. Clement's Island and Coltons Point for some fascinating early colonial history that proves Coltons Point is the oldest continuously lived in chartered settlement in colonial America.

But that is another story. As an authentic Irishman there was one day a year when everyone seemed to claim to be Irish and that was St. Patrick's day. So I have spent St. Patrick's Day in many places where the Irish thrive including Chicago, Boston, Omaha, Philadelphia and New York City where I attended more than a dozen St. Patrick's Day parades. Then I made a journey to Ireland to spend St. Patrick's Day in Dublin.

That was when I realized how rainy and cold it could be in Ireland. It was also the day I traveled halfway around the world only to find one of the featured bands in the Dublin parade that year was the University of Nebraska band. I lived for about 12 years in Nebraska and had seen the band routinely on weekends at Big Red Football games but finding them in Dublin on St. Pat's Day was odd.

But there is a lot about Ireland that is mysterious, mystical and fantasy driven. Speaking of driven on two trips to Ireland I just rented cars and drove through Northern and Southern Ireland visiting mystical, ancient and spiritual sites and you could sense the fairies and leprechauns even before spending the evening drinking Guinness.

So even though I'm Irish via Scotland I love being Irish and being around the Irish. One family secret I will share with you. My family elders always said to remember the difference between the Scots and Irish. The Irish always tell a great story. The Scots always tell the truth.

So in honor of my heritage, in honor of my favorite Druid Saint, in honor of my homeland and in honor of my gentle giant Irish Wolfhound CuChulainn, Happy St. Patrick's Day. And speaking of CuChulainn, did you know there are just 863 registered Irish Wolfhounds in America. There are more Irish people in NYC than in Ireland. And the first Irish pub in America was right here in Maryland, the colony of Lord Baltimore, and was located in Baltimore, Patrick’s of Pratt Street, is, believe it or not, right here in Baltimore. An affable, somewhat unconventional shrine to the Emerald Isle, Patrick’s, on West Pratt Street, has been owned and operated by the same family since 1847.

Tribute to the Irish Wolfhound

"I will give thee a dog which I got in Ireland.
He is huge of limb, and for a follower equal to an able man.
Moreover, he hath a man’s wit and will bark at thine enemies but never at thy friends.
And he will see by each man’s face whether he be ill or well disposed to thee.
And he will lay down his life for thee.”
(from "The Icelandic Saga of Nial”)

This St. Patrick's Day, as always, Irish Wolfhounds will "march" in parades across the country and around the world. Two stunning Irish Wolfhounds, always lead the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade. They are the mascots of the “Fighting 69th”, an infantry regiment that's part of the New York National Guard.

Top of the morning to you.


1 comment:

conjo1963 said...

And the rest of the day to yourself my old friend. Enjoy your articles.