Ogden Nash, America’s favorite versifier, in “It’s a Grand Parade It Will Be, Modern Design,” portrays the memorable man of Erin:

Saint Patrick was a proper man, a man to be admired;
Of numbering his virtues I am never, never tired.
A handsome man, a holy man, a man of mighty deeds,
He walked the lanes of Erin, a-telling of his beads.
A-telling of his beads, he was, and spreading of the word.
I think that of Saint Patrick’s Day, Saint Patrick hadn’t heard.

Thirty-two million Americans trace kinship to the Emerald Isle. Maine claims 17.8% Irish ancestry.  President JFK reminded the Irish Parliament in 1963: “They came to our shores in a mixture of hope and agony. They left behind hearts, fields, and a nation yearning to be free,”

And, as the ballad City of Chicago recounts they “Brought their songs and music, to ease their lonely hearts.”

One hundred years ago during treaty negotiations to end the Irish War of Independence, 25,000 members of Ireland’s powerful diaspora paraded on July 4, in New York City to “keep alive the spirit of 1776”, led by the historic World War I  Irish-American  brigade known as ” The Fighting 69th”  and two shaggy Irish wolfhounds.

Flann MacLonáin, the ninth century “Virgil of Ireland” wrote: “Sing to me the history of my people, it is sweet to my soul to hear it.”  There are no sounds like the sounds of an Irish singer, singing songs that were setting the people’s hearts on fire.


During this year’s centennial anniversary of the Irish Free State, the rich history of Ireland’s resilience is showcased in “I Am Ireland,” a PBS-TV special featuring Cork born tenor, Paddy Homan who sings the heroic deeds of men and women through many twists and turns until Ireland, becomes “A Nation once again!” It was filmed at Chicago’s historic Old St. Pat’s Church with three traditional Irish musicians and Rich Daniels’ City Lights Orchestra virtually.

This year also marks the postponed 850th anniversary celebration of another event whose shockwaves inescapably reverberate in current border disputes regarding Brexit’s Northern Ireland withdrawal protocol agreement. On October 17, 1171, Henry II, English king landed in County Waterford with 400 ships, 500 knights, 4,000 men-at-arms and thousands of horses to compel the Irish into submission.

Ten months earlier, an event had happened not normally seen as relevant to Irish history. A British Museum exhibit launched May, 2021 describes the gruesome murder that shook the Middle Ages:  “On 29 December 1170, as the last light of the winter sun faded from view, Thomas Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral. The spilling of blood in such a holy place was appalling, and all the more so because Becket was Archbishop of Canterbury.”

Beckett was murdered by four knights after hearing Henry II mutter, “Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?”  Ten months later, Henry set foot on Irish soil to rid himself of troublesome Irish lords.

In the 16th century, English critics scoffed at the rebellious Irish and frequently used the story that after Saint Patrick had banished the snakes, there was “no poisoned or venomous thing in Ireland, but only the people”.  Shakespeare’s plays mirrored contemporary anxieties that “the wound do grow uncurable” in Ireland. This Elizabethan bard was an unwitting clairvoyant. England continued to sink into the Irish bog for centuries.

Ogden Nash encapsulates Patrick’s legacy:

The saint was born a subject of the ancient British throne,                  
But the Irish in their wisdom recognized him as their own.
A raiding party captured him, and carried him away,
And Patrick loved the Irish, and he lived to capture they.
He lit the Easter fire where the hill and heaven met,
And on every hill in Ireland the fire is burning yet.

As the world turns global green March 17th, Saint Patrick surely would take delight that the fire he lit is burning yet, and in Maine too.

—Special to the Press Herald

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