In my many years of running this website in its various incarnations I don’t think I’ve ever exploited the celebration of St Patrick’s Fun ‘n’ Fight Day which is rather remiss of me considering I am half Irish. If I had an excuse – and clearly I have or I wouldn’t have started this sentence – then it would probably be that usually I don’t think about taking advantage of drinking excuses until days after the event, and typically that’s through a pounding headache and after another trip to the local So You Got Yourself A Tattoo While Drunk And Now You Need Your Love For Some Guy Called Lucas Removed From Your Buttocks clinic.
So, let me introduce you to the Ireland I know and love and with whose people I get in fights on a regular basis.
Northern Ireland and Eire
When I say Ireland I mean Proper Ireland or Southern Ireland or Eire, the larger portion of the island of Ireland. I do not mean Northern Ireland, the top right corner bit.
There are a number of differences between the two Irelands. The north is a largely Protestant country filled to the brim with brick buildings while the south is mainly Catholic and fields. Listening to a proper Irish accent makes you smile because of the lilting, flowing, gentle, laidback tones. The Northern Irish accent, on the other hand, is shouted mostly from the front of the mouth and Ian Paisley speeches are used to break terrorist suspects.
Food & Drink
Everyone knows that the Irish love their Guinesses, Murphys, Beamishes, Kilkennys, Caffreys, various porters, vision-removing poteens, and Harp lagers, often all at the same time, and I’m certainly no exception, but Ireland is nearly famous for its wide and varied food too.
From fish to meat and vegetables you’re bound to find something you like, and then boil it. Popular dishes include the traditional irish stew (boiled meat and boiled vegetables, boiled), colcannon (boiled mashed potatoes with boiled cabbage, served with boiled onion gravy), and pizza (boiled dough layered with boiled tomato puree, topped with various boiled meats).
And don’t forget to finish off your meal with an Irish coffee and retire for the evening with a rich, peaty whiskey. But don’t boil it too long or the alcohol will burn off and you risk sobering up.
Rains a lot. If you’re an avid mudspotter then you won’t be disappointed.
It’s true that not a lot of Irish people can actually speak Gaelic anymore and those that were assumed to be holding onto the native tongue resolutely have since been shown to be merely drunk and mumbling, but there are a number of words still in common use in the country and beyond and, should you ever visit, you’ll be looked upon fondly if you use them.
- ceilidh – a traditional drinking evening somewhat spoiled by traditional organised dancing of the form "ladies form a line and dance around your men without spilling their pints or it’s a black eye!",
- shillelagh – a knobbly walking stick of limited use to midgets who fall in bogs and handy for waving in a threatening manner or sticking bread on the end to toast,
- phillum – the Irish word for movie, as in "Would you like to come and watch a phillum with me Seamus?”,
- pogue mahon – literally "kiss my arse" and a traditional greeting to be used in a pub when ordering drinks and playing the "Glassing By The Barman Russian Roulette" game,
- sláinte – typically used to say "Cheers!" when the barman gives you a drink instead of glassing you,
- begorrah! – exclamation of surprise to utter should you ever be served any food non-boiled.
Something about having two pubs per head of population seems to bring out the best and worst for the worlds of literature, music, and movies. Poets and authors from the Emerald Isle have long been respected and held up as examples of the art to cherish, whilst, almost simultaneously, bands like Boyzone, Westlife, B*Witched, and U2 have been allowed to roam free and do as they want without being struck by cattle prods.
Ireland has produced great actors in the cinema such as Sean Connery in The Untouchables and Tommy Lee Jones in Blown Away, plus small screen stars including Top Cat’s Officer Dibble and Star Trek’s Colm Meaney.
The Irish are a proud sporting nation. In particular gaelic football, hurling, and rugby are popular with participants and spectators alike owing to their high rates of flying teeth, blood-filled streams of mucous, and arms, all of which are highly prized thanks to the shortage of post pub-fight donors in the country.
Each year the cream of Australian Rules Football and Gaelic Football compete in a match that combines the most violent elements of each. It’s all good-natured though and there’s plenty of boiled kangaroo to share afterwards.
You can’t have an article about Ireland published on or around St Patrick’s day without mentioning St Patrick himself. Oh, you can try, but Sinn Fein will send around Gerry Adams to break your legs and you’ll never do it again.
According to legend Patrick was a rich maniac who dwelt at the ends of rainbows guarding his pot of gold by throwing snakes at anyone who approached. Quite why Patrick was canonised by the church remains clouded in secrecy. One popular rumour holds that he made a substantial loan to the Pope for advertising at the end of the Dark Ages but was struck down by a well-thrown shillelagh and died before the money was repaid. Guilt whenever a rainbow appeared over Rome finally saw his posthumous promotion from Maniac Patrick to Saint.
To this day Irish and non-Irish all over the world celebrate the snake-flinging, crazed loon by raising a glass in his honour on his day. The other fourteen glasses raised are just to be polite.