St. Patrick’s Day was always a big deal for me and my other Irish friends. One year at the college where we both taught my friend and colleague, Denis Joseph Francis Callahan made a special presentation on the white slavery of the Irish. He had an ulterior, political motive at that college in which most of the students were Hispanic, Filipino or Black, and that was the un-PC point of, “Shut yer gob. We’ve all had a rough go.” America’s tradition of white slavery is a bit of history that many white nationalities have experienced coming to the new world and which is never — OK, very very seldom — taught in history classes. Many people were shocked. I do not think the lesson stuck, but at least it was out there.
There were other celebrations, too, particularly the reading of Irish literature at D. G. Wills bookstore in La Jolla where Irish books took prominence on the shelves.
In my family, too, Kennedy, dontcha’ know, there was the eating of the corned beef and cabbage, the buying of soda bread at the store, whatever else there was Irish that we could do. Sad to say, the parents weren’t whiskey drinkers. Me mum drank Bourbon and me da was after a finger or two of Scotch. The beer in my house was Schlitz. For meself, my favorite poet is an Irishman, William Butler Yeats, and ’tis of no importance that he was a Northern Irishman, he was Irish, still.
As for me, I’ve passed for Irish so well that in an Irish pub in San Diego, accompanied by a friend from Ireland, a pub patronized by ex-pats (see what I did there?) a foine young man, a few sheets to the wind, asked me when I’d last been “home.”
And now? All my research has shown me that in me blood, I have but a drop of the ould sod.
The British Celtic races from which I’m descended came from the Scottish highlands (see picture above). Looks like I’m more Indigenous American than Irish. So here I am this St. Patrick’s Day, feeling nostalgia not for me ancestral homelands of the Green Isle, but feeling nostalgia for the time when I believed I was Irish.
The truth can be a hard thing.
Erin go Bragh! anyway and here’s my favorite Yeats’ poem, the “Song of the Happy Shepherd.”