My turn

Wearing o' the green is for music makers and dreamers

2014-03-13T00:00:00Z Wearing o' the green is for music makers and dreamersBy Gayle Faulkner Kosalko Times Columnist
March 13, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Sure and begorrah, it's almost that time where it is easy being green because it's St. Patrick's Day on Monday.

With a grandpa from County Meath and a grandma whose last name was Greely, I am definitely half Irish. Interestingly, my other half is English, the English who kept the Irish down during the 19th century, taking away their language, their rights and their land.

When Irish natives left home to come to the United States, they were certainly not welcomed with open arms. They faced discrimination as Roman Catholics in a Protestant country. Actual signs from the time read "Irish Need Not Apply," so getting a job in their new home was sometimes difficult.

Our family, with my parents, had the opportunity to visit the Emerald Isle where the countryside smells of burning peat and the sheep hang off the side of cliffs as if they were held there by Velcro.

It is truly a beautiful country with particularly warm and friendly folks. Our tour guide told us that the one advantage the Irish had over other immigrants when they arrived in the U.S. was that they spoke English.

He also said that since they were on the lowest rung of society, they had to take jobs that other people didn't want, such as firemen and policemen, both of which offered  little pay for jobs fraught with danger.

Even today everyone knows the Irish stereotypes of the kindly cop on the beat, the Irish tenor and the Irish washerwoman. But despite their tough existence, the Irish were dreamers. You see it in their dance, their poetry, their melancholy songs and the incredible number of famous Irish playwrights and novelists.

We had a wonderful opportunity to appreciate that music last weekend in Whiting at an Irish Celebration with performers Emily and Kelly Thompson. Emily, a violin performance major, later took an interest in Celtic fiddling and studied with Celtic fiddler Mark O'Connor.

She played the fiddle while her husband, Kelly, played the guitar and the Irish bodhran (frame drum). They both sang and somehow Emily managed to actually clog while playing. It was amazing and heartwarming to see so many people with their grandchildren.

And looking around, you certainly saw the 40 shades of Ireland as we all had pulled something green from our closets to wear. And wearing green or not, there were definitely some truly Irish faces in the appreciative crowd.

My father was adamant about "the wearing o' the green" on St. Patrick's Day. He loved being Irish Catholic. At school his good friend and fellow teacher, Jack Taylor, always wore a bright Protestant orange tie each St. Patrick's Day just to get my father's goat, a tradition between the two for more than 30 years.

When I think of my heritage, what I cherish most are memories of my tiny, red-haired grandma singing "Danny Boy" and referring to my grandfather Patrick endearingly as Paddy.

Ah, yes as the writer Frank McCourt said, "We (the Irish) are the music makers, the dreamers of dreams."

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

The opinions are solely those of the writer. She can be reached at

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