St. Patrick’s Day

A little late, but here are a couple of interesting links for this most Irish of days.

From the National Post:

A man’s discovery of bones under his pub could forever change what we know about the Irish

Ten years ago, an Irish pub owner was clearing land for a driveway when his digging exposed an unusually large flat stone. The stone, in turn, obscured a dark gap underneath. He grabbed a flashlight to peer in.

“I shot the torch in and saw the gentleman, well, his skull and bones,” Bertie Currie, the pub owner, said this week.

The remains of three humans, in fact, were found behind McCuaig’s Pub in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. And though police were called, it was not, as it turned out, a crime scene.

Instead, what Currie had stumbled over was an ancient burial that, after a recent DNA analysis, challenges the traditional centuries-old account of Irish origins.

That story has inspired innumerable references linking the Irish with Celtic culture. The Nobel-winning Irish poet William Butler Yeats titled a book “Celtic Twilight.” Irish songs are deemed “Celtic” music. Some nationalists embraced the Celtic distinction. And in Boston, arguably the most Irish city in the United States, the owners of the NBA franchise dress their players in green and call them the Celtics.

Yet the bones discovered behind McCuaig’s tell a different story of Irish origins, and it does not include the Celts.

“The DNA evidence based on those bones completely upends the traditional view,” said Barry Cunliffe, an emeritus professor of archaeology at Oxford who has written books on the origins of the people of Ireland.

DNA research indicates that the three skeletons found behind McCuaig’s are the ancestors of the modern Irish and they predate the Celts and their purported arrival by a thousand years or more. The genetic roots of today’s Irish, in other words, existed in Ireland before the Celts arrived.

From Huffpost New York:

Why I Don’t Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

My name is Seamus, but I don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. That may sound incongruous for a dual citizen of the U.S. and Ireland whose grandfather founded the Irish American Cultural Institute. But on March 17 each year I actively avoid the leprechauns and the “Kiss Me I’m Irish” t-shirts and the silly green hats and the 9 a.m. Guinness guzzling. That’s not because I’m opposed to having a good time and it’s certainly not because I’m not proud of my Irish heritage. Quite the opposite: I’m worried St. Patrick’s Day has become a farce, a celebration of cartoonish symbols of Irish culture that minimize, dilute and demean what it means to be Irish. Wrapped in an excuse to drink debaucherously (itself a stereotype long used to keep Irish immigrants down), the holiday is so devoid of culture that it may as well be grouped with fake holidays like SantaCon — just switch red garb for green.

Certainly, the 34 million Americans with claims to Irish ancestry would agree that Irishness is more than green beer, shamrocks, and other images of the Stage Irish. You don’t have to decipher the impossibly dense Ulysses by James Joyce (I haven’t) to recognize that the richness of Irish culture is lacking in the drunken celebrations on St. Paddy’s Day. I’m talking about music by the Chieftains and Van Morrison and U2, I’m talking about Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, I’m talking about the teachers of the Irish language, I’m talking about the revolutionary Michael Collins, and I’m talking about Jonathan Swift and Oscar Wilde and Seamus Heaney (good name!).

When you see revelers stumbling in U.S. cities today, you have to ask, which Ireland are they celebrating?

In fact, St. Patrick’s Day as we know it is really an American invention. Here are a few facts about the history of St. Patrick’s Day that might surprise you: