Irish Thoughts: The Magic is Gone

st-patrick-of-ireland_1424418476When the magic goes and the show changes it’s time to pull the show and the image connected with it.

Reading about the breakfast on Sunday at the cavernous Massachusetts Convention Center where 460 people were to attend it appeared the fun is gone. One paper published “fun facts” about the breakfast that seemed to far from my definition of “fun.” Descriptions of it after the event used the adjectives “maudlin,” “painful, and ”jokes proudly delivered and poorly received.”   

Joe Fitzgerald in the Herald started off his column: “You can certainly add the St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast to your growing list of 
attractions that are fading fast in this town.”  He went on: “the whole affair was “painful,” especially if you recall the days when Billy Bulger gave it such panache.”  

One line in a newspaper had it: order was restored at a storied, but often cringe-inducing event that briefly detoured into the lively and historic last year when Dorcena Forry, a Haitian-American woman, assumed hosting duties at a roast long dominated by Irish-American men.” To my surprise the writers seemed surprised that a Saint Patrick event had long been dominated by Irish-American men.

Another line noted Senator Markey said: “On a day in South Boston, when Linda is to host and the LGBT community can march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade . . .  hope and history are rhyming.” The writer said Markey “sought to link the two events in a paean to inclusivity.” (my emphasis)

But that’s not what it is supposed to be about. It should be a paean to St. Patrick. It should be a paean to the Irish Catholic Bishop who brought the Irish their religion. Right now it is anything but. Inclusivity is fine and if that is the purpose of the day call it Inclusivity Day but don’t pretend it has anything to do with St. Patrick when the Irish magic has flown.

The St. Patrick’s Breakfast now has little connection with the lilting laughter and fun that it once had when Billy Bulger took over and gave us hours of gladness that made it into the event that made us Irish proud. It was held in a hall where the day before they’d take the wallpaper off the walls to make enough room for the crowd that packed itself in.

It was held in the middle of Southie (South Boston – the Boston Irish Enclave) attended by a raucous Irish crowd (those that weren’t truly Irish knew what it meant to be Irish) entertained by an Irish band that played traditional Irish songs led by a skillful accordionist Jimmy Concannon who knew from his youth the right Irish song to keep the joy and laughter flowing at the highest level. Sometimes he was accompanied by renowned Irish Tenor Roger Concannon (no known relationship) who lived in Ireland and always with other musicians of substantial Irish merit from Southie. The hall would rock to the rafters with song and laughter. It was reminiscent of a true Irish celebration. Like an Irish wake there was food, drink and songs about the joy of an Irish life.

It was after all the Saint Patrick’s Breakfast. It was all about Irish magic. It was put on by people who heard the stories of the “little people,” not those referred to by the “Queen of Mean” Lena Mindy Rosenthal aka Leona Hensley, but rather the leprechauns who hid in the fields. They knew of the wail of the banshee and the evil of the strangers who invaded the land of their ancestors attempting a genocide. They were brought up on Irish truths and Irish lore.

Saint Patrick was Irish. He was also something else that may surprise many, a Catholic bishop. He converted the Celts living on a small island lying westward across the Irish Sea from Europe away from their pagan beliefs to the doctrines taught by the popes from Rome. This nation of warriors, properly describe by G. K. Chesterton as a mad race that sang happy songs of war and sad songs of love, clung dearly to the religion Saint Patrick brought despite the Penal Laws (Laws in Ireland for the Suppression of Popery).

Until Billy Bulger came along the breakfast had little to do with the Irish. It was put on sporadically over the years by the mayor and other politicians more as a dour get together on a Suffolk County holiday, Evacuation Day, than having anything to do with the good saint or anything Irish. Billy brought to it the Irish spirit and the music and the joy that kicked off the top of the morning.

That is the tradition that brought about the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations; that is the tradition behind the St. Partrick’s Day parade. It was a day to celebrate what St. Patrick was all about, Irish and Catholic, in any way one desired. It was a day for those abstaining from liquid refreshment during Lent to take a break in the ordeal. It was not meant to celebrate any other tradition or belief but that of the Irish Catholic. It was a day in 1957 when I stood and cheered for Dublin’s Lord Mayor Robert Briscoe.

You know that if you are from Southie. If you went to the parochial (Catholic) schools you were taught it. If you went to public school, like me, the name of the school told you what you were about. The grammar school I attended Michael J. Perkins was named after an Irish Catholic hero from South Boston in WWI who received our nation’s highest military award for bravery the Medal of Honor. Where else in America have they named a school after a private in the army? I also attended the John Boyle O’Reilly. He was another Irish Catholic warrior as well as a poet who was transported from Ireland to Australia for his fight to free Ireland. He settled in Boston.

When Billy Bulger left as host of the breakfast others tried to fill in; they were all stolid and lead footed. None had the sense of the Irish wit that Billy brought. As Billy would have it, to a battle of wits they come unarmed.  To make things worse, to the knowledge of what it is to be Irish they come naked.

The events in South Boston have had their Irish Catholic magic shorn from them. Those involved now pride themselves on inclusivity which is a good thing and what our nation should be about. But connecting St. Patrick’s name to things that are not Irish and is in no way connected to Irish culture is plainly wrong.

Next year we need an Inclusivity Breakfast that will celebrate Inclusivity Day. St. Patrick was not inclusive. He taught only one religion to one people. He chased non-believers along with the snakes out of Ireland. It’s time to protect this great man by disassociating his name from such tawdry events as what happened last Sunday. No Irish should apply.

24 thoughts on “Irish Thoughts: The Magic is Gone

    1. The current Irish Minister of Health and probable next leader of the Fine Gael party, Leo Varadkar, is openly homosexual and Indian. If he becomes Taoiseach, Ireland would be the first country with a professed homosexual leader (Sicily’s current President is gay, but that’s not a separate country.)

      http://leovaradkar.ie/

  1. Henry:

    Is it true that Sinn Fein is currently the most popular political party in the Republic? Do you believe their further electoral success will lead to a thirty-two county Ireland? Finally, do you think Gerry Adams is starting to look like Dev, a little more each day?

    1. Sinn Fein is popular in polls, but that may not translate to votes. It is important to realize that this Sinn Fein is NOT the same party as the Sinn Fein of the early days of Irish independence. DeValera left in 1926 and formed his own party, Fianna Fail, which still exists. The current Sinn Fein is far left Socialist and split in two at the beginning of 1970. Read all about it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinn_F%C3%A9in#Pre-1970

      Gerry Adams and Dev have little in common, excepting perhaps a lot of blood on their hands.

      A 32-county country is a irrelevancy in a federated Europe like the EC.

  2. There wasn’t any wit on the rostrum and, if there had been, most of those in the spotlight would have missed it.

    The greatest gift that Senator Forry could give to those of the Irish persuasion would be to find a way to keep the gathering of the public airways.

    It is embarrassing and brings to mind Colonel Boycott in Mayo.

    For myself, I would prefer to do three months in Dundalk Gaol than three minutes
    of torture at the Evacuation Day breakfast.

    Poor Patient St. Patrick, to have to have seen it turn into this he would have thrown in with the pookhas

    Hopalong

  3. It is no longer Just. Mistakes were clearly made by both Cathy and John. But enough! It grits on me. anyways happy Saint Pats. Peace on earth.

  4. Matt, Quite the gnomic observation. I believe that I referred to Billy Bulger as ” Peerless. ” You are of course entitled to any opinion you have of Stevie Lynch. Keep Panning, and The Senate President and I thankyou for your fulsome praise 🙂

  5. rewrite: I had to iron some kinks out.

    The church rewrote the most interesting tales of pre-Christian Ireland. It is little known that the dunns and crannogs of ancient Ireland where constructed not to defend against some alien invader , but, against the primordial urges of life itself. The small agricultural communities of early pagan Ireland existed close to the edge of starvation, excess males would be turned out of the community upon reaching puberty. These outcast teen-aged boys, dibearg, would gather into packs, and, prowl the country-side searching for food, and, femmes. When a rude fort was put to wild attack, the raging youth would first scream cries of hungering loneliness. At the palisade, armed with stick, and, stone, would stand the glowering fathers of their urgent desires. The lads would come against the wall, again,and, again, but, to no avail. Then, from behind the fathers, above the din of battle, floated a soft alluring croon, as the treasured maidens bared their breasts to the attacking youth. With a salmon’s leap, over the fathers, they came. No pile of rocks, or, wooden fence, could deny them.

    Today, who wears the culann of the wild breed, the rearward shaggy mane of roguing youth?

      1. Matt: You got me there. I’ll research that. This may call for a trip to the barn.

        Take a look at the “Madness of Sweeney.” Sweeney was cursed by St. Ronan, one of St. Pat’s big hitters. An adamant pagan, Sweeney, was condemned to go mad every time he heard the sound of singing birds. The conversion of Eire to Christianity wasn’t entirely voluntary. The process definitely included some interesting forms of persuasion.
        Monks controlled the written word. They subtly changed the content of Irish mythology in literature. For instance, Finn McCool, his son Ossian, and, the Fianna that followed them, were dibearg (described in the previous post). In the church version, Finn and the Fianna run about doing good Christian deeds, rather than, raping and looting, the length of the island. Cuchulain of the Ulster Cycle is a stand-out figure in Irish legend, because, he was an unrepentant diber, who’s legend defied all monkish attempts to re-brand him.

        Matt: Do you mean Da Derga’s Hostel (anglicized)? Dagda’s harop? I’m off to the barn.

  6. What about the pre-Pat Irish cultural traditions like head-hunting, cattle reeving, and, kidnapping ?

    The church rewrote the most interesting tales of pre-Christian Ireland. It is little known that the dunns and crannogs of ancient Ireland where constructed not to defend against some alien invader , but, against the primordial urges of life itself. The small agricultural communities of early pagan Ireland existed close to the edge of starvation, excess males would be turned out of the community upon reaching puberty. The outcast teen-aged boys, dibearg, would gather into packs, and, prowl the country-side searching for food, and, femmes. When a rude fort was put to wild attack, the raging youth would first scream a wild cry of hungering loneliness. At the palisade, armed with stick, and, stone, would stand the glowering fathers of their urgent desires. The lads would come against the wall, again,and, again, but, to no avail. Then, from behind the fathers, above the din battle, floated a soft alluring croon as the treasured maidens bared their breasts to the attacking youth. With the wild salmon’s leap, over the fathers they came. No pile of rocks, or, wooden fence, could deny them.
    Today, who wears the culann of the wild breed, the rearward shaggy mane of roguing youth?

    1. “… excess males would be turned out of the community upon reaching puberty. The outcast teen-aged boys, dibearg, would gather into packs, and, prowl the country-side searching for food, and, femmes. When a rude fort was put to wild attack, the raging youth would first scream a wild cry of hungering loneliness. ”

      Sounds more like South Central LA, Detroit, or Chicago, not any Ireland I know about.

      “Culann” was a smith in the Ulster tales.

      1. Henry:
        Culann was also the name of a hair-style. I may have the spelling wrong (What’s the ancient Irish word for a monk’s tonsure?) Like the monks, the dibearg shaved the front half of the head, and, allowed the back to grow. Wearing one’s hair in a culann, was punishable by death in both the Pale, and, those lands still ruled by Brehon Law. It was the recognized sign of an outlaw throughout the island. I liken it to a Yakusa’s tatoos, or, a scooter bum’s patch. There is a great wood-cut of a diber wearing a culann in the text, “Irish Military History.” Unfortunately, I can’t remember the author’s name.
        There’s something to what you say about today’s urban criminal gangs. Essentially, the Irish tribes were just like the gangs; they competed for territory, stole livestock from each-other, and, indulged in murderous feuds. If you don’t think the diber archetype exists in modern Ireland check out the Dundon/Keane vs McCarthy/Colloquy feud in Limerick, or, the goings-on in the low-income housing estates of Dublin.
        21st Century Irish gangs are a reflection of the medieval Irish custom of “keeping kerns in livry.” During the Middle Ages, the English bitched about Irish shot-callers keeping up their homeboys in sleds, threads, and, skiz-zats (Poyning’s Law.) The gangs of the Irish underworld toil under similar prohibitions and prejudices to this very day.
        The concept of tanistry (Brehon rules of succession) also survives into the modern era. It manifests itself in the rebirth, and, resilience, of Irish quasi-organized roguery, not only in Ireland, but, in all the lands of the diaspora. How long did it take for someone to slip into JB’s shoes?

  7. Well …. talk abouta’ Irish Wake of St. Patty’s Day dirge for great laughs and Classic Wits shared : Sure now Bulger was a peerless MC @ the old Bayside Club event. …. HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S. DAY there , gloomy Gus 🙂 ….. I ducked into Stevie Lynch’s hang bar in ’84 or so after work in the Coal Mines @ Marine Bio Products on West First St. making charcoal pills for esteemed. old Eddie Iorio … ” The Cod Father ” , and his son Jimmy, Dr. Iorio. I was coal dust seamed like Hell’s very imp and Steve Lynch asked me to shoot a game of ppol. He is a Rogue Prince this kid. He is a throwback to the times you, and not just you, remember and pine for. He had no agenda. He was just a classy friendly guy. The Son of a Bitch beat me btw 🙂 … He too has some extremely sly shots . We heard some good shots of Stevie Sunday at the breakfast . He is the Genuine Article ; A living breathing repository of Southie Lore, Gore, and …. Irish Glamor !!! …. To any battle of wits he comes well armed. He is the natural successor to the Senate President. .

  8. Matt, it’s different here in Ireland, too. This country is not the Ireland of your father. No longer Catholic in a practical sense for one thing.

    The topics this St. Patrick’s Day are the May referendum on marriage and the laws making a minimum for how much a drink will cost.

    The Thirty-Fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Marriage Equality) Bill 2015 proposes to add a new section to Article 41 of the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland. The wording of this new section is that: ‘Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law ‘Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.’

    The new laws to stop Ireland’s alcohol problem provide that a bottle of wine would cost a minimum of $10.00 and a can of beer at least $2.40.

    Smoking is already banned in most places and there are proposals to end any public smoking – not that most people can afford the $11 a pack cigarettes.

    Ethnicity is now Irish 84.5%, other white 9.8%, Asian 1.9%, black 1.4%, mixed and other 0.9%, unspecified 1.6% (2011 est.)

    The next Taoiseach will probably be Dr Leo Varadkar, openly homosexual and Indian descent.

    Sinn Fein is pro-gay marriage and Gay Pride.

    A long way from Eamon De Valera and the St Patrick’s Days of 1960 Boston.

    1. Henry:

      So much the pity. It seems to be becoming too Americanized. Except like all imitators it takes things a wee bit too far. It is no longer going to prohibit alcohol outright but rather on the sly by making it too costly for the masses to indulge in drink and smoke; is it seeking to become a nation of Pioneers. Even Putin has sympathy for the people when things are going tough as we’ve seem when he lowered the cost of vodka in Russia. The rich in Ireland will not be affected by the laws; only those who seek solace in drink and smoke. It is becoming the ultimate nanny state.
      There was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal today about how the Catholic schools in America raised up the Irish Catholics; it went on to say that perhaps it can do the same thing for the Latin immigrants. It’s a fine thought but it wasn’t so much the schools that made a difference in my opinion but it was the families that followed the teachings of the Church in raising families. Much of the woes in Ireland stem from what is perceived as the betrayal of the people by the Church with its abusive priests and nuns and Thailand-tripping clergy. The teaching of the Irish version of Catholicism is starkly different than that taught in the Latin countries, or for that matter in Italy. I read a Jewish kid’s story of growing up on Blue Hill Avenue who happened to meet two Catholic friends down at Nantucket. He was amazed that both professed to belief the same religion since their approach to life was so stark.
      What missing in Ireland is tradition; it’s what Tevye complained about in the “Fiddler on the Roof.” A country or people that loses its tradition is like a boat that loses its rudder. It is all over the place moving without any direction and floundering about until at some future time it hits upon the rocks.
      Take away tradition and the family structure and you make people strangers to each other. You see the results in the United States with our inability to find common ground on many important issues.

      1. ‘…Jewish kids from Blue Hill Avenue…’

        Yesterday I read that the 8th richest man in the world, Sheldon Adelson, used to hang around the G and G Deli back in the 50s. I don’t think I met him as I was a regular at the Essex Deli and seldom got to Blue Hill Avenue – a very different place in the 50s.

        Only in America can you go from the G and G to that kind of moolah.

        1. Henry:

          Too bad you didn’t hang around the G and G you might have met Sheldon. I had a niece who worked with him for a while. Not the nicest guy in the world as you’d expect from someone growing up in the knock-about streets at that time. Crawled, scratched, bit, and yelled his way to the top of the heap stepping on and over all obstacles. Had you met him who knows – you might be living on your own private island off Florida and missed out on the chance to settle in that little bit of heaven.

    1. Jim:

      Good thought on St Patrick’s day. Poor Cathy will end up like her paramour Jim dying in prison is the federals have their way. She’s doing 8 years but they are now going to hit her with contempt charges to add more time. As for John, the Florida appeals court should have decided his case by now since the issue is so clear. If we get to April fools day without a decision I’m going to lose my optimism.

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