The Unluck of the Irish: Who’s St. Patrick and What’s This About Potatoes?

The Unluck of the Irish: Who’s St. Patrick and What’s This About Potatoes?

Updated for 2013 St. Patrick’s Day. I still can’t tell you who he is, or what the “luck of the Irish” means. I guess I need to read my own post again.

St. Patrick's Day Mean's What Exactly 2012

Raise your hand if you can tell me who St. Patrick is.

The Real Irish American Story Not Taught in Schools (
Holt McDougal’s U.S. history textbook The Americans, devotes a flat two sentences to “The Great Potato Famine.” Prentice Hall’s America: Pathways to the Presentfails to offer a single quote from the time. The text calls the famine a “horrible disaster,” as if it were a natural calamity like an earthquake. And in an awful single paragraph, Houghton Mifflin’s The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People blames the “ravages of famine” simply on “a blight,” and the only contemporaneous quote comes, inappropriately, from a landlord, who describes the surviving tenants as “famished and ghastly skeletons.” Uniformly, social studies textbooks fail to allow the Irish to speak for themselves, to narrate their own horror.

“These timid slivers of knowledge not only deprive students of rich lessons in Irish-American history — they exemplify much of what is wrong with today’s curricular reliance on corporate-produced textbooks.

“Who or what was responsible for the famine. The British landlords, who demanded rent from the starving poor and exported other food crops? The British government, which allowed these food exports and offered scant aid to Irish peasants? The Anglican Church, which failed to denounce selfish landlords or to act on behalf of the poor? A system of distribution, which sacrificed Irish peasants to the logic of colonialism and the capitalist market?”


The unluck of the Irish — a few truths for St. Patrick’s Day (Fox News)
The phrase “Luck of the Irish,” is an irony. We are a spectacularly unlucky folk. Our skin burns in the sun, there’s a “Kick a Ginger Day,” and Julia Roberts butchers our accent. And then there’s the Homeland: we’ve been burned out, starved out, and beaten up and for centuries we didn’t own our own land. Even the lowly potato has been known to forsake us, for years at a time. Is it any wonder we like a wee drink?


Personally I have nothing to complain about. And my anglo-saxon heritage is more Scotch-Irish than pure Green. Still I often wonder about the green, pinching, and the drinking and why I know so little about my european history.

I have no idea who St. Patrick is. And I’m betting my kids haven’t heard of the potato famine.

I think I’ll remedy that.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and may you have more luck than many of our Irish forefathers.


My Heart Remembers Those Lost In Dear Old Skibbereen VIDEO (Sinead O’Connor)


I might start here, today: Paddy’s Lament, Ireland 1846-1847: Prelude to Hatred (Amazon affiliate link)

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

Note: did I just use Fox News as a reference? Oh my, yes I did. Pinch me.

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