Happy St. Patrick’s Day!…

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I teach Ireland as one of the countries in my post-colonial literature class, which often surprises my students. Today, I'm thinking good thoughts for a country that has endured so much -- repeated colonization, sectarian violence, economic turmoil, devastating disease and famine. I don't know why a Sri Lankan girl identified with Ireland so much (to the extent that as a kid I actually tried to learn Gaelic, which my students now tell me should actually be simply called Irish) -- perhaps our countries are sisters under the skin. Sisters who have been through a very hard time, and are struggling to recover.

As part of the class, we hold a ceilidh, where the students all research and present Irish poetry and song -- mostly they recite, but sometimes they sing or play music. I usually sing a few myself, and one of the ones I always do is "Kilkelly, Ireland" -- which I can't actually get through without choking up. If you have a little time today, take a listen, and pay attention to the lyrics. The Jones brothers wrote the words based on letters from their great-great-grandfather, Brian Hunt, to his son John. There are five verses -- the last one is heart-breaking. It's been covered many times; iTunes has the album "Kilkelly", with Keane, Moloney, & O'Connell doing a beautiful version.

Kilkelly, Ireland, 18 and 60, my dear and loving son John
Your good friend the schoolmaster Pat McNamara's so good
As to write these words down.
Your brothers have all gone to find work in England,
The house is so empty and sad
The crop of potatoes is sorely infected,
A third to a half of them bad.
And your sister Brigid and Patrick O'Donnell
Are going to be married in June.
Your mother says not to work on the railroad
And be sure to come on home soon...

3 thoughts on “Happy St. Patrick’s Day!…”

  1. Well, can we call them *mostly* post-colonial? There’s still some political difficulties, sadly. :-/

    I don’t know that song well enough to just sing it. I do sing “‘The Minstrel Boy”, though. Now, that’s a sad song.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *