By William Thomas
So my good friend Crothur Murphy, he of sparkling eyes and dry wit, rings me up and he says: “Liam, me son, wodcha be joinin’ me in The Bireann fer a wee bit of pub crawlin and the taken in of the Paddy Parade in Dublin?”
I answered Crothur in his native tongue of ancient Gaelic: Ba mhaith liom dul go dti.” Loosely translated: “What was that, a trick question? Hell yes, I’ll meet you in Dublin, the day before the Snake Driver arrives!”
It was years ago, I was doing a lot of travel writing and Crothur had just started a coach tour company in Ireland, which he wanted Canadians to know about. We met early at a pub on Lower Grafton Street, well before the parade began, in order to get two seats at the bar. Although I can’t remember the name of this particular pub, the other classic watering holes in Dublin are hard to forget – Danger Doyles, Fibber MaGee’s, The Bleeding Horse, Break For The Border, The Foggy Dew, Durty Nelly’s, The Brazen Head, The Hussey In The Jacuzzi and the Prick With The Stick.
Our pub was quite close to the black iron statute of famed street vendor and suspected prostitute, Mollie Malone pushing her wagon of cockles and mussels. This monument is known to locals as “The Tart With The Cart.” (At the time, cleverly reminiscent of the British names for Prince William and his little brother Harry: “The Heir and the Spare.”)
St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin is like the black Irish stout that fuels the festivities: heady and powerful, brimming with pride, but promising a spectacular hangover. Although everybody is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, my grandparents emigrated to North America from County Cork, so I come by my Irishness honestly.
We clinked our pints of Guinness and I asked a lot of questions noting the answers in a small pad next to my camera. I couldn’t help but notice that the river in Dublin was not running green with dye like the one in Chicago.
“We just wouldn’t do that,” Crothur says explaining that the once mighty River Liffey that flows through Dublin slows in the summer and gets a little gamey.
“It needs no dye to get green,” says Crothur. “And that’s when we call her the ‘Sniffy Liffey’.”
And corned beef and cabbage? “That’s all New York City stuff which also has a parade much bigger than ours here in Ireland.”
And green beer? “Good Lord! The Irish would refuse to drink beer that’s green!” And then he caught himself: “Well wouldn’t that be a grand time to have that camera of yours, when an Irishman refuses a drink!”
So New York City has the largest St. Patrick’s Day parade? “Yes of course because America has 34 million people with claims to Irish ancestry. We’ve only four million people in all of Ireland.”
And then he caught himself again. “But we do have the shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It’s in a little town called Dripsey and the parade spans 26 yards between two pubs.”
I noticed Crothur was not wearing anything green. “Nay, but neither did Saint Patrick. All the religious depictions of him show him wearing vestments of blue, not green.”
The patron saint of the Emerald Isle was not swathed in green? “We’re not actually sure he was our patron saint,” he said. “Records show he was born in either Scotland or Wales but not here.”
Good grief. My St. Patrick’s Day Parade was turning into the March of Misconceptions!
Sitting at the bar in my green sweater and matching bowler hat, having come to Dublin to admire the green marching bands lead by the Lord Mayor in brilliant green from head to toe, ending with the wee green Patrician Primary Pipers I felt … I felt kinda blue.
Well, at least St. Patrick got rid of the snakes. “There were never any snakes in Ireland,” said Crothur. “We tink this was more of a metaphor than a fact of nature.”
So St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland really is just a massive party, like the Irish need another one of those.
“Please Crothur tell me that we’re not drinking Guinness Lite!?!”
“Nay, lad this tis the real ting – the best stout in the world. And as Crothur raised his glass to display the Guinness emblem, the publican took that as a sign and brought us two more. It wasn’t yet noon.
Somebody banged a glass on the table and the whole pub started chanting, “Erin go bragh!” which Crothur said is “Ireland Forever” but what I really think it means is that leprechauns don’t exist and shamrocks are red.
“To St. Paddy’s Day in Dublin,” I proposed.
“Ay,” said my friend looking around the pub. “We two sons of Ireland together on this day and those that are nay with us … are a Guinness.” Oh yeah, there was a half bottle of aspirin in my future.
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