Thursday, March 16, 2006

Kiss me, I'm Scotch-Irish, darnit!

From my friend Ed of the Indy Scottish Society, here's a history of St. Pat's day, in honor of tomorrow. Since I too am Scotch-Irish (well, the parts of me that aren't French), I appreciate this. :)

Ed's History of St Patrick's Day

Here's your history lesson of the day – the history of St. Patrick's Day.

I'm not Irish, but of Scottish heritage and often get asked why I take St. Patrick's Day off, and or why our Scottish organization participates in the St. Patrick's Day Parade. Well, here's why:
St. Patrick was Scottish. He was captured and enslaved by Irish pirates. Later, he escaped, became a priest and returned to convert the Irish to Christianity. After this was accomplished, an Irish student of Patrick's – St. Columba – came and converted the Picts (the majority population in Scotland at that time) to Christianity.

The American tradition of St. Patrick's Day was actually started by Scotch-Irish Americans. The holiday in Ireland was strictly a religious observence. (the pubs were closed!)
" The first formal celebration of St. Patrick's Day took place not in Ireland, but in Boston in 1737. It consisted of a dinner attended by wealthy Protestant gentlemen and merchants who had recently come over from Ulster to settle in the colonies. By 1775, the Boston celebration included a march with 70 soldiers from the British Army who were at the time occupying Boston (an interesting note is that exactly 1 year later, in 1776, the British Army was marching again — but in double time — as they were retreating from the city. So in Boston, March 17 holds two causes to celebrate — St Patrick's Day and Evacuation day.)"'

Who were the Ulster protestants? Principally, they were the Scotch-Irish, who were Scots that had settled in Northern Ireland.

Who started the parades?
"The first St. Patrick's Day parade took place not in Ireland, but in the United States. Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City on March 17, 1762. Along with their music, the parade helped the soldiers to reconnect with their Irish roots, as well as fellow Irishmen serving in the English army. Over the next thirty-five years, Irish patriotism among American immigrants flourished, prompting the rise of so-called "Irish Aid" societies, like the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick and the Hibernian Society. Each group would hold annual parades featuring bagpipes (which actually first became popular in the Scottish and British armies) and drums."

Which units of the British army employed bagpipes? The Scottish regiments.
"St. Patrick's Day was even acknowledged by General George Washington during the American Revolution . In 1780, during the Continental Army's bitter winter encampment in Morristown, New Jersey, Washington permitted his troops, many of whom were of Irish descent, a holiday on March 17. This event is now known as the St. Patrick's Day Encampment of 1780."

At that time, the "Irish" Washington referred to were the Scotch-Irish, of which Washington had this to say:
"If all else fails, I will retreat up the valley of Virginia, plant my flag on the Blue Ridge, rally around the Scotch-Irish of that region, and make my last stand for liberty amongst a people who will never submit to British tyranny whilst there is a man left to draw a trigger."
George Washington, at Valley Forge.

It was the Scots who started parades – with kilts and bagpipes – and most important of all, opened the pubs!!! So, if you're out tomorrow, tip one for Scotland and feel free to buy a Scot a drink if you see one. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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