When one hears the phrase “The Luck of the Irish”, the first thought that often comes to mind is “The Troubles”, the sectarian violence-violence justified on religious grounds by the IRA/Catholics and the Protestants and violence justified by the various governments in London and Belfast to maintain the status quo. Who would want that sort of luck? The sort of luck characterised by a version of Murphy’s Law many of us subscribe to-“Whatever will go wrong, will go wrong”.
But luck is not always a negative experience. The Macquarie Australian Dictionary defines “Luck” in a number of ways:
• That which happens, good or bad, by chance in the course of events;
• Good fortune; and
• An advantage or success considered as a result of chance.
And, I have to tell you that the Irish, those that live in the North or the South, and those that live elsewhere in the world have lots of good luck to be Irish. Let me tell you why.
The Irish countryside is beautiful with its soft green colours, its quaint villages, its misty rain and its wild rugged coastline. And, who of us do not feel a stir in our heart when we see “River Dance” or hear an Irish brogue or listen to an Irish song like “Danny Boy”? Yes, the Irish are lucky to have these as part of their environment, their culture and traditions.
My father was Irish. He told us, as children, about the four-leafed clover, the bucket of gold at the end of the rainbow and “The Little People”-the leprechauns. All were omens of good luck from Irish Folklore. So, during our childhood, dad encouraged us during spring and summer to search for a four-leafed clover in the lawn before he mowed the lawn. Then, after a storm, when we saw a rainbow, we all hoped to search until we found the end of the rainbow and a pot of gold. And, of course, we had to search for our very own leprechaun who, if we found him, would bring us luck beyond compare. But the four-leafed clover was never found; the end of the rainbow disappeared; and we never found the leprechaun’s hiding place. I’m sure each of us had a feeling of having missed an opportunity.
But what the Irish have given us with their stories of four-leafed clovers, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and the leprechauns is a sense of hope for the future; or a desire for a better future or the yearn to continue to search for a better life in a better world.
There is still more to the luck of the Irish. I’m sure you have heard of “The Guinness”. Drinkers of the world rejoice, for without the luck of the Irish you would not have this divine drink to excite your pallet. At this point, I suppose you are wondering how the luck of the Irish and “The Guinness” can be linked to the rest of the world.
The “Potato Famines” and “the Troubles” of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, bad luck as they were, encouraged many brave Irish lads and lassies to forsake their homeland and live elsewhere free from famine and the violence of civil war. We are the lucky ones because they brought to us those wonderful things that we have come to love that are Irish e. g. The Guinness, Irish music and dance, their lovely brogues, their religious traditions and the many jokes about life that are seen in an Irish context. May I share just two with you?
What is an Irish barbeque? – A line outside a barber shop.
Did you hear the story about an Irish school tug of war team?
They were disqualified for pushing.
But let me get serious for a few moments about how lucky we are to be Australians and live in a land and a culture influenced by the many of our citizens of Irish decent during our formative years as a nation. Their influence was enormous. From the 1700’s onwards they were archetypal emigrant. They left Ireland travelling in ships bird building nest in my house omen, coaches, on horseback, on foot and in trains looking around the world for a better place to live. Many came to Australia. Some had a free journey as convicts. Many of us are their descendants. They helped create much of our Aussie character. They helped create the world’s most successful democracy. It began with the first freed Irish convicts and was carried on at the Eureka Stockade and beyond.
Our Irish forebears enshrined support for the underdog, a classless society, and the concept of family in the Australian Psyche. They helped us look at ourselves not too seriously. Their efforts, along with others, helped create that special freedom that we, Aussies, enjoy in our land, a freedom which is the envy of the world.
Now, at this point, let us not forget St. Patrick’s Day with its green beer, its marches and the feeling of zest for life that is so apart of Irish tradition. We are the lucky ones who have the luck of the Irish because of what the Irish have given to us, in particular, and the world in general.