Posts Tagged ‘Sir Patrick Duffy’

The worldwide Irish AGM – St Paddy’s day

17/03/2011, 02:30:43 PM

by Kevin Meagher

I have a picture above my desk; a copy of a Punch cartoon from the 1840s. It depicts a monkey-like figure, in ragged clothes, a crumpled hat on its head, long arms thrashing around in the air. The creature smokes a small pipe, a menacing grimace for a face. Underneath, the caption reads: “The Irish hod-carrier. Lower than a Negro”.

It may not be pleasant. And, indeed, it may be a work of its time; but as the son of a bricklayer – and erstwhile hod-carrier myself – that picture is a constant reminder of who I am and where I come from. The struggles and insults that Irish people have endured for generations; depicted, as we were, as sub-human creatures of uncertain temperament.

It helps explain the indifference of a British ruling class to the Irish famine of the late 1840s, where a million people starved to death and a million more were forced to flee the country. But similar views were fashionable on the left too. Check out Friedrich Engels’ The Conditions of the Working Class in England. This otherwise estimable tome sees poor Irish immigrants to Britain blamed for the “filth and drunkenness they have brought with them”. Engels adds: “The lack of cleanliness…is the Irishman’s second nature”.

March 17 – St. Patrick’s day –  is another reminder of who I am, though a happier one.

It may have become popularised in recent years by Guinness’s tawdry marketing – those ridiculous drinking hats a throwback to depictions of the Irish in those wretched Victorian political cartoons – but St. Patrick’s day still means something more significant to the Irish wherever we are scattered. (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon