Mórtas Cine. Pride in our heritage! It’s that time of year, and thought we don’t need an occasion to feel pleased to be Irish, it’s kind of nice to be the center of attention as the St. Patrick’s season rolls around. We can look forward to reruns of The Quiet Man, watch the Irish Tenors and The Celtic Women, and enjoy Visions of Ireland, which showcases scenery that is so gorgeous, it makes one wonder why one ever left. And, of course, the Parades!
Reading Maeve Binchey’s essay on what it was like when St. Patrick’s Day was a Holy Day of Obligation, I found myself singing, “There’s a dear little plant that grows in our isle, ’twas St. Patrick himself sure that set it, and the sun on his labor with pleasure did smile, and the dew from his eye often wet it.” (Dew from his eye! – is that where we get all the rain?) Maeve pretty much sums up what St. Patrick’s Day was like in the Ireland I grew up in. We sang hymns and went to mass, usually wearing a green ribbon with a gold-colored cardboard harp stuck on it. The shamrock – fresh-picked from the front lawn and usually wet (with dew!) – was reserved for the adults.
My favorite St. Patrick story, which pops unbidden into my head every year around this time, is the one of his conversion of a local chieftain. In order to get down to the task at hand, Patrick stuck his staff in the ground but actually he stuck it in the foot of the chieftain, who said nothing – never complained throughout the whole ceremony – because he thought it was part and parcel of the conversion.
St. Patrick’s Day of yesteryear, as Maeve so rightly points out, had none of the pageantry (or the buffoonery) that it is now associated with, but it was special nonetheless. And it’s a special time of year for us at Irish America. We celebrate our heritage with out Top 100 Irish-Americans. Our honorees are smart, kind, entertaining, and even hilariously funny, and writing about them (and a special thank-you to all the writers who contributed, and the readers who sent in their nominations) gave me a real boost, and renewed my faith, not just in Irish America, but in the human spirit.
Our Lifetime Achievement Award in Entertainment goes to Moya Doherty and John McColgan, the producers of The Pirate Queen, the new music and dance extravaganza based on the story of Grace O’Malley , the Irish chieftain who ruled the waves back in the 17th century and stood up to Queen Elizabeth I. She was quite a woman, our Grace, full of courage and spit and fire, and we are proud to add her (posthumously, of course) to our Top 100. Our ancestors had to have had large doses of that same fighting spirit to survive. Particularly, those who took the boat journey to America. Their spirits live on in the profiles in the following pages. Not only do we have the grandest parades here in America, we have the greatest people and our Top 100 truly give us something to be proud of. ♦