Ireland has three official patron saints. They are Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid and Saint Colmcille yet it has always been Saint Patrick that has captured the Irish people’s imagination. Born in Wales (or possibly Scotland) when he was fourteen he was captured during a slave raiding party and taken to Ireland as a to herd and tend sheep. At the time, Ireland was a land of Druids and pagans but in his adopted country Patrick turned to God and would write later
“The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same. I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain.”
Patrick’s captivity lasted until he was twenty, when he escaped after having a dream in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. There he found some sailors who took him back to Britain and he was reunited with his family. A few years after returning home, Patrick saw a vision he described in his memoir
“I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: ‘The Voice of the Irish.’ As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea-and they cried out, as with one voice: ‘We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.”
The vision prompted his studies for the priesthood. He studied under St. Germanus and was ordained a bishop and sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. Patrick arrived in Slane, Ireland on March 25, 433. There are several legends about what happened next, with the most prominent claiming he met the chieftain of one of the druid tribes, who tried to kill him. After an intervention from God, Patrick was able to convert the chieftain and preach the Gospel throughout Ireland. There, he converted many people -eventually thousands – and he began building churches across the country. He often used shamrocks to explain the Holy Trinity and entire kingdoms were eventually converted to Christianity after hearing Patrick’s message. Patrick preached and converted all of Ireland for 40 years. He worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God in Confessions. After years of living in poverty, travelling and enduring much suffering he died March 17, 461. He died at Saul, where he had built the first Irish church and he is believed to be buried in Down Cathedral, Downpatrick.
For our annual St. Patrick’s Day post we feature a Celtic-Punk band that we love and recommend you listen to and today it is the turn of The Pikeys. Sixty odd minutes of full on Irish Celtic Rock’n’Roll recorded live on January 14, 2023 at the 10th Annual Irishpalooza at Harlow’s in the guy’s home town of Sacramento. Formed back in 2010 by Ben and Mike after listening to Ronnie Drew and Black Flag through the bottom of a whiskey bottle. They sing about going to war with the English, murder and drinking, traditional Irish songs about drinking, war with the English and murder, unexpected covers about murder, drinking and war with the English and even some acapella sing-a-longs about murder, war and drinking with the English. The Pikeys were born of Punk Rock and Irish whiskey.
Since this concert after thirteen years at the helm Mike sadly decided to leave the band. Carrying on The Pikeys without their friend didn’t seem right so the Bhoys decided the best thing to do would be to change their name and they are now known as The Pint Thieves. Don’t worry though it’s the same songs about drinking, war with the English and murder!
“No enemy speaks slightingly of Irish Music, and no friend need fear to boast of it. It is without a rival Its antique war-tunes, such as those of O’Byrne, O’Donnell, MacAlistrum and Brian Boru, stream and crash upon the ear like the warriors of a hundred glens meeting; and you are borne with them to battle, and they and you charge and struggle amid cries and battle-axes and stinging arrows.”
It seems like ages since St. Patrick’s Day and well it kind of is. It was early March 2019 when the Covid lockdowns began and that years St. Patrick’s festivities were among the first to fall. So fast forward two years and here we are again except this time with plenty to be grateful for.
So with our favourite day of the year just about to arrive in some parts of the world Irish-American writer Kevin Rooney takes us through the life of Ireland’s patron saint.
Much of St. Patrick’s life is still mysterious and it’s sometimes difficult to separate fact from legend. According to several sources, St. Patrick was born in Roman-occupied Britain; in what is now Wales around the end of the 4th century, and his birth name was Maewyn Succat. His father Calpurnius was a deacon. His mother Conchessa was said to have been a relative of St. Martin of Tours. His parents were both from influential Roman families among those who had brought the Christian faith to Britain. Despite his background, he was not religious or well educated in the Christian faith as a child. His first language also seems to have been a Celtic language rather than Latin.
At the age of 16, he was captured by pirates and brought to Ireland as a slave, during which time he learned the Irish language and became familiar with Irish customs. The Irish were pagans, worshipping spirits of nature and many Gods. He is said to have toiled as a shepherd on Slemish Mountain in Co. Antrim for 6 years. During this time, he prayed fervently and grew in Christian faith and understanding. One night, he was guided by a voice in a dream to escape; and was told a ship was waiting for him. He walked over 200 miles and boarded a ship. He escaped to France and studied for the priesthood. He was driven by a vision of the Irish people asking him to return, to teach them about the one God. He was ordained as a bishop and was sent to Ireland.
Portrait of Saint Patrick by Jim FitzPatrick
Patricius is the name he gave to himself; in Irish – Pádraig, Patrick in English. It appears to mean “noble”, but is said also to mean “father” as in patriarch. In his “Confessio” he writes of himself with great humility: “I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers. I am looked down upon by many.” He believed his abduction and time of slavery was a deserved punishment for his ignorance of God’s teaching and commandments. St. Patrick is credited with doing more than anyone to convert the Irish to Christianity. He is supposed to have built about 300 churches and baptized 120,000 people. He is said to have used the three-leaf shamrock to symbolize and explain the Holy Trinity; which is why that symbol is closely associated with him. He is also said to have adapted an ancient symbol of the sun into the Christian symbol now known as the Celtic cross. Perhaps his most famous legend has him driving all the snakes out of Ireland. Some scholars argue this is thought to represent his purge of the influence of the pagan ways and druids’ teaching, rather than taken literally.
Patrick also fasted for the 40 days of Lent atop the mountain in Co. Mayo known ever since as Croagh Patrick (Patrick’s stack). At the end of his fast, an angel appeared to tell him all his petitions for the Irish people would be granted; that they would retain their Christian faith until Judgement Day. On the last Sunday in July, called “Reek Sunday”; pilgrims climb Croagh Patrick (sometimes barefoot) and attend a church at the summit. Also in Co. Mayo is Downpatrick Head, which means “Patrick’s Fortress” where he built a church.
There are stories of pagan enemies wishing to harm him, particularly druids (priests of the ancient religion). His weapons were faith and prayer. He went with several monks to Slane in Co. Meath, near Tara. It was the seat of Laoghaire, the High King of Ireland. He intended to light a paschal fire to celebrate Easter. The druids are said to have made a prophecy to King Laoghaire that once lit, this fire would burn forever; symbolizing the permanence of the Christian faith in Ireland. They were determined to stop him. He and his followers chanted a recitation called St. Patrick’s Breastplate, which included:
“Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.”
His would-be assailants didn’t see St. Patrick and his followers, but instead saw a wild deer followed by fawns. This prayer is also known as “The Deer’s Cry”. Laoghaire decided to let Patrick continue to preach and convert, after being impressed with his courage and eloquence. He died on March 17 in 493, which is why his feast is celebrated on that date. He is buried in Downpatrick, Co. Down. His feast day has become not only a solemn religious observance in Ireland, but also a celebration of Irish heritage and culture all over the world.
Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh! – St. Patrick’s Day blessing upon you
Wake up, folks! It’s nearly time for Paddy’s Day ☘️ With THE day for Irish music just around the corner, we’re proud to feature a band whose new EP drops on March 11th, just in time for the celebrations. Grab yer favourite drink, put this one on and turn the volume up.
Today’s band goes by the name of Whiskey’s Wake. A self-described “Celtic-leaning rock band” from Salt Lake City, Utah, these six friends play a mixture of modern drinking songs, friendship anthems, and songs about…zombies 🧟🧟♀️ They’ve been inspired by the Misfits, the Dubliners and Rancid to name but a few. The boys actually made their first record a long time ago, when they were in their teens. But then life and school got in the way, and the band was on and off for many years. It wasn’t until the pandemic happened that they decided to take the band more seriously again – and we’re very glad they did 👍
On the EP, entitled Wake Up, Whiskey, we get right into the action on opening track “Whiskey Back”. This energetic song welcomes the listener with the familiar romp of Celtic rock/punk. With a week to go until March 17th, lead vocalist Adam Blair sings some very appropriate lyrics about enjoyin’ yer favourite drink. The sense of community spirit in this song is palpable too, as we continue to emerge from the pandemic and enjoy some real parties again! Let’s make some fucking noise, you say? I’ll drink to that 🥃
Music we enjoy
“We like to write music we enjoy, and think is worth listening to,” the band’s guitarist Patrick Reimherr told me. “And we do try to write songs that would make for fun live shows.” The latter statement certainly shows on track #2 “He’s Alive”. This one boasts more o’ those shout-out-loud barroom moments. The band put the song out ahead of time as a single, and I like how it moves effortlessly from chord to chord, underpinned nicely by Joel Pack’s slick basslines. The doo-wop singing towards the end made me grin as well 😁 More importantly, the song is proof of how hard the band worked on the EP as a whole, achieving a clean sound where the instruments all have space to breathe. So give “He’s Alive” a spin, ye lovable fecks:
Red Haired Mary
“You Don’t Have to Run” is another energy-laden one, with a slower and more experimental passage halfway through. The rhythm section of Andreas Petersen (accordion), Danny Houpt (banjo) and Derek Julio (drums) combines to good effect here, making for a generally enjoyable listen. The standout track in the latter half of the EP has to be the band’s dynamic take on “Red Haired Mary”, though. We start off slow, before the pace builds for the rest of the song. The band are especially stoked about this modern rock version of the Irish standard, so be sure to check it out when the record drops this week!
All in all, Wake Up, Whiskey is a welcome return to Celtic music for the Wake, as the band nickname themselves. It’s a well-produced record, with the instruments working nicely together, and there are signs of more to come. “We actually have lots of material ready to go,” Patrick confirmed. “And we hope to release another, longer album this year.” Bring it on. Some shows could also be on the cards, so keep yer eyes peeled, especially if you live in the Intermountain region (that’s Utah, Nevada and Idaho to anyone who doesn’t know).
So where can I hear the record?
You can get the EP when it drops tomorrow, on March 11th! Follow the band on Instagram or Facebook, they’ll tell you where it’s available. If money’s a wee bit short, there’s also the band’s Spotify or Apple Music profiles, where you can even hear the band’s early high-school material if ye like.
Anyone up for the history of Celtic Punk in 42 pages? We’re not kidding 🙂 We review a lot of albums, but sometimes books come our way too. This one is for die-hard fans, by a die-hard fan. Add in a dose of Judaism and Latin America, and you’ve got a unique take on Celtic punk. Check this out!
Celtic Punk Superfan is a neatly presented little chapbook (i.e. about 40 pages), and the title describes the author accurately ☘️ Though Michael started out writing about Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys for his college newspaper, the book’s preface carries a dedication to Neck – an early sign that Michael doesn’t just discuss the big names. “Every day’s St. Patrick’s Day”, the band once said. And if you’re Irish at heart, with an understanding and respect for the music, then the door’s open for you to discover more.
Celtic Punk Superfan starts by looking at the role Celtic punk has played in representing the Irish as a group of people. Shane and the Pogues get an early mention, and we’re happy to announce that a few webzines do too – including yours truly, London Celtic Punks 🙂☘️ So thanks for that, Michael!
The author explains how and why bands like Flogging Molly and the Dropkicks originated in the US, rather than in Ireland and Scotland. Their roots in the British Isles are obvious, but then so is the Irishness of Boston, for example. We’re reminded of how Celtic people throughout the world have put their voices and feelings into music. Plus, a lot of references from other literature are included here, proof that the author has definitely done his homework 👍
Foundation: The Two Heavyweights
Back in 2002, Michael was a student at Carnegie Mellon uni. He was as keen on writing Celtic punk articles as he was on writing assignments ☘️ He interviewed Bridget from Flogging Molly, and went to see the band live. The result was two articles that make up half of chapter 1. We look at Dave King’s exile from Ireland, the impact this had on Flogging Molly’s early music, and we’re treated to a quote by the man himself:
“Anyone who has a beating heart in their chest can relate to what I’m singing.”
– Dave King
We then move on to the Dropkick Murphys. Michael sees these guys as a different beast, one fuelled by working class pride and sport, e.g. the Boston Bruins (pictured below). The author was there in 2004 when the Murphys played to a sold-out Pittsburgh crowd, one that didn’t hesitate to rush the stage, if they weren’t just invited up by the band anyway.
It’s always good to read about gigs where you can feel the energy coming off the page. Chapter 1 gives us plenty of that, and it reminds me fondly of the heart and soul I poured into Folk Springs Eternal. Now we move on to chapter 2…
JewIrish: Connections as a Jew
Now we all know that a book about Celtic punk is anything but boring. But chapter 2 gives us an angle that most people wouldn’t think of. Michael is Jewish, and he talks about the holy Yom Kippur and Purim holidays. But what about Celtic punk? Michael asked himself, “is there such thing as a Jewish-Irish music connection?”
Well, klezmer punk exists, so maybe yes. Michael looks at bands who’ve tried to blend the two influences. There’s Josh Lederman y Los Diablos and the White Shabbos, to name two examples. The Shabbos only recorded one album as far as I’m aware (2004’s Shabbos Holy Shabbos), and the production quality could have been a bit better. But these bands were capable of making a noise as good as any Celtic punk band, make no mistake about that.
Somehow, Celtic music seems to attract Jewish people. And if there really is a common thread, then two words sum it up: tradition and persecution. The former is something that both Jews and Celtic punks carry with them. The latter, sadly, is something that both have been victims of. And if they survived, they were often displaced, longing for their homelands.
But Saints and Tzadiks are another good example of a band who tried it. So are Black ’47 actually, with their song “Izzy’s Irish Rose” (see below). These guys aimed to mix klezmer with Irish folk. While it’s not quite Celtic punk, it does sometimes feature singing in both Yiddish and Irish. And it’s mixing the old with the new, which is exactly what Celtic punk does! Finally, Jem Finer from the Pogues (Jewish on his dad’s side) gets a mention as the chapter rounds out.
This is a groundbreaking chapter by Michael, and one that I feel has postgraduate potential to it. Ian Prowse did a Master’s in Irish Studies, so why not? ☘️ But now for the rest of the book…
Ethnic Punk, Celtic Punk
The remaining chapters are a wee bit shorter, as we arrive at Michael’s blog. Michael ultimately draws the conclusion that he likes Celtic punk for its own sake, although there might be an aspect of his Jewish pride to it as well. He continues to discuss the different takes on the music, whether it’s Yidcore (punk first, Jewish second) or Golem (Jewish first, punk second).
Finally, we arrive in the year 2021, in the midst of that pesky COVID-19 pandemic. St. Patrick’s week is underway, bringing us livestreams across different continents, with the Dropkicks, Flogging Molly, the Real McKenzies, Flatfoot 56 and the Fighting Jamesons all checkin’ in. There was an online Latin American festival too, with South American bands using a lot of the instruments we’re used to seeing in Celtic punk. If the music has made it around the world, then so has the dress sense, clearly 😊
The last 2022 postscript brings us right up to date. Now people are starting to go to gigs again. Alas, some shows are still getting cancelled, and some people are still hesitant to go until we get further out of the woods. But the only way is up from here! Michael has the final word with a wee poem he penned for the Celtic punk fan. It contains tributes to various Celtic punk acts, including Vanilla Ice (okay I’m joking, but he does get a mention!)
All in all, it was never just about The Pogues, or Flogging Molly, or the Dropkicks. Celtic punk has reached far and wide, and the scene remains healthy with different bands and fans springing up all over the world. Michael has put his heart and soul into a book about his love of the genre, and his own personal take on it. The book is also well edited and presented; as such, we wish Michael the best of luck with it!
Get your copy of Celtic Punk Superfan by Michael Croland from the author HERE.
Ever since Shane and The Pogues knocked our ears into gear in the ’80s, hundreds of bands have followed in their footsteps. Year after year, they bring us exciting Celtic punk songs, albums and gigs to light up a somewhat shit world. But what about Celtic punk stories? Why ain’t there many of them floatin’ aboot?
Maybe there’s more than one way to entertain people. If you’re into Guinness, St. Paddy’s Day and young people embracing the Celtic spirit worldwide, then what we have here will be right up yer alley, ye ken. They say hope springs eternal…and so does folk!
Have you ever wanted to read a short story, or even a novel, about Celtic punk? As if The Pogues, Tossers and Mahones were ready to jump off the page at ya? If that sounds cool, then meet Gus, Lin, Herman and Rash. Four characters from the far-flung reaches of Nova Scotia, Canada. They’re passionate musicians, folkin’ the Irish pubs and refusing to bend to society’s wishes. Below, I give ye four reasons why you should give a shit.
1. They have the bottle of smoke
Yes, that’s a Pogues reference! The Bottle of Smoke is the band’s aptly-named local Irish pub. We kick things off with them playin’ The Smoke mid-week to an appreciative audience; Gus on guitar and vocals, Herman on mandolin, Rash workin’ the accordion, and Gus’s cousin Lin banging the bodhrán (not in a sexual way). Gus is essentially the band’s very own Shane MacGowan; a troubled ratbag who likes a drink or six, but a songwriting genius with a fistful of dreams and a big, beating heart at the centre of it all. And speakin’ of The Pogues, if there’s one band you would automatically compare these four musicians to, then the London Irish legends are it.
As well as playin’ The Bottle of Smoke as often as the pub’ll book ’em, the band are making inroads into the rest of Atlantic Canada as well. They’ve played out west a little, they’re set to play Cape Breton Island on St. Patrick’s Day, and they’re keepin’ their well attuned ears to the ground for more. The stage is quite literally set for a Celtic punk love affair.
Sounds good so far? Read on, ya big bollocks 😉
2. They have ideals
We all realised we weren’t gonna get anywhere in life unless it was through the music. Ozzy didn’t wanna do what his father did for a living, and Tony didn’t wanna do what his dad did. Neither did Bill, and neither did I.
Geezer Butler, Black Sabbath
While Kilmainen (being the band’s name) might not be working-class, backstreet kids from Aston, Birmingham, they ain’t exactly moneyheads either, to use Gus’s own word. Gus himself is a standout example of this, working just 15 hours a week in a music shop. Underpaid, no doubt, but doing something he actually cares about. Cousin Lin is similar, having snubbed the corporate world to go part-time in an artsy café. The band members take the time and energy saved, and reinvest it into the one thing that matters most to them: their music.
The plan is that writing songs together, recording albums, doing interviews, playing gigs and working with other musicians will one day become the quartet’s full-time gig, their sole source of income. That’s certainly what the Austrian-born Herman dreams of, as he spends Sunday afternoons promoting the band’s music online. The biggest dreamer, though, is once again Gus: what you’re about to read is one of the entries he pours into his diary mid-way through the story.
I don’t want to live by society’s rules. It’s boring. I don’t wanna live life with no idea what I want. Society wants you think you’re worthless, and that it’s YOUR fault if you’re unhappy. But I can see through that. I KNOW what my purpose in life is. It’s the best feeling you can get, when people say your music’s helped them. Tell me it’s just a hobby? Bollocks to that. I wanna BE someone in life, change things up.
Guthrie “Gus” Ward, Folk Springs Eternal
I once saw a great film where actress Julia Jentsch said, “I want to live young, wild and free.” Most people will tell you that’s stupid, but her co-star Daniel Brühl said, “that’s not stupid.” He was right, and so is Gus above. There’s nothing wrong with having a dream, with looking at the world and asking questions. Asking whether life can be lived differently, rather than the way it’s spoonfed to us. That’s where the hope lies, my friend. And hope – like I started out saying above – springs eternal, right?
Will folk music spring eternal in Kilmainen’s case, too? Read on, because here’s where it gets nail-biting.
3. They have to fight society
Unless you’re sheltered from the world, or just strike lucky, you won’t follow your dreams without some serious backlash along the way. Numerous examples exist: Mahatma Gandhi, Carl Brashear, Jacinda Ardern, Mark Oliver Everett, the list goes on and on. These people had to battle their way to success, and our four musical heroes are no exception to this rule. We get a glimpse of it in chapter 4, when Rash’s office colleagues disregard his ambition to become a professional musician. “There’s no money in that game,” they tell him.
If that seems quite harmless, wait a little. Lin gets on a bus five days later, and is violently attacked by three youths who don’t like women who think and dress for themselves. “Irish music ain’t cool,” they say, and apparently neither is being a lesbian. Luckily a trip to hospital is averted just in time, BUT: bring on St. Patrick’s Day, where things go from bad to worse. In less than 24 hours, the band is all but over, with their morale and reciprocal support in the gutter.
4. They have to win.
What will become of the band? Will the quartet survive their trial by fire? Or will they fail and self-destruct among the flames? Well that I won’t tell you 😉 I will only promise you that the Celtic punk author doesn’t make a habit of letting people down.
So you have two options, my friend. One: you’re invited to take a wee look around my website, where the story and other cool stuff is available for purchase. Click HERE to check it out. Or two: if you want chapter 1 for free first (plus a free song!), then click HERE instead. I swear by the holy iron which I hold, that I, James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser (okay, no), will not pass your email addresses on to any gobshite else.
I hope you enjoyed the read, my friend. Sláinte mhaith! 🥃
Shamrocks, leprechauns and gallons and gallons of Guinness must mean it’s almost St. Patrick’s Day. But who was St. Patrick and why has this Saint’s day become so popular?
Well it may surprise you to hear that St. Patrick (or Padraig to use the Irish spelling) wasn’t actually irish. He’s believed to have been born to Roman parents, in Scotland or Wales, in the 5th century AD. It is not known if his family were Celtic or from modern-day Italy. St. Patrick penned two surviving documents writing in Latin and signing his name ‘Patricius’, but it is thought by some his birth name was Maewyn Succat. At the age of 16, Patrick was kidnapped in a raid by pirates and taken to Ireland and sold into slavery. For six years, he herded sheep on Slemish, historically called Slieve Mish, a small mountain in County Antrim. It lies a few miles east of Ballymena, in the townland of Carnstroan., until he managed to escape and flee Ireland. One night he had a vision a few years after returning home. Acting on his vision, Patrick decided to dedicate his life to converting people to Christianity. Saint Germanus of Auxerre, a bishop of the Western Church, ordained him to the priesthood and he returned to Ireland and began to spread his message. Today St. Patrick is regarded as the founder of Christianity in Ireland.
On his return around about 432 he set about converting the pagan Irish to Christianity. He founded schools, churches, and monasteries throughout the country but it wasn’t all plain sailing for Patrick and his life was littered with periods of imprisonment when his teachings upset local chieftains or Celtic Druids. For twenty years he travelled the length and breadth of the island, baptising people as he went. By the time of his death on the 17th March 461 he had left behind an island of Christians. It is thought his final resting place is at the Hill of Down where his gravestone is now situated. This area has historically been a centre of prayer and worship for thousands of years. Muirchu, who wrote of St Patrick’s soon after his death, described St Patrick’s body being brought to his burial place and on the site on which a Church would be built. A memorial stone of Mourne Mountain Granite marks the spot of his burial. He is buried alongside Saint Brigid and Saint Columba.
However, it may surprise you to learn that he was never canonized as Saint by the Catholic Church. Nothing dodgy it just because of the time he lived in there was no formal canonization process. Calling him Saint Patrick caught on and stuck over time due to his popular acclaim. In 1631 the Catholic Church made the 17th March a feast honoring the Patron Saint of Ireland. Because St. Patrick’s Day falls during Lent, it became a day for Catholics to have a day off from the abstinent demands of the weeks leading up to Easter. It is believed that St. Patrick’s Day was first celebrated back in the 17th century. Held to mark St. Patrick’s death, it was a humble, religious celebration up until the 1920’s . An annual military parade started in Dublin in 1931, but the day remained mainly a time for religious reflection, rather than painting yourself green and wearing a funny hat. Bars were even closed on St. Patrick’s Day right up until the 1960’s.
Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh! – St. Patrick’s Day blessing upon you
(ban-ock-tee na fay-lah paw-rig ur-iv
Across the broad Atlantic, it was a different matter. there St. Patrick’s Day became a day for Irish immigrants and their children to celebrate their heritage. By the mid-19th century, parades and festivities were held right across the United States. According to author Mike Cronin,
“St. Patrick’s Day was a public declaration of hybrid identity – a belief in the future of Ireland as a nation free from British rule, and a strict adherence to the values and liberties that the United States offered them.”
Mike McCormack, national historian for the Ancient Order of Hibernians says
“Many who were forced to leave Ireland during the Great Hunger brought a lot of memories, but they didn’t have their country, so it was a celebration of being Irish, but there was also a bit of defiance because of the bigotry against them.”
Boston, with its massive Irish population, held the first St. Patrick’s parade in 1737, with New York City following suit 25 years later. Today, along with Chicago which is famed for turning its river green since 1962, these cities are the most famous for its celebrations. In the 20th century, corporations started to pay attention, and figure out how to take advantage of the celebrations. Pretty soon, t-shirts with shamrocks, inflatable bottles of Guinness (and them hats!), green McDonalds milk shakes, started to become synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day, initially in America but nowadays wherever St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated.
Though beware anyone who would tell you how to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and your Irish heritage. Dust off the auld Eire/GAA/Celtic top or even that bloody leprechaun outfit and be proud of your roots if you got ’em. If you ain’t got them then come join us anyway everyone is welcome at this hooley. If possible try and spend some of the day in the company of family and elder members of our community and raise a glass, whatever your poison, to the sky for those who you love who are no longer here with us. Sláinte.
The story of the legendary San Patricios battalion and their legacy as told in film, books and song from bands as diverse as The Chieftains, Black 47, David Rovics, Larkin, The Fenians, The Wakes and others.
by Michael Hogan
Next week sees the release of the debut album from Mexican Celtic-Punk band Batallón de San Patricio. Now not only does this show the truly international appeal of the scene these days but it also gives us an opportunity to look into one of the least-known stories of the Irish who came to America in the 1840’s, that of the Irish battalion that fought on the Mexican side in the America-Mexico War of 1846-1848. They came to Mexico and died, some gloriously in combat, others ignominiously on the gallows. United under a green banner, they participated in all the major battles of the war and were cited for bravery by General López de Santa Anna, the Mexican commander-in-chief and president.
At the penultimate battle of the war, these Irishmen fought until their ammunition was exhausted and even then tore down the white flag that was raised by their Mexican comrades in arms, preferring to struggle on with bayonets until finally being overwhelmed. Despite their brave resistance, however, 85 of the Irish battalion were captured and sentenced to bizarre tortures and deaths at the hands of the Americans, resulting in what is considered even today as the “largest hanging affair in North America.”
Hanging of the San Patricios as painted by Sam Chamberlain.
In the spring of 1846, the United States was poised to invade Mexico, its neighbour to the south. The ostensible reason was to collect on past-due loans and indemnities. The real reason was to provide the United States with control of the ports of San Francisco and San Diego, the trade route through the New Mexico Territory, and the rich mineral resources of the Nevada Territory – all of which at that time belonged to the Republic of Mexico. The United States had previously offered $5 million to purchase the New Mexico Territory and $25 million for California, but Mexico had refused.
Before the declaration of war by the United States, a group of Irish Catholics headed by a crack artilleryman named John Riley deserted from the American forces and joined the Mexicans. Born in Clifden, County Galway, Riley was an expert on artillery, and it was widely believed that he had served in the British army as an officer or a non-com in Canada before enlisting in the American army. Riley’s turned this new unit into a crack artillery arm of the Mexican defence. He is credited with changing the name of the group from the Legion of Foreigners and designing their distinctive flag. Within a year, the ranks of Riley’s men would be swelled by Catholic foreign residents in Mexico City, and Irish and German Catholics who deserted once the war broke out, into a battalion known as Los San Patricios, or ‘Those of Saint Patrick’.
The San Patricios fought under a green silk flag emblazoned with the Mexican coat of arms, an image of St. Patrick, and the words “Erin Go Bragh.” The battalion was made up of artillery and was observed in key positions during every major battle. Their aid was critical because the Mexicans had poor cannon with a range of 400 meters less than the Americans. In addition, Mexican cannoneers were inexperienced and poorly trained. The addition of veteran gunners to the Mexican side would result in at least two major battles being fought to a draw. Several Irishmen were awarded the Cross of Honor by the Mexican government for their bravery, and many received field promotions.
At the Battle of Churubusco, holed up in a Catholic monastery and surrounded by a superior force of American cavalry, artillery, and infantry, the San Patricios withstood three major assaults and inflicted heavy losses on the Yanks. Eventually, however, a shell struck their stored gunpowder, the ammunition park blew up, and the Irishmen, after a gallant counteroffensive with bayonets, were overwhelmed by sheer numbers. They were tried by a military court-martial and then scourged, branded, and hanged in a manner so brutal that it is still remembered in Mexico today.
(left: the Batallón de San Patricio Memorial plaque placed at the San Jacinto Plaza in the district of San Ángel, Mexico City in 1959: “In memory of the Irish soldiers of the heroic St. Patrick’s Battalion, martyrs who gave their lives to the Mexican cause in the United States’ unjust invasion of 1847”)
In September 1847, the Americans put the Irish soldiers captured at the Battle of Churubusco on trial. Forty-eight were sentenced to death by hanging. Those who had deserted before the declaration of war were sentenced to whipping at the stake, branding, and hard labour. Fuelled by Manifest Destiny, the American government dictated terms to the Mexicans in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. More than two-thirds of the Mexican Territory was taken, and out of it the United States would carve California, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, and parts of Kansas and Colorado. Among all the major wars fought by the United States, the Mexican War is the least discussed in the classroom, the least written about, and the least known by the general public. Yet, it added more to the national treasury and to the land mass of the United States than all other wars combined.
After the conflict, so much new area was opened up, so many things had been accomplished, that a mood of self-congregation and enthusiasm took root in the United States. The deserters from the war were soon forgotten as they homesteaded and laboured in the gold fields of California or, as the 1860’s approached, put on the grey uniform of the Confederacy or the blue of the Union. Prejudice against the Irish waned, as the country was provided with a “pressure valve” to release many of its new immigrants westward. The story of the San Patricios disappeared from history.
For most Mexicans, solidarity with the Irish is part of a long tradition and they remembered the help they received from the Irish and their friendship. In the words of John Riley, written in 1847 but equally true today,
“A more hospitable and friendly people than the Mexican there exists not on the face of the earth… especially to an Irishman and a Catholic.”
Riley sums up what cannot be clearly documented in any history: the basic, gut-level affinity the Irishman had then, and still has today, for Mexico and its people. The decisions of the men who joined the San Patricios were probably not well-planned or thought out. They were impulsive and emotional, like many of Ireland’s own rebellions – including the Easter Uprising of 1916. Nevertheless, the courage of the San Patricios, their loyalty to their new cause, and their unquestioned bravery forged an indelible seal of honour on their sacrifice.
In 1997, on the 150th anniversary of the executions, then Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo stated:
“Members of the St. Patrick’s Battalion were executed for following their consciences. They were martyred for adhering to the highest ideals…we honour their memory. In the name of the people of Mexico, I salute today the people of Ireland and express my eternal gratitude”.
This article first featured on the Latino Rebels web-site here. Michael Hogan is the author of 20 books, including the Irish Soldiers of Mexico, one of the major historical works on the San Patricios Battalion which encompasses six years of research in the U.S., Mexico, and Ireland. As a permanent resident of Mexico, he was the first historian to be granted complete access to Mexican archives and military records. His home page is www.drmichaelhogan.com and the Facebook page for the book and related videos, photos, maps and stories about the San Patricios can be found at www.facebook.com/IrishMex.
The little-known 1999 feature film One Man’s Hero tells the (again!) little-known story of the San Patricios. The plot centres around the story of John Riley, as played by Tom Berenger, who commands the battalion, as he bravely leads his men in battle, and struggles with authorities on both sides of the border.
Country: Spain / Mexico/ USA Language: English /Spanish Release Date: 8 October 1999
Director: Lance Hool Writer: Milton S. Gelman
Stars:Tom Berenger, Joaquim de Almeida, Daniela Romo
Despite being a decent film and an mostly enjoyable couple of hours parts of the film are pure blarney so for an accurate account of the San Patricios, read The Rogue’s March by Peter Stevens, and watch the San Patricios documentary starting here in several parts.
As we said at the beginning Celtic-Punk is no longer just confined to the Irish and Celtic diaspora it has become truly international with bands represented on every continent of the globe. In the next few days though we will be reviewing our very first band from Mexico, Batallón de San Patricio. Their debut album takes influences from both Ireland and their home country to make something truly wonderful as well as unique. I hope you revisit these pages to check them and their album out. You can subscribe to the London Celtic Punks Blog by filling in the ‘Follow Blog’ box that will be either on the left or below depending on how you are viewing us. Cheers!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day / Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!
(ban-ock-tee na fay-lah paw-rig ur-iv)
A very happy (and merry!) St. Patrick’s Day to all our readers with Irish roots or not. Well it’s not our purpose to bring you down on the most joyous of days but I have found myself increasingly irritated by something this year. With St. Patrick’s Day falling on a Tuesday our ‘friends’ in the pub industry seem to have taken it upon themselves to change the date of St. Patrick’s Day to the nearest Saturday. Complicit in this seem to be whoever does the Facebook events and publicity for literally dozens and dozens of Irish pubs and gigs across the world who ought to know better. Yeah call it a St. Patricks gig but the actual date is the 17th and only gigs on that date are St. Patrick’s Day gigs. Sorry if that means you won’t be able to maximise as much profit as you imagined but there you go. Of course this is all just another step along the road of finally removing any vestige of ‘real’ Irishness from the day and turning it into one unholy mess of alcohol abuse and consumption. Well I’d be the biggest hypocrite out there if I didn’t mention I don’t remember ever seeing a sober midnight on the 17th of March since i was at school but another thing that bugs me is the way every pub and music venue jumps upon the Irish bandwagon at this time of year. Sod these places. Spend your hard earned in real Irish places. Ones that support Irish culture and the Irish community all year round. Dust off the auld Eire/GAA/Celtic top or even your bloody leprechaun outfit and whatever you choose to do be proud of your roots if you got ’em. If you ain’t got them then come join us anyway everyone is welcome at this hooley. If possible try and spend some of the day in the company of family and elder members of our community and raise a glass, whatever your poison, to the sky for those who you love who are no longer here with us. Sláinte.
“No enemy speaks slightingly of Irish Music, and no friend need fear to boast of it. It is without a rival. Its antique war-tunes, such as those of O’Byrne, O’Donnell, MacAlistrum and Brian Boru, stream and crash upon the ear like the warriors of a hundred glens meeting; and you are borne with them to battle, and they and you charge and struggle amid cries and battle-axes and stinging arrows.”
Thomas Davis. 14 October 1814 – 16 September 1845
So have a grand St. Patrick’s Day today and sing along with The Deadlys from Arizona with a track from their forthcoming album. A celebration of the Irish all over the world. We as a nation have overcome so much hardship to stand proud like we do today. St Patricks Day is the day we sing it loud and proud! Available for download. Spotify/iTunes/Amazon and all the usual digital platforms.
When we were young ‘uns we knew St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t far off when bunches of pre-paid postcards from relatives in Ireland would appear on the doorstep and then as the day got closer a strange bulky package containing strange green leaves would arrive. Some would pinned to your coat and you’d be sent off to Catholic school which would be a sea of green for the day. The one day of the year we were allowed to be Irish in a country that if not hostile just ignored us. You see I’ve always thought of St Patrick’s Day as a day for the Irish overseas. It’s our day. A day to remember our roots and while we may have been airbrushed out of history and school curriculum’s and our contributions ignored it was a day to assert ourselves and say We Are Irish! We are still here and still fighting as the sticker goes. It was in the United States that Saint Patrick became the symbol of Irish heritage and culture that he is today. As more Irish came across the Atlantic, the Feast Day celebration slowly grew in popularity. In fact the first ever St. Patrick’s Day parade was in Boston in 1737. Celebrated around the world wherever an Irish person has ever set foot or settled it is celebrated on the anniversary of Patrick’s death, which was believed to be March 17, 461 AD.
So you won’t find anyone sneering at you condescendingly from the London Celtic Punks for whichever way you choose to celebrate. Get to mass or the pub (or like me both!). Dust off the auld Eire/GAA/Celtic top or even your leprechaun outfit and whatever you choose to do be proud of your roots if you got ’em. In amongst all the fun why not spare a moment to remember those who passed that pride onto us and are not here anymore so raise a glass to the sky for them.
As our gift to you on this grand day we are happy to offer you a **FREE DOWNLOAD** of the new Templars Of Doom track ‘Saint Patrick Saved Ireland’, written especially for St. Patrick’s Day 2018. Templars Of Doom are a Irish-American band out of New York that have not long released their debut album which you can read all about here. Thanks to Michael X. Rose, Rory Quinn, Eric Pomarico, Marty Shane and Josie Rose for sharing.
Saint Patrick saved Ireland
Ireland saved the World
He drove out the snakes, (He) drove out the Druids,
the Pagans and Satan
The Vikings captured Patrick
Christ saved Patrick
Patrick saved Ireland
Ireland saved the World
Voices of the Irish cried out
We beg you holy youth,
come home and walk once more among us
Patrick answered the call
The Druid priests mocked Patrick
And were thrown in the air and died
On Easter’s eve Patrick lit the Fire
The Druid priests did not survive
Released last week the single is available free to all London Celtic Punks for the month of March so click here and follow the link to your free download! Simply click on ‘Buy Now’ button and put in 0.00 to get it for free or leave a donation if you wish.
Today’s a good time of year to remember those we love who are no longer around. This year we want to dedicate our St. Patrick’s Day post to Joseph Patrick Michael Mullally the Grandfather of Michael of the Templars Of Doom and whose birthday it would have been today. Like many who crossed the broad Atlantic he never knew what he would find but through hard work and endeavour he made a success of his life and never forgot his roots in the auld country.
The Mullally family with Joseph in the gold shirt and tie and Michael the little boy who’s ear he’s twisting!
Born in Born in Kilross, Tipperary on March 17th, 1913. His mother had returned home from Boston to have the baby in a convent, which was standard back then. His Dad stayed working as a butler in Boston and didn’t see my Grandfather til the War ended, when he was 5 years old. He entered the United States at the age of 5 with his Aunt. Their names are on the wall at Ellis Island. He became a Doctor of Philosophy, (Thomas) via Columbia University, one of the youngest in the US. He taught at Notre Dame and then was the chairman of the Philosophy Dept. at Queens College NY, CUNY, for about 40 years. Loved and respected by all.
Here’s the new short film from singer/vocalist of Irish-American celtic-punk band the Templars Of Doom, Michael X. Rose. Thanks to Michael for sharing. Heaven knows how he keeps up the level of activity he does. I’m jealous! So sit back put your feet on the coffee table pour yourself a drink and break out the hob-knobs for a classic Hammer Horror style movie featuring ritual virgin sacrifices,visions of the Virgin Mary, a giant burning Wicker man, bloodthirsty Druids and a swashbuckling St. Patrick!
THE BLOODLUST OF THE DRUID OVERLORDS
Written, Produced, and Directed by Michael X. Rose.
Assistant Producer James Pogo Lo Rubbio | Edited by Dr. Jeff Burns | 30 Minutes
Music by the Brian Wilson Shock Treatment
Starring Mary Urban | Michael X. Rose | Suzanne Schubert | Steve Scibelli | James Pogo LoRubbio | Gala Scibelli
Ireland. 428 A.D. Bloodthirsty Druids overrun the land seeking Virginal Maidens to Sacrifice to their Dark, Insatiable gods. They emerge from dark caves carrying torches, wearing white robes and hideous animal masks. Soon Saint Patrick arrives from Britain sent by a dream. He is rowed by two fellow monks to the wooded shores of Ancient Ireland. While praying in his hut, the Virgin Mary appears to St. Patrick, telling him to “go and save my maidens.” Meanwhile the young girls are brought by land and water to the unspeakable place of sacrifice by the Druid Overlords. Victim after victim is slaughtered in bloody worship to Belinus. Half-naked nymphs drink human blood and eat the human flesh that they crave. Can St. Patrick find the Druid orgy in time? As the most pure virgin is prepared to be burnt alive in a forty-foot tall wicker man, see him battle the Druids to save the last virgin in a life or death climax in this thrilling blood-soaked tale.
You can contact Michael via the Templars Of Doom Facebook page here or his Web Site here