Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

My paternal grandmother, Willametta Dildine, was Irish through and through.

As she was not born a male, she was not an Irish Drunk .. but then, I repeat myself.

She married Virgil Ezra Burnett, a man of German/English descent, and made of his life a living hell.

They had eight children: five boys, three girls. My father, Vernon, was the fourth of the five boys. His younger sister, also named Willametta, was a vision of her mother: she made a comparable Living Hell for her family in all directions. Yet his youngest sister, Ruby, was a vision of loveliness in all ways. She was beautiful, charming, personable, made the best Peanut Butter Cookies in the world, and married a drunk.

Well, she was Irish, don't you know?

Marriage is the only way that the Irish can conquer the English and the Scots, and I guess gramma was preordained to continue the ages-old fight. She had no regard for her grandchildren, that I can tell you. I never received a kind word from her; never sat on her lap, never was given a treat. My most powerful memory was one Thanksgiving day in her home when I found her hidden box of crackers. The dinner had taken far too long to prepare, for a small child's will to forbear. When she saw me happily munching on (very small) handfuls, she screeched for my mother to "take that young hooligan out of my pantry, and don't let him eat all of my crackers!"

And even less regard for the spouses of her children. My mother was of English/Scots descent, and so my grandmother hated her in the way in which only the Irish could hate. She never accepted my mother, attempting even to dissuade my father from marrying her.

Remember Scarlet O'Hara of "Gone With The Wind"? (See a trailer)

That's what I'm talking about.


My father, as had all of his brothers, left their home as soon as he could to make his own way in the world. He was 15 years of age when he left to take up employment in the fields of Eastern Oregon. He taught himself to be a mechanic, and for the next 55 years earned a good living for his family. He married a woman named "Wilhelmina". Pure coincidence, I think, although I dated another woman named "Wilhelmina" for a while when I was in college ... in the town where my grandparents lived. I could have done worse than to marry her, but I did not.

Yet we always spent most of our weekends in the small towns where his brothers and sisters ... sometimes where my mother's brothers and sisters ... lived. He was a devout family man, and I see it now in my children and most especially in my own son who so loves children that when there were people his own age and children in the room, he always spends most of his time with the children.

The Irish can be an unhappy people. God knows they have reason to be, they have been inflicted with famine and disfavor. When they began to immigrate to America because of the Great Potato Famine, they were poorly treated by the people who had immigrated before them.

And yet they love their God, they love their church, they love their people. The Leprechauns are a fitting symbol. Tricksters, hoarding their pots of gold and sporting their national colors, they play tricks on those who would steal their fortunes.

Clannish, yes they are. The Irish are not the only people who will lie and steal and deceive to protect their people against those who are NOT their people.

But they are so open to each other, one wonders how an Irishman could deceive anyone.

My daughter married an Irishman. He's what they call "Black Irish" ... supposedly a descendant of the Spanish survivors when the Spanish Armada was beaten by the English under Lord Howell and Sir Francis Drake. When bad weather overwhelmed the storm- and battle-damaged Spanish ships, some of the crews made it to the shores of Ireland and were eventually accepted as members of the community, thus leavening the Irish stock with Spanish blood. (Current thought is that this is all balderdash, as the Spanish sailors and soldiers were slaughtered to a man by the Irish. I prefer to accept the romantic concept that the black-haired Irish carry the blood of Spanish Conquistadors .. and the temperament!)

I also tend to think that the image of the Irish as a fun-loving, cheerful people must be reconciled with the alter image of a dark, melancholy, aggressive people who love a good fight as much as they love a glass of beer or a dram of whiskey.

Why else should the most famous proverb concerning the Irish be:
"God invented Whiskey, so that the Irish should not rule the world".

When the Aliens assault Earth, it will be Irish who lead the defense ... and the subsequent inevitable slaughter of Aliens.

And then they'll retire to the pub, to laugh and sing "O Danny Boy" (perhaps this is a more real depiction of the attitude I recall ... or not) and lift a glass for Absent Friends.

These are the Irish that I know.


This was all a lead-in to the Sondra K. article on Ronald Reagan's visit to an "Irish Pub" on St. Patrick's Day.

Sondra K moves "Knowledge is Power"

Although I've long since moved "KISP" to the "websites that I'm now kinda luke warm about" level on my sidebar, that doesn't mean that I NEVER avail myself her keen insights to the culture and her high good humor when reporting our never-ending failures.

I just don't go there every day. There's so MUCH content, I just couldn't possibly read HER stuff and crank out the occasional article about MY stuff.

If you are like me in appreciating her blogsite, then you deserve to be informed that she is moving her blog to a different URL. (This will be reflected on the link on my sidebar.)

The old URL, , will be retained purely for archival purposes.

For her current stuff, see her new URL:

I'll see you there, because Knowlege IS Power!