“Oh, my father he was Orange, and my mother she was Green”

17 Mar

St. Patrick’s Day is a weird day for me; for starters, it’s an American holiday more than an Irish one. I have Irish ancestors, but mostly because they married my Scotch-Irish ancestors, on the opposite side. Do I wear orange or green?

My father’s direct line ancestors–the Johnstons–were on the wrong side of the Kirk at the end of the 17th Century. They were Dissenters, good Presbyterians who didn’t like the rule of the current presbyters (that’s “elder” in Greek) who ran the church (or “kirk” in Gaelic). But at that point in history, the Kirk was the political force in Scotland, so the Dissenters had to go… and there was a place to send them. The Battle of the Boyne had defeated the main Irish resistance in Ulster (Northern Ireland). They needed good English subjects to support their colonization, and when they couldn’t find enough, they settled for “non-Irish,” so my family left Lowland Scotland for Northern Ireland.

It took a while, but even my ancestors realized after three generations, this was a bad deal. So after a hundred years of fighting/marrying the Irish, they were offered “virgin land” in Canada and my 5th great-grandfather left Ireland for Peel Township, which today is the outer burbs of Toronto. The problem is that farming in Ontario is… a break-even proposition. It was enough to have eight kids, and since my 4th great-grandfather was the 3rd son, he wasn’t going to inherit the new family farm. So he moved to Iowa, which started a journey of farmers in my family from Iowa to Missouri to Nebraska to my grandfather saying… “Hey, why do we have to farm?” So my family became very nomadic… like many Americans.

Which kinda gets to the point–we left and so did the Green. St. Patrick’s Day (was originally) celebrated by Irish-Americans who really got the short end of the stick when moving to America and decided to celebrate that which the Anglo-Saxon majority thought was inferior. (“No Irish Need Apply”) The Ancient Order of the Hebrideans was formed out of the Irish-American illegal miner unions to protect and celebrate their heritage. That was the history that my wife’s family comes from… but despite having a more direct Irish relation, they also married Scots when they came to America.

Which is a fancy way of saying, “We’re all mutts.” Americans are great at blending races–St. Paddy’s Day isn’t just about celebrating being Irish–it’s just a great excuse to party! So wear whatever you want. We’re not marching down the street to scare our neighbors. We’re marching to celebrate the fact we’re still here. And that’s worth celebrating. That’s something a good Jewish boy like myself can sympathize with: “They tried to kill us, they didn’t, let’s eat.”

But what do you think? Do you wear orange today? Do you even bother to remember wearing green? Let me know in the comments below!

And while you’re at it, try cracking open a book by a great American Jewish Libertarian writer of Scottish and Irish descent. 🙂 Or if $1.99 is too high a hurdle for you (since you’re a little drunk this evening and spent all your money), download a free story! You’ll be glad you did.

One Response to ““Oh, my father he was Orange, and my mother she was Green””

  1. Silk Cords March 17, 2021 at 11:54 pm #

    And I thought I was ethnically confused (a mutt). 🙂

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