As someone of Irish descent, St. Patrick’s Day is a day I look forward to celebrating. However, it wasn’t until recently that I learned “The Luck of the Irish” is not good luck being wished. The Irish are historically unlucky people.
Glance through a history book and watch their misfortune repeat itself. We’re talking generations of eating potatoes–IF potatoes could still grow in the fields overworked by their farmers. There has been a war that has all but brought the Irish to extinction. Then there’s the matter of religion that has had them fighting prejudice in not only their homeland but in the United States. They have fought hard, only to have their land repeatedly taken from them. They have survived starvation, famine, and war.
While doing genealogy, I learned I am a descendant of Rolo The Viking. Initially, it brought a giddy Squee! In further research, I realized High School History subdued the real deal of the Vikings. They attacked from the sea. They pillaged. They raped. They burned everything in their path and then sailed off, returning again and again just as villages were rebuilt. Ireland is an island. Guess who came to visit?
While I take more after my mother’s side of Irish–the black Irish, my cousin and grandfather are the typical gingers–red hair and fair complected. Had they lived in the middle ages, it would have meant they were a witch or a vampire. Today, that fair complexion brings misfortune still with the sun’s rays.
Ireland has had its land taken from them numerous times. Britain has confiscated Ireland. It dates back to Henry VII when Richard III was defeated in the War of the Roses; unfortunately, the Irish supported the losing side of the war. Since then, the British saw Ireland as a threat and, for the next 100 years, engaged in a war to protect their interest. The English Army was ordered by Queen Elizabeth to “burn the land and slaughter man, woman and children.” The result was famine and the death of countless thousands of Irish.
It is believed the origin of the expression “The Luck of the Irish” may originate in the United States. During the Gold Rush, the Irish migrated in search of fortune, and many of them struck their “pot o’ gold” in California gold mining. The Irish also were fruitful in silver mining.
Still, when the Irish arrived in the United States, they were despised, treated poorly, and disliked. Many settled in the Appalachian Mountain Range, where they were left to themselves. When news traveled that an Irish man or family had any sort of success, it was sarcastically termed “luck of the Irish” as others felt the Irish were incapable of success and, therefore, it was sheer luck.
Sarcasm coined the phrase, “The Luck of the Irish.”
And now you know.