“wearing the green” on St Patricks morn

With St
Patricks weekend coming up, my thoughts turned to that “wearing of the Green” day
of my childhood, and particularly the 9am mass at Faithlegg Church. On reflection I guess the mass stands out, as in those days before it became a “festival” it was much simpler of an affair.  We also didn’t have a car, so no parade.  It was a day off, which like so many others we spent out rambling, and if unlucky and it rained we probably had to re-sit a of Darby O Gill and the little people or Quiet Man re-run.   

My earliest
memories seem to be of coming home from school with a badge, hand made, and pin
stuck on the back with selotape and a drawing of a harp or St Patrick and
plenty of green white and gold.  I read recently that the badge went back to the Irish soldiers that fought in the trenches in World War I.  We cold look forward to a break from school, and also a break from lent.  Lent then generally meant no chocolate, or sweets, or one of my favourites; Tayto crisps.  I remember one Paddy’s day being almost sick after gorging myself on bags of Cheese & Onion.

via www.voskrese.info/spl/Xpatric-ire.html

I’ve
mentioned before how important church was in our home, and Patricks morning was
no less an occasion.  The main difference
on this morning of course was the obligatory bit of shamrock, splashed across
the left lapel of the coat, and the sticking on of it, always happened just as
we were about to go out the door, in case t’wud wilt before we got to mass.

There were
mornings of course when the shamrock had not been sourced due to scarcity.  Those were even better, as we were dispatched
across the strand and up to Nanny’s in the Russianside.  Nanny, like many of the older citizens, took
a marked pride in the display of the trinity leaf.

Whereas at
home my mother or father first
dressed their own attire and we got the scraps, Nanny’s was different.  Nanny would
have a bowl, fully laden, and as we crashed in atop of her, she’s line us up
and fuss and bother (in a way my mother didn’t have the time to with five to
divide her time) by picking a nice piece, pin it on and then splay it across
the lapel with an eye to detail.

Her own
attire on the day always had a lot of green, and could include in part, and sometimes in total blouse, cardigan, head scarf
and coat.  The coat would have a spread
of Shamrock that would have fed a sheep. 
On then we went, up to the cross roads with her, to board the bus for
the trip around the village.

A borrowed photo from www.millstreet.ie

The bus of
course was a trial.  The oul lads
blackguarding accusing your shamrock of all manner of insult, from wilting, to scrawny
to the worst of all “a bit of oul clover” At the church the unspoken competition would
be in full swing for the most impressive display, but I can never remember
anyone besting Matt “mucha” Doherty.  The
spray of shamrock would be emblazoned across the left side of his chest, like the mane
of a lion.  You could only marvel at how
he managed to keep it fresh looking.    

The
ceremony on that day always appealed to me. 
I loved the stories associated with Patrick, but most of all I loved the
singing, and in particular the singing of Hail, Glorious St Patrick.  Songs in the church were generally the preserve
of Jim “Lofty” Duffin. 
Jim would stand up in the centre
of the congregation and from his hymnbook, sing solo.  It didn’t feel right to accompany him, and
generally people didn’t.  But there were days during the church year that the congregation shook itself free and one of them was St
Patricks morn.

It’s as if
we dropped our reserve on those days, and, generally led off by Jim who was quickly joined by the women, we
all stood to make it a community event.  For me, I think the day meant a lot to us as a community in a nationalistic kind of way, a day that
celebrated something that made us proud to be Irish in a country that at the time, probably didn’t have a lot to be proud of. 
And in standing to sing, it was almost like singing the national anthem. For a few short years it was the central meaning of the day for me.  

After more than forty years, I can hear the singing yet.  Here’s the words if you want to sing along… oh and a beautiful organ accompaniment if you choose

Hail, Glorious St Patrick

Hail, glorious Saint Patrick, dear saint of
our Isle,
On us thy poor children bestow a sweet smile;
And now thou art high in the mansions above,
On Erin’s green valleys look down in thy love.
On Erin’s green valleys, on Erin’s green
valleys,
On Erin’s green valleys look down in thy love.
Hail, glorious Saint Patrick, thy words were
once strong
Against Satan’s wiles and an infidel throng;
Not less is thy might where in heaven thou art;
O, come to our aid, in our battle take part.
On Erin’s green valleys, on Erin’s green
valleys,
On Erin’s green valleys look down in thy love.
In the war against sin, in the fight for the
faith,
Dear saint, may thy children resist unto death;
May their strength be in meekness, in penance, their prayer,
Their banner the cross which they glory to bear.
On Erin’s green valleys, on Erin’s green
valleys,
On Erin’s green valleys look down in thy love.
Thy people, now exiles on many a shore,
Shall love and revere thee till time be no more;
And the fire thou hast kindled shall ever burn bright,
Its warmth undiminished, undying its light.
On Erin’s green valleys, on Erin’s green
valleys,
On Erin’s green valleys look down in thy love.
Ever bless and defend the sweet land of our
birth,
Where the shamrock still blooms as when thou wert on earth,
And our hearts shall yet burn, wherever we roam,
For God and Saint Patrick, and our native home.
On Erin’s green valleys, on Erin’s green
valleys,
On Erin’s green valleys look down in thy love.

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