It was a 4-leaf clover day at 3-Porch Farm yesterday. After chores were wrapped up, everyone gathered for a glass of Guinness, a nip of Baileys and a touch of Jameson’s. We listened to reels and jigs and had a lot of laughs while sharing stories of some of my wilder Irish relatives.
St. Patrick’s day was always a thing at my house growing up. My grandparents on my Dad’s side grew up in Ireland. My grandfather was a bagpiper named Patrick, born on St. Patrick's day in a thatch roof home in rural Glencar Ireland 116 years ago. As kids, we used to watch him play pipes in the parades in San Francisco.
He and my grandmother both fled an oppressive existence under the Black and Tan. In a rather sinister move, the English government created this military branch comprised solely of convicts with the most violent criminal records. They set them lose in Ireland and let them do as they pleased to the populace. Some of the horrible things they did still echo strongly through my family and I understand why my grandparents fled to America. As is the way with life, our connections to that past are a mixture of pain and beauty.
One of the more charming stories from that time is of one clever and dangerous act of defiance by some of my grandfather’s cohorts. As you may know, the Irish culture was made illegal in Ireland. The music was illegal. To even own bagpipes was a crime since 1366 with severe punishment. Even the Irish language was made illegal in 1367.
Some fellas my grandfather knew would go up into the hills around Glencar and begin to play the pipes one at a time. The bold sounds echoing to the valleys below. The Black and Tan upon hearing the music would begin their chase and after a time, the first piper would go silent and hide. As the soldiers approached, another piper far across the valley would begin to play. The soldiers thinking they miscalculated, would change course and race after the new piper. As they approached the second location, a third piper would start from another location.
I can imagine the rush of adrenaline and the mixture of fear, pride, and humor those pipers must have felt as they played those soldiers the way they played their pipes. A small cheeky victory with a huge associated risk, but it’s an apt metaphor for the Irish spirit. 800 years of terrible oppression and the people somehow remain full of song, goodwill and laughter.
Having some refugees on staff brings it home further. People don’t often leave their beloved home, their family, their culture, and their way of life unless they are forced out by terrible and inhuman conditions. Empathy is a muscle we could all stand to flex more. We find great joy in knowing that this farm provides a degree of comfort and security to a couple of wonderful women who have fled even greater atrocities than my own family did when they came to America.
So yesterday, as we raised a glass in honor of our Irish ancestors, we were also raising a glass to everyone who has ever been forced from their homelands. We raised a glass to the prospects that some of them would hopefully find a soft landing in a place where they could safely rebuild their lives and that of their children with a degree of peace, respect, and hopefully laughter and song.
So to all of you who have suffered at the hands of the powerful, or have taken the opportunity to assist those who have, we raise a glass to you and wish that the road always rise up to meet you and the wind be always at your back.
Happy (belated) St. Patrick’s Day!