Make My St. Patrick’s Day: Happy St. Paddy’s Day to Ye Lads and Lasses

by Tommy Grant

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On a day when it seems virtually everyone seems to lay some claim to Irish ancestry, and others, in typical American fashion, use the day as an excuse to get insanely drunk, St. Patrick’s Day can be many different things to many different people.

Cities such as Savannah, Chicago, New York and Norfolk, Va., all have notable parades where thousands gather and celebrate. Virtually every Irish pub in every town will be packed to the gills and serving up the suds along with boiled bacon and cabbage or Irish stew.

The last time I enjoyed a huge St. Patrick’s Day celebration was in Raleigh, N.C., about five years ago. Downtown Raleigh was an excellent place to celebrate and have fun with friends. But before it was all over, in a crowded Uber ride back to my friend’s house, a woman in our crowd in the backseat, got sick and projectile vomited in the van, mainly on the dude sitting in front of her. That dude was me. My shirt interestingly—and quite disgustingly—did look covered in Irish stew. I didn’t even try to wash it when I got back to the house. It went straight in the trash.

Since then, I’ve observed the holiday in a little tamer fashion, keeping away from those who tend to overindulge.

With the holiday falling on a Sunday, and not having to necessarily work, it will be a great day to go shooting. Could be a great way to celebrate the day for you as well. Again, maybe the ranges will be a little less crowded since everyone else will be pounding Guinness and dodging darts in some pub.

It’s interesting, but St. Patrick’s Day actually has a somewhat violent history, well into today if you take the increased number of arrests and DUI’s meted out.

Here are some odd and assorted facts related to the holiday and the Irish in general to stoke your St. Paddy’s vibe:

The Tommy Gun/Irish Connection: The Thompson submachine gun, or “Tommy gun,” originated from the designs of retired US Army Lt. Col. Marcellus Thompson in 1916, aiming to create an automatic rifle based on recoil principles, diverging from the then-common gas and piston system. The development was postponed by the US’s entry into WWI, but resumed post-war with Thompson’s founding of the Auto Ordnance Corporation, amassing 285 patents for small arms.

Investment came from Thomas Fortune Ryan, a senior Clan na Gael member, recognizing the weapon’s potential for both profit and the Irish Republican Army’s (IRA) struggle. He facilitated financing through Michael Collins, with Harry Boland acting as intermediary, unbeknownst to Eamon de Valera.

The “Tommy gun” appealed to Collins due to its simplicity, concealability, and firepower, crucial for the IRA’s operations against the well-armed British forces. Priced at $225 each, an initial order for 500 guns was placed after successful tests. The Thompson saw its first combat use in an IRA attack in Dublin in June 1921.

Production was licensed to Colt Arms Company, and an IRB agent arranged for the guns’ storage in New York, with the IRA as their exclusive initial customer. A planned shipment to Ireland was foiled by a US Customs raid right before departure, resulting in the impoundment of the guns, which later ended up with the FBI.

Despite the setback, a few Thompsons did reach Ireland, contributing to the IRA’s arsenal, albeit in smaller numbers than intended, with their repeated appearance in propaganda suggesting a greater presence. (Source: History Ireland)

St. Patrick Wasn’t Even Irish: St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, whose life is largely known through his work, the Confessio, was born in Great Britain, possibly Scotland, into a wealthy, Christian Roman family. At 16, he was captured by Irish raiders and enslaved for six years in Ireland, where he found solace in religion. He escaped to Britain after a dream guided him to a ship. Later, another dream, where he received a letter called “The Voice of the Irish” from someone named Victoricus, implored him to return to Ireland. Following his calling, Patrick studied for the priesthood, was ordained a bishop, and in 433, he returned to Ireland. Over the next 40 years, he devoted himself to preaching the Gospel, converting thousands, and establishing churches across the country. Patrick passed away on March 17, 461, in Saul, the location of his first church, leaving behind a legacy of Christianity and devotion in Ireland. He led a life of poverty, teaching, traveling and tirelessly working according to History.com.

Parade Facts:

  • Depending on where you look, there seems to be some contention over whether New York City or Boston held the first St. Patrick’s Day parade. It wasn’t in either. According to Irish Central, research by historian Dr. J. Michael Francis has unveiled that St. Augustine, Florida, may have hosted the first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in 1600 and its inaugural parade in 1601, predating similar events in Boston and New York by over a century. This revelation came from a gunpowder expenditures log found in Spain’s Archivo General de Indias (AGI), detailing spring festivities and a feast day for San Patricio (St. Patrick) in St. Augustine. Francis noted that artillery was traditionally used not only for navigational assistance but also in public celebrations and religious festivals in the city. In March 1601, the residents of St. Augustine honored St. Patrick, who had become the Spanish garrison town’s official protector, particularly of its maize fields, by processing through the streets. This parade, under the direction of the colony’s Irish vicar, Ricardo Artur, marks an early and significant instance of St. Patrick’s Day observances in the New World.
  • Boston was most likely next. According to History.com: “Boston has long staked claim to the first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the American colonies. On March 17, 1737, more than two dozen Presbyterians who emigrated from the north of Ireland gathered to honor St. Patrick and form the Charitable Irish Society to assist distressed Irishmen in the city.”
  • New York’s parade, which remains the largest and longest running in the United States, didn’t pop up until 1762. “Ironically, it was a band of Redcoats who started the storied green tradition of America’slargest and longest St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1762 when Irish-born soldiers serving in the British Army marched through lower Manhattan to a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast at a local tavern. The March 17 parades by the Irish through the streets of New York City raised the ire of nativist, anti-Catholic mobs who started their own tradition of “paddy-making” on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day by erecting effigies of Irishmen wearing rags and necklaces of potatoes with whiskey bottles in their hands until the practice was banned in 1803,” History.com reports.
  • So, when was the first St. Patrick’s Day parade in Ireland? Not until 1903 in the town of Waterford.

The Famed Rigby Firearms Was Founded in Dublin: John Rigby, an eminent figure in the history of firearms, founded the high-end arms manufacturer John Rigby & Company in Dublin, Ireland, in 1775. Renowned for its craftsmanship and innovation, Rigby & Company established a legacy in the firearms industry that persists over two centuries later. Despite relocating its principal workshop, showroom, and museum to London in 1894, the company has maintained its operational prowess, holding numerous patents and introducing significant advancements such as the magnum Mauser action and the development of dangerous game cartridges like the .450 Nitro Express and .416 Rigby. Rigby-made rifles are celebrated not only for their functionality but also for their artistry, with many pieces considered collector’s items and displayed in prestigious museums worldwide. Current models still sold by the company can fetch more than $200,000, even $250,000 for a single rifle. Among the notable users of Rigby firearms was professional hunter Jim Corbett, who wielded a .275 Rigby rifle to take down the infamous “man-eating tigress of Champawat,” a Bengal tigress attributed with the deaths of an estimated 436 people before Corbett’s intervention. The enduring legacy of John Rigby & Company underscores its significant impact on the firearms industry and its connection to historic acts of marksmanship.

So, with all of that interesting, yet useless trivia tucked under ball cap, well, Erin Go Bragh.

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