My maternal grandmother, and all of her siblings, was born in London, England. Her parents were Irish and, once married evidently made the decision to move across the way to England to seek a better life. So while my grandmother was English on paper her blood was 100% Irish. I suspect had the DNA testing been popular back then this would have been borne out, but we have only her word for it.
While in England she met and married my grandfather, a first-generation Canadian who was recovering from war wounds. After the Great War she moved to Montreal with her husband and never saw England again.
Her Irish ancestry played a major role in her life, particularly at St. Patrick’s Day. It is interesting to note that the celebrating of St. Paddy’s Day has long been more the purview of the Irish diaspora than those actually in Ireland. Long an ‘exporter’ of people, the number of folks who can lay claim to Irish heritage around the world is massive. Within the last several decades the Guinness marketers, never ones to miss an opportunity, have gone to great lengths to celebrate the day in Dublin.
Whether or not my great grandparents made a big deal of St. Patrick’s Day is unknown to me. Regardless, their daughter, my grandmother, was wont to go all out come March 17th. The dinner table would be festooned in green, including pots of shamrock (in truth this was a reasonable facsimile as real shamrock is essentially impossible to find in the Canadian climate). Joints of beef and lamb would be centre-stage, supported by umpteen different vegetables and gravies.
Montrealers are proud of the fact that ours is the longest continuous running parade in Canada if not the world – uninterrupted since 1824 (until this year’s COVID-19 postponement, but that’s not a cancellation yet!). Yet growing up in our family the parade was not a big deal. We all went at some point in our childhood, but the family gathering was always the focal point.
Fast-forward to the Coronavirus present day: my wife and I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with a few Quarantinis, also known as cans of Guinness while listening to Irish music on YouTube and reminiscing about our recent trip to Ireland.
I like to think my grandmother would have obeyed the directive to exercise social-distancing, but I sure would not have wanted to be the person who told her that St. Patrick’s Day dinner would have to be canceled this year!