1999-06-19 / Columnists

Meet The Irish

by Harry McGuirk

The history of drinking in Ireland is of a curious nature. The Irish have a name which is not deserved. The availability of home brew for pennies 150 years ago may account for Brits slander, but those who ruled the Irish in those days caused many an upheaval. Ireland was a forced member of the United Kingdom - lost battles and all tha -, for instance, the battle of the Boyne.

The Catholic King of England lost to the Orange Protestants. The apprentice boys won the battle for King Billy of Orange by opening the gates. That act won the battle. The pro-Irish King of England took flight. The rest of the nationalists were left to suffer. Next month on the 12 of July, there will once more be a remembrance. Hopefully there will be no one injured: There was a "Drown your sorrows in the old ways". The Irish had plenty of sorrows to drown. There was merriment that was to be appreciated when possible, like at weddings.

150 years ago the Brits decided to investigate the drinking habit of the people of the United Kingdom. The Irish feared a tax imposition. The Brits were always worried about the Irish blowing off steam at them. They did not allow drinking on St. Patrick’s day (It was called drown the shamrock on the national saint’s day.)

A century and a half ago a priest, Father Matthew, started what was called "The Pioneers". He had an enormous response. Most of the population seemed to want to take the pledge. Father Matthew was the salvation of thousands of men and their families.

At the same time Daniel O’Connell, a Kerryman, was in Parliament. He was fighting the English courts and Parliament for Irish freedom by having laws passed for home rule. He was from Cahir Daniel County Kerry. Ireland loved him. The main street, Beautiful O’Connell Stand, O’Connell Bridge and that big, the biggest statue after Nelson, was blown up and is worth taking a picture of. Many thought that Father Matthew was the best O’Connel thing that happened since sliced bread.

In each of their own ways both were leading people the right way to win their country back. Both could raw a million people at the drop of a hat. O’Connell did it at Tara, County Meath. He also laid the corner stone at my local church in Dublin next door to the famous Guinness brewery.

Well, the English made a try at stopping the poteen stills around the country. All the police had to do was watch for smoke plumes going up to the sky and head anyone off who tried to escape. But, in recent times, bottle gas was a boost to poteen stills. (No smoke from the gas heat)

Last Christmas 1,000 people were caught driving under the influence. Many went to jail, especially in holiday time. There is no mercy for drunk rivers.

At the turn of the century Matt Talbout became a saint because his hate and revulsion of drink. When he died he died they found chains cutting into his flesh. His tomb is in the city centre. The new bridge over the Dublin river, Tae Liffey, is named after him. Do you remember Ray Milland, that famous movie about dunk. Our friend Kevin Kennedy, whose pictures, "A Pioneer", often appear in The Wave, went to picture the national meeting in Dublin. Recently Mickey Loftus G.A.A. past president, is a champion against drink. And, what about the A.A.? They are waiting to help you. If you have a problem, get yourself a life. Go see them.





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