Luck and Faith of the Shamrock Monday, Mar 15 2021 

Oh The Shamrock

Through Erin’s Isle,
To sport awhile,
As Love and Valor wander’d
With Wit, the sprite,
Whose quiver bright
A thousand arrows squander’d.
Where’er they pass,
A triple grass
Shoots up, with dew-drops streaming,
As softly green
As emeralds seen
Through purest crystal gleaming.
Oh the Shamrock, the green immortal Shamrock!
Chosen leaf
Of Bard and Chief,
Old Erin’s native Shamrock!

  -Thomas Moore

See a shamrock, think of Ireland. The most iconic symbol of the Emerald Isle since the 18th century, shamrocks are used in emblems of state organizations, clubs, flags, and companies such as Aer Lingus airline. It’s even a registered trademark of the Government of Ireland.

The word shamrock comes from the Gaelic Seamrog, meaning little clover. Clover is commonly referred to as any number of plants belonging to the genus Trifolium in reference to their three leaves. Most botanists agree that the white clover is the original shamrock of Irish heritage. However, white, red, and hop clovers, and the clover-like black medick, are often used as shamrocks, all of which are members of the pea family. The sprigs are believed to have been consumed by the Irish people in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The four-leaf clover is a mutation rarely found in nature, which lends itself to the universal connotation of being lucky. The plant, oxalis deppei with its four leaflets is widely sold as shamrocks, but in reality, it is not clover.

The plant’s religious connotation has ancient roots. Celtic holy men, known as Druids, believed the clover to be powerful against evil spirits, and the number three found in clover to be mystical. Surrounded in legend, Eve is said to have carried a four-leaf clover out from the Garden of Eden. Most notably is St. Patrick’s use of the shamrock to explain the teaching of the Holy Trinity—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one God.

The three leaflets of the shamrock also represent faith, hope, and love. When a fourth smaller one is present, it represents luck due to its rarity.

Today, clover is considered a nuisance when it pops up in our lawns but once was included in lawn seed mixes. Until the 1950s, clover was considered a beneficial addition to the overall look and feel of a lawn as it is inexpensive and maintenance-free. Clover is easy to mow, fills in thin spots, tolerates compacted soil better than grass, doesn’t require fertilizing as it captures nitrogen from the air, and attracts honeybees. It is also soft to walk on.

Erin go bragh! (Ireland forever)

Do You Believe in Leprechauns?

* Take a dose of self-care with my newest book, Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Moral Builders.

Erin Go Bragh Thursday, Mar 14 2013 

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Experiences are most meaningful when they move us emotionally. One such memorable event occurred on a visit to Ireland. My husband and I took a tour of the South Eastern coast of Ireland. I was particularly interested in the town of Wexford because it is believed to be where my Doyle relatives originated.

Part of that tour was a stop at the Dunbrody, a full-sized replica of a cargo vessel that was later used to ship emigrants to North America and other countries between 1845 and 1851. The JFK Trust sponsored the building of the ship in honor of thousands of people who fled their country during that time period.

Famine was widespread in Ireland in the 1840s due to rampant disease in the potato crop, the country’s greatest food source. Nearly a million Irish people died of starvation and another million fled in search of food.

They left their beloved country, family, and friends to voyage on ships such as the Dunbrody under brutal travel conditions and the uncertainty of their future in a new country. Passengers crammed into shared berths and supplied their own food for the month-long trip to New York, which of course they did not have. Fresh water was nonexistent. Most already were in fragile health, so the trip was risky. But for many, emigration offered the only option. If they remained in Ireland, chances were they would die.

Those who perished along the way were thrown overboard. Survivors arrived in their new land weak, ill, and penniless.

This bit of history on the Irish Potato Famine, or an Gorta Mór, which is Gaelic for Great Hunger, was explained to guests as we climbed on deck of the Dunbrody. We also were issued a replica ticket with the name of a passenger who actually sailed on such a ship. We were instructed to go below and find the berth with the passengers name on it.

My thoughts throughout the history lesson were of my ancestors, who took that trip. It became more realistic when I found that the ticket given to me revealed the names of four Doyles. Doyle is a common Irish name but the Dunbrody database consists of 2.5 million passengers from all ports in Ireland and Great Britain that immigrated to the United States from 1845 to 1880. No one else in our tour group received a ticket with a Doyle name.

Dunbrody Ticket

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Once downstairs, we also found a berth with a John Doyle, the same name as that of my great-grandfather.

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The Dunbrody is open seven days a week all year round. See more at:  www.dunbrody.com

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

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