Not Just a Drinking Day

Coca-Cola, Flavored Potato Chips, Boyle’s Law and Dracula… St. Patrick’s Day is a good day to celebrate the Irish’s many achievements

Kate Fry ‘12 | Staff Writer

Kate Fry '12 is a writer for The Stampede

The color green. Huge glasses of beer. Ubiquitous red-bearded leprechauns. These images are often what comes into your mind when you think about St. Patrick’s Day.

But what about the hidden story of the great accomplishments of the Irish community? There is more to celebrating the Irish than paddywhackery like wearing their color and drinking their booze. Like every group on the planet, they have made great (and unsung) achievements. So sit back and enjoy as I, a person of Irish-descent myself, take you on a short tour of some facts that will undoubtedly change your version of St. Patrick’s Day.

After the mythical days of the giant Finn MacCool and the warrior Cuchulain, and the halcyon days of our saving of the written word, after invasions by Vikings and Normans, there was seven hundred years with England. From the beginning of the occupation, the native peoples steadily lost land and rights to the invaders, with the most grievous atrocities being the slaughters of Cromwell, the Penal Laws that denied rights to Catholics, the nations’ majority, and the Great Famine where 2 million people died of disease or starvation and another 2 million fled simply because the ruling powers refused to stop taking more food that would have let everyone live.

But, in spite of repressive laws, Irishmen both at home and abroad still managed to accomplish things. Many features of your daily life exist because of an Irishman. When you have a chemistry class, you will have to learn two concepts thought up by Irishmen: the symbols and subscripts that compose the notation of elements come to us from William Higgins of county Sligo, and Boyle’s Law, pV=k, is brought to you from Robert Boyle of Waterford.

At lunch as you sit happily with your Coca-Cola and flavored potato chips, thank Irishmen for them. Joe Murphy of Dublin is the inventor of more fun, tasty chips, and Asa Griggs Candler purchased the recipe and whipped Coca-Cola into the internationally beloved product it is today.

The next time you hit the library, check out Angela’s Ashes and Dracula. The first is Limerick-raised Frank McCourt’s story of his childhood, and the second is Dubliner Bram Stoker’s classic tale of the most famous vampire in the world, Count Dracula. Yes, because of an Irishman’s creation, you enjoy the Twilight saga’s Edward Cullen.

In U.S. History, you will undoubtedly hear about the first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, a descendant of a native of Wexford. And all throughout your schooldays, you will use the shorthand invented by John Robert Gregg of Monaghan. If you have a fear of needles, then I apologize on behalf of my people. That’s right: an Irishman invented the syringe! And of course, even of you didn’t know who all of the above people were, I am sure you have heard of the renowned, beautiful cut glass known as Waterford crystal.

And although we chucked the British out of most of the country in the War of Independence (1919-1921), we are still accomplishing many things that do not involve leprechauns or beer. Until recently, we have been one of the tiger economies and helped to put an end to the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

So there you have it! A brief look at some accomplishments of the Irish people, no leprechauns, green, or booze involved. Now that’s a better way to celebrate the Irish! You could also show an Irish person in your life that you care about them. Make them some colcannon, give them a nice, non-tacky, green article of clothing, or simply kiss them, they’re Irish!

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