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The Fighting Irish

Image courtesy of Crossroads of War

Image courtesy of Crossroads of War

While the American Civil War was raging, a small Catholic college in Indiana cheered on their team known as the Catholics. It was not until 1927 that the University of Notre Dame became the Fighting Irish, and it had a lot to do with the Irishmen (some of whom left Notre Dame to enlist) who participated in the Civil War.

The phrase itself comes from a reference to the all-Irish New York militia company formed at the beginning of the Civil War. A poem by famous Irish-American Joyce Kilmer entitled When the 69th Comes Back includes the first description of a military regiment, and a people, that embodied a particular notion of the Irish-Americans and their intent will to fight for justice. Ironically,  Kilmer was killed years later in battle during World War I while serving with the Fighting 69th.

The Fighting 69th was celebrated in a 1940 movie starring James Cagney and still exists today as part of the New York Army National Guard.

Since the American Revolutionary War, scores of Irish-Americans have fought valiantly on behalf of the United States. In fact, the number of Irish-Americans on the list of Medal of Honor recipients is well over 200 – almost 8% of the total.

Many of these soldiers, airmen and Marines have enlisted over the years out of a desire to serve their adopted country. Others sought employment during times of intense anti-Irish sentiment when jobs were very difficult to obtain but the military offered open arms and a paycheck. Still others were spurred on by the notion that fighting on the side of justice is the best way to honor their heritage as Irishmen.

One of the most poignant examples of the interweaving of both Irish and American pride is the story told about Thomas Francis Meagher, the commander of the 69th’s Company K in the Civil War. During the Battle of Bull Run, the New York Militia’s battle flag had been captured by Confederate soldiers. The flag was recovered and entrusted to Company K. In order to inspire his soldiers in the face of a near-defeat, Major Meagher pointed his sword at the flag and cried out, “Boys, look at that flag – think of Ireland and Fontenoy.”

Memorial Day provides Irish-Americans the perfect opportunity to remember and honor their home country, the country of their heritage, and the brave military who have protected both.

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Eat, Drink and Be an Outlander Fan

All the romance, none of the laundry.

All the romance, none of the laundry.

Oh, Outlander, how we love thee. The drama, the scenery, the lush costumes, the delicious details…whether reading the novels or watching the program, as an Outlander fan we eat it all up as a feast for our senses. We simply cannot get enough.

If you count yourself as one of those with an insatiable appetite for Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, you must join The Celtic Ranch for an Outlander-inspired Scotch Whisky tasting on Saturday, May 16. Master Scotsman Joel Stewart joins us for an unforgettable afternoon of unforgettable libations and treats inspired by the literary phenomenon.

Attendees may visit to your heart’s content with others who have memorized lines, debated alternate endings, watched and re-watched every episode, and still cannot stop talking about Claire and Jamie. If you are less familiar with the epic story, grab a glass and sit back to enjoy the tale unfold around you. No doubt you will be a devotee by the time you leave.

Consider Gabaldon’s own appreciation for good Scotch Whisky:

She stretched out her hand toward the table by her chair, not bothering to look.  She didn’t need to; the butler set down a crystal tumbler softly, just where her fingers would touch it.  Her hand closed around it, and she lifted it, passing it under her nose and sniffing, eyes closed in sensual delight.

“There’s a good bit left of it yet.  A great deal more than I can guzzle by myself, I’ll tell ye!”  She opened her eyes and smiled, lifting the tumbler toward us.  “To you, nephew, and your dear wife – may ye find this house home!  Slàinte!

Slàinte mharl” Jamie answered, and we all drank.

It was good whisky; smooth as buttered silk and heartening as sunshine.  I could feel it hit the pit of my stomach, take root, and spread up my backbone.

Drums of Autumn (Chapter 10 – Jocasta)

Later grab your own bottle of Scotch and, while you are sipping, create the kind of morsel every true fan deserves: Double Chocolate Icebox Shortbread with Smoky Whisky Sugar or Chicken in the Heather with Cauliflower, Whisky and Cheese. Then toast Scotland, Gabaldon, and the beautiful escape that a well-told story provides.

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A Celtic Mother’s Day

Great gifts for Mom, the roots of the family.

Great gifts for Mom, the roots of the family.

Happy Mother’s Day to all those women who balance the world on their shoulders each and every day. Who says you can’t have it all? The ancient Celts certainly believed that motherhood was in no way inconsistent with power and ability and fearsomeness.

Author Marc Globe relates, “It is rumored that Caesar warned his soldiers that, while facing a Celtic warrior in battle was fearsome, what they should truly be terrified of was the prospect of facing their wives, who fought alongside their husbands on the battlefield.”

In fact the Celts are believed to have practiced a matriarchal model of society wherein family wealth and titles were passed along the maternal lines instead of the preference for paternal lineage that came later. There are almost no written accounts of Celtic life in the earliest days, but the evidence we do have points to an equality between the sexes that was very unique at that time in history.

Writer Michael Dunlap relates an anecdote that sheds more light on the powerful Celtic women and how they viewed their world:

 “Among the ancient Celts women rulers and warriors were so common that when a group of Brigantine captives was brought to Rome in the reign of Claudius they automatically assumed his wife, Agrippina the Younger, was the ruler and ignored the Emperor while making their obeisance to her.”

Years pass and cultures change, but Ireland’s women are still known to be tough and fearless. Mary McAleese was president of Ireland from 1997 until 2011. She tells a story from her childhood that illustrates beautifully the power of a strong mother:

 “The first to say, ‘You can’t because you are a woman; no one belonging to you is in the law,’ was the parish priest who weekly shared a whiskey with my father. It was said with a dismissive authority intended to silence debate. My mother had inculcated into us a respect for the priesthood bordering on awe so I watched in amazement as the chair was pulled out from under the cleric and he was propelled to the front door. ‘You–out!’ she roared at him. ‘And, you,’ she said to me, ‘ignore him!’”

James Joyce perhaps summed up what is best about mothers everywhere when he wrote,“Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world, a mother’s love is not.”


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