I think one could say there has never been anyone in the White House as colorful as Barack Obama. The Irish in the U.S. and abroad have since become fixated with turning Obama into O’bama as news filtered through of his Irish Ancestry.
While it is now very old news, it just seems that everyone is wondering and waiting and asking when will he go “green” and finally embrace this side of his rich history. He did proclaim the month of March as Irish American month.
Megan Smolenyak, chief family historian for Ancestry.com, was able to conclude with about 20 different records with absolute certainty that Obama had Moneygall roots. Her article which is a very interesting read is published in Ancestry Magazine.
Here’s what they conclude. President Obama’s great-great-great grandfather on his maternal side, Falmouth Kearney, emigrated from Moneygall, Ireland to New York City at the age of 19 in 1850. From there he resettled in Tipton County, Indiana.
Kearney’s father had been the village shoemaker, then a wealthy skilled trade. His great uncle was Dublin businessman Michael Kearney, was heavily involved in politics. He was a wig-maker and during those days most probably brushed shoulders with Ireland’s aristocracy.
While Moneygall has received so much publicity of late, it is one of those small villages that if you blink an eye driving through, you will most probably miss it. The town boasts one stoplight, two pubs, one school and a population of 298.
Last month, Moneygall was put on the map with a Wikipedia page. Just in case you are as curious as I was.
The Chicago Sun Times posted Obama’s family tree.
But just as interesting and colorful as Obama’s past seems to be, it is perhaps ironic that for all celebrity status, the life of St. Patrick, the patron Saint of Ireland, remains somewhat of a mystery.
St. Patrick was born in Britain (Wales) to wealthy parents about AD 385. He is believed to have died on March 17, around 460 A.D. There is no wonder why we all go green every year on this date. And here is a piece of trivia, his given name was Maewyn.
His father was a Christian deacon and by some accounts may have taken on this role for tax incentives rather than for religious reasons.
At the age of sixteen, and far from being a saint, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his family’s estate. He was transported to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity.
It was during this time that he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people and he turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian.
After spending six years in slavery, he escaped to Gaul where he studied in the monastery under St. Germain, bishop of Auxerre for a period of twelve years. It was during this training period where he aware of his calling , to convert the pagans to Christianity. While St. Palladius was appointed the first bishop of Ireland, within two years Palladius was transferred to Scotland and Patrick received the appointment as the second bishop to Ireland.
He seemed to enjoy great success at winning converts, upsetting the Celtic Druids and as a result was arrested on more than one occasion, escaping each time. He traveled throughout Ireland establishing schools and churches which aided him in converting the Irish country to Christianity.
The St. Patrick mythology includes the claim that he banished snakes from Ireland. While it’s true no snakes exist on the island today, there are reports that they never did. Surrounded by icy waters, it is much to cold to allow snakes to migrate to Britain at all.
The snake myth and using a three-leafed shamrocks to explain the Holy Trinity have most probably been spread throughout the ages.
While there seems to be a great amount of Irish folklore surrounding St. Patrick’s Day, one thing is for sure. Many of us will be going “green”.