Happy (Belated) St. Patrick’s Day

Happy (Belated) St. Patrick’s Day

Having the name James Casey Heneghan I have been identified as an Irishman many a day. It is a heritage that I take pride in. My grandparents were born in Ireland and came to the “new country” when they were all in the teens or early twenties. Each couple came all the way here to meet the other, having not set eyes on each other while growing up in the Emerald Isle. All four were laborers: a plumber, a gardener, a maid and a house cleaner. For them, it was important that their children were educated. They all thought an education was the road to opportunities that they never were able to experience. They didn’t want their children to face the signs of “Irish Need Not Apply” that they often saw right next to the “Help Wanted” signs in the front of various business. 

My grandparents were hard working and each, for the most part, held the same job for their entire work life. That in itself is a feat when weighed against the financially tough times they lived in, including the Depression and World War II. From their 12 children came a large number of highly educated and financially successful individuals, who did indeed get to experience many of life’s wonderful moments that are provided through an education.

I remember in my early years growing up that every Sunday was St Patty’s Day. All the Heneghan families would go visit our paternal grandparents and have a late Sunday afternoon dinner consisting of typical Irish food. There was Irish bread, stew, corn beef and cabbage, roast beef, potatoes and more. Every Sunday dinner meal was served on my grandparents’ finest Waterford China. The chinaware was a center piece for our Sunday visits. My grandparents had scraped together their savings to buy pieces of fine Waterford china individually or, at times, a set here and there as my dad, aunts and uncles grew. Finally, years after collecting pieces, they received the remaining sets as a gift from their adult children.

I am sure a glass of Irish whiskey or two was consumed by some on these Sunday visits, but never by my grandfather. He was a tall, lanky, quiet man, whose hands were as big as mitts. He had a full head of white, not grey, hair. By that time, my grandmother was bed ridden, crippled with terrible arthritis. She was in a great deal of pain every day, but every Sunday she would meet all her grandchildren with a smile on her face and ask, in her soft spoken Irish accent, what we were doing in school or in our seasonal activities.

Shortly after I got out of law school, I traveled to Ireland for the first of my two trips I have made to Ireland. The country has many beautiful and elegant sights, such as the Cliffs of Moher or the Ring of Kerry. Everywhere you look is history. There are a number of things I loved about the old country. Many things that were memorable, some in good way and some not. I remember how truly alluring the whole country was. It is hard to imagine how something that is mainly green can be so beautiful. No matter how hard I try to explain it, I will never do it justice. I still can see the small cottages, with their thatched roof tops made of sod and sticks, sprayed along the hillsides. The ground is made up of, in some wonderful way, various shades of green, and the cottages overlook the ocean. The homes are divided by quaint stone walls that only add to the breath taking view and elegance of the image. The other thing I remember is how unappealing the food was on the trips. I can say that because I am 100% Irish, but the food was generally average at best. However, the people of Ireland are at the other end of the spectrum. The people are kind, fun loving, hardworking, religious and only too happy to help a lost tourist. The people of Ireland are splendid to say the least. They, the beauty and the history of Ireland makes it a majestic country to experience.

So as I sit here on the weekend of St Patrick’s Day, I don’t think of the hordes of people who roam the streets clamoring for green beer and corn beef. Rather, St Patty’s Day makes me think of my heritage and my grandparents who traveled from Ireland. It makes me recall the message of an education and hard work that they gave to their children, and how it has been passed to their grandchildren and great grandchildren. It is the splendor of Sundays spent at my grandparents’ home and enjoying the delicious meals of Ireland (which were somehow were fantastic despite how bad the food was in Ireland), and the history, beauty and the people of Ireland that I clamor for on St Patty’s Day.

Happy St Patty’s Day to you and yours. And from and old Irish toast, “May the roof over your head always be strong. And may you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.”


Today's blog: Attorney Jim Heneghan has deep Irish roots - he talks about his family's Irish traditions and his trips to Ireland with his family and how they will always remain in his heart - Sláinte!