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A scene from "Famine and Shipwreck"
A scene from "Famine and Shipwreck"

John Doyle: Television

Banshees and begorrah. Don't get me started on St. Patrick's Day Add to ...

Kiss me, I'm Irish. First, some observations for the day it is.

Oh leaping leprechauns, St. Patrick my old flower, what have you wrought? Green beer and drunken oafs wearing little green hats or glowing green headbands. Fools propping up the bar telling Irish jokes: "What do you call an Irishman who stands outside in the rain? Paddy O'Furniture!" Patio furniture. Get it? Ha, bloody ha. Don't get me started.

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Who was St. Patrick? One story, recounted in a song, is this: "Saint Patrick was a gentleman, he came from decent people/ In Dublin town he built a church and on it put a steeple/ His father was a Callahan, his mother was a Grady/ His aunt was O'Shaughnessy and his uncle was a Brady." This too is nonsense, probably dreamed up by a cabal of people named Callahan and Brady.

The most fun going on in Ireland right now involves a pub in Dublin and the Queen. See, the Queen is supposed to make her first-ever visit to the Republic of Ireland in May. Some people are a tad annoyed. (The father says to me on the phone, "Who's going to pay for that? I'm not paying for that. The bloody woman can pay for that herself!") In Fairview, a place well known to me on the north side of Dublin, the owner of a pub named The Players Lounge also has issues.

The Players Lounge owner John Stokes placed a 40-foot banner over the entrance proclaiming, next to a photo of Her Majesty, "She and her family are officially barred from this pub." This is hilarious. Speaking as someone barred from two imbibing emporiums in Dublin, I can tell you getting "barred" happens willy-nilly. A prerogative of the owner. Mind you, the police ("the Guards" in Dublin) failed to see the humour of it and told Stokes to take it down. He declined. So, as Stokes had also requested permission to stay open late today and on other occasions, the Guards hauled him into to court. The judge, a Mr. Kelly, told Stokes to remove the sign, so he agreed. But, "very reluctantly" according to news reports. Personally, I'm with Stokes, and not just because his son Anthony, plays soccer for Glasgow Celtic and is obviously a fine young man. Stokes can bar anyone he wants. The Queen can find a pint somewhere else.

Another thing that has them laughing over there is Destination Truth: Live from Ireland (tonight, OLN, 7 p.m.). Even St. Patrick is probably chortling at this. A TV crew (a small army apparently) is ensconced down in Carlow hoping to broadcast - live, no less - the wailings of a local banshee. OLN says: "Celebrate St. Patrick's Day Destination Truth style as Josh Gates takes viewers on a four-hour, LIVE adventure to the beautiful countryside of Ireland, renowned for its ancient myths and folklore. Josh will travel the amazing landscapes and brave the crumbling ruins of Duckett's Grove Castle in County Carlow in search of the truth behind the famous legend of the banshee."

Don't get me started. I know Carlow. I know Duckett's Grove. They are lovely places. I recall the mist rising off the water of the local streams in the twilight. But, banshee? The people of Carlow are notoriously cunning and distrustful of strangers. I can guarantee you there will be somebody in a field near Duckett's Grove tonight, howling like a hyena, giving the gist of a banshee's wail. And egged on by a clatter of locals struggling to stop laughing. After the shenanigans, and the visiting TV crew has what they want, the local scoundrels will be in Scraggs Alley pub for a session.

You can celebrate St. Patrick's Day any way you want. Go ahead. Devote yourself to drinking green beer and wearing little green hats and saying "Top o' the morning" to all and sundry. No Irish person says that and, indeed, it is difficult to believe that in the history of the English-speaking peoples, anyone has ever said that. But, no bother. Knock yourself out. Wander the streets emblazoned in green. Drink with gusto. The Irish call it paddywackery, and we're laughing. Don't get me started.

Begorrah - kiss me, I'm Irish. No, wait, don't. Wait till I stop laughing.

Also airing

Famine & Shipwreck, An Irish Odyssey (CBC, 9 p.m. on Doc Zone) is a deeply sobering acknowledgment of the day. It chronicles the search, by a Canadian family, for their Irish roots and the details of the journey of their ancestors to Canada. Thus, it becomes an exploration of the Irish famine of the 1840s, its unspeakable horrors and the flight of the starving ancestors across the ocean. The present-day family sails on a ship to the place where the "coffin ship" used by their ancestors sank, and gains some sense of the brutal conditions in which the Irish fled for Canada. It is a story drenched in sadness, from the reality of the famine to the ship's journey - it hit an ice reef off the coast of Newfoundland, and the captain, a young Englishman, abandoned it, leaving the passengers to either drown or freeze to death. Some survivors were rescued by another famine ship.

 

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