Well, St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone. It can seem like just one more holiday that has turned into little more than an excuse to get drunk, like the fourth of July, Halloween, New Years, The Super Bowl, and even Thanksgiving and Christmas. Non-Germans have now so overrun Oktoberfest that there is a move afoot to close the borders to them, possibly enforced by Syrian rfefugees. And everyone is Irish enough on March 17th to vomit green beer into the gutter.
My ancestors are highland Scots, Welsh, English, French-Canadian, German, no Irish. My wife’s are almost exclusively Scots-Irish, but they don’t count as Irish since they were part of an invading force. They were lowland Scots recruited as part of an 800-year effort by England to tame and oppress the Catholic Irish. In the 17th century the Scots-Irish were given land to farm in Northern Ireland and part of the deal was freedom to practice their stern Calvinism in exchange for keeping the Irish in line.
Within a generation or two the English reneged on their promises. They started to raise rents on the Scots-Irish and to discriminate against their religion. In huge numbers they decamped to the United States where they wound up, a couple of more generations on, finding themselves facing new oppressions from the English. They saddled up and beat them badly at King’s Mountain, Cowpens and in other decisive battles of the Southern Front. They’ve been feisty ever since – Andrew Jackson, Stonewall Jackson, Patton.
But one of my wife’s ancestors was all Irish, not Scots-Irish. Patrick Flynn. The mysterious Celts once occupied most of Europe north of Greece and Italy, south of Poland and Scandinavia, west of the Black Sea. Over time, new tribes arrived and pushed them further and further west until they were confined to the corners of the continent – Brittany in France, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and a smidgen of Iberia.
Patrick Flynn or Flinn seems to have been born near Cork about 1700 and to have come to America at about the age of 16, landing in Baltimore. Like hundreds of thousands, he stayed awhile in Maryland until news of virtually free land to the south reached him. He set off down the Great Wagon Road through the valley of Virginia and into the Carolinas. He wound up in Caswell County on 300 acres.
My wife descends from a son of his later years, John Flynn 1757-1842. By 1780 when John was 23, the Revolution arrived on his doorstep and he enlisted in the militia. He suffered a saber cut to the head at the Battle of Camden and returned home to recuperate. By the following May he was well enough to volunteer again, possibly to even the score, and joined the 2nd regiment of the North Carolina Line. He saw action at Eutaw Springs in September 1781. At his death, sixty years later, his widow received a tiny pension for his service.
Roughly three hundred years ago, the father of this patriot set sail for America. One hundred years ago this Easter, the land of his forebears finally rose up to seek their own freedom from the unwelcome attentions of the English. Here’s to those who sought liberty, obtained it and cherish it. Now and in times to be, wherever green is worn, a terrible beauty is born. Slainte!