St. Patrick’s Day: Absent ‘k’ more Irish that way … or maybe not

A comedian, I forget the man’s name, was on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” years ago around St. Patrick’s Day. He mused that people misunderstood the luck of the Irish. The luck of the Irish wasn’t the pot at the end of the rainbow stuff of leprechauns and four-leaf clovers.

“The luck of the Irish is stepping in poop and thinking, ‘Well, at least it wasn’t my good shoes,’” the comic said.

Luck of the Irish is meant ironically.

For example, my full name is Daniel Patric Finney. My Grandma Gertie, on my mother’s side, said the absent “k” on the end of my middle name made it more Irish. I’m convinced that misspelling on my birth certificate was the first thousands that would haunt me throughout my career in paragraph stacking.

I would not have argued this with Grandma Gertie. Her aura was calm, but stern. She showered me with kindness as a young boy, but she had no patience for sass.

Grandma Gertie was so proud of her Irish heritage that she claimed to be born on St. Patrick’s Day. That wasn’t true, but she repeated it often enough that it became family lore.

Another of Grandma Gertie’s lines was that she was 16 years old. She stopped counting birthdays after that.

Gert had told this age 16 story so long, even some of her children didn’t know how old she was.

I’m told when she became eligible to receive Social Security, it took her children some doing to pry her age and proper birth certificate out of  her.

Grandma Gertie is the only reason I observe St. Patrick’s Day. She was a refined woman who served toast with butter and hot tea whenever I visited with my sister or my dad. She kept a dark green sedan in her garage, which she never drove, but I could tell it was powerful and fast, even as a boy.

All the green beer, silly hats, four-leaf clovers, and associated nonsense is another excuse for people to get drunk in public. That’s fine. It’s just not for me.

Most of what we celebrate during St. Patrick’s Day is wrong.

St. Patrick was British, not Irish. Patrick — note the “k,” Gramma Gert, if your reading — was born in the age when the Roman Empire controlled Britain. At age 13, he was captured by Irish pirates and lived in slavery for a half dozen years before he escaped.

Patrick became a Catholic missionary and returned to Ireland.

The fabel says Patrick drove the snakes off the island. 

Not really. 

Ireland, like New Zealand, never had any snakes.

What they did have were druids. Patrick and other Catholics converted the nature-worshiping druids to Chrisitianity. They were met with great success. Ireland was once called the most Catholic country in the world.

Most of the other St. Patrick’s Day trappings are nonsense?

Leprechauns in green suits with buckles on their hats? They’re really a blending of Irish and other European folklore.

The shamrock, or four-leaf clover? That’s fine, except St. Patrick used the much more common three-leaf clover to teach the Holy Trinity — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

The first St. Patrick’s Day celebration was held March 17, 466. It was a holy day with alcohol, so at least we’re getting the second part of that right.

Former journalist and future teacher Daniel P. Finney writes a weekly column for the Marion County Express. Reach him at

Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
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