April 25, 2019

The Editor speaks; St Patrick’s Day passed me by

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Colin Wilson

Being English, St Patrick’s Day, isn’t a huge celebration for me, but then neither is St. George’s Day.

As this year it fell on a Sunday, there didn’t seem to be the usual Paddy Day Madness I usually associate it with. Strange, since Patrick was a saint, even though he wasn’t Irish. He is supposed to have got rid of all the snakes in Ireland and brought Christianity to it.

At the church service I was at yesterday (Sunday) the day was only mentioned because the Elder who took the service was Irish. Saint Patrick’s name never came up in the sermon, nor did it claim to have anything to do with snakes.

One of our stories published today is titled “Celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day in Montserrat – Caribbean style!” St. Patrick is celebrated world wide, however.

In Montserrat, St Patrick’s Day is a national holiday.

Why, for heaven’s sake, since commentator Michael Jarvis tells us, “On March 17, 1768, while Irish plantation overseers, along with English and Scottish landowners, would have been feasting and celebrating the Irish St Patrick’s Day, enslaved Africans in Montserrat were taking up positions to rise up in arms against them.”

In fact, it isn’t just one day of Irish festivities there, it is actually two weeks.

Jarvis writes:

“Montserrat’s government, tourism planners, and the festival’s organisers have sought to capitalise on the novelty of Montserrat being the only place outside Ireland that marks the Irish St Patrick’s day as a holiday.

“That focus on ‘Irishness’ is a source of bemusement to many who question the appropriateness of this, especially as it clashes with the anniversary of a slave rebellion.”

It now seems the plotters of the slave rebellion were actually betrayed by a woman – an IRISH lady.

Oh dear.

“Nine enslaved Africans deemed to be the ringleaders were brutally executed; their heads placed on poles as a gruesome warning and deterrent to others.

“It’s this ultimate sacrifice, martyrdom and the daring quest for freedom that a growing number of Montserratians – including this writer – are demanding to be given precedence over notions of an Irish connection.”

Jarvis does acknowledge the Montserrat’s very visible Irish past.

“It’s undeniable that the long Irish presence – from 1632 until they had gradually left the island following the abolition of slavery into the start of the 20th century – has made an impact.

“That legacy has endured in the names of most places and with the majority black population on the island; the descendants of the enslaved Africans who were given, or otherwise had adopted, the names of their Irish, English and Scottish captors.

“This is not unique to Montserrat. Similar patterns are visible across the Caribbean.

The enslaved Africans were forced to conform to European slave-owners’ religious and social norms, while much of their original African practices and culture were almost obliterated.”

You can read the whole of Michael Jarvis’ commentary on the Caribbean News Now website at: https://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/2019/03/18/commentary-montserrats-st-patricks-day-irish-connection-or-african-disconnection/

After reading it I can now nod and breathe a sigh of relief St Patrick passed me by this year. I always did complain that on his day my beer’s colour was handed me green!

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