Understanding our Irish past

Welcome to O’Kiwi. This site is for you if

• your granny comes from County Cork
• potatoes taste better than pasta
• you enjoy a pint on Paddy’s Day
• there’s a leprechaun at the bottom of your garden, and
• your toe taps to a fiddle.

Your granny doesn’t really have to be from County Cork. It’s just that everyone who claims Irish heritage seems to say that. And a lot of Kiwis claim Irish ancestry – around 20 percent.

Although five of my great-grandparents were Irish, I never grew up thinking about leprechauns and shamrocks. But in New Zealand the signs of an Irish past are everywhere – in Irish societies, Marist clubs, Irish pubs, schools, church parishes, our names. I hope to draw on these by gathering stories, interviewing people, dipping into research about our Irish history, and drawing on family genealogies already assembled.

Many others have a similar interest. I’ve listed opposite some links to excellent sites with Irish content, including genealogy connections and news and events.

But as a third-generation Kiwi I think there’s a gap. I want to understand what an Irish heritage brings to New Zealand today. And I want to have a bit of fun finding out. I’ll be posting thoughts on such themes as the ancestral trail, the Celtic drinking gene, and why we tap our toes to Irish music.

This project has been on my mind for some time. Maybe since I was six, and came second in the banana-eating contest for boys named ‘Patrick’ at Our Lady of the Rosary parish hall in Waiwhetu, Lower Hutt. It was Sunday evening, St Paddy’s Day and the hall was packed.

The MC, John Maybury, a 1960s’ radio and quiz show host, called all Patricks up onto the stage. Twenty convent boys in black short pants lined up. The challenge was to eat a banana then whistle a song. I scoffed my banana in a flash and should have won, but I daren’t whistle first. Earlier that day, Mum had told me off for eating too fast. So I waited a split second for another kid, Chris Hamilton (who had been given a dispensation to enter because his second name was Patrick), to whistle first, then I followed. I won a bag of bananas for my efforts.

Have a think about what you’d like to see here. Please pass this on to any friends and family who might be interested. Even better, if you have a story about your heritage, a joke, or a photo, a link, some news, send it in. Just hit the ‘Leave a comment’ button at the bottom of this post.

Look forward to hearing from you.

Pat Martin


14 Responses to Understanding our Irish past

  1. Jack Doherty says:

    It looks great Pat…it now needs a life of its own. Well done …bring it on

  2. Grant Cairncross says:

    Nice one McGroin! Like it – looking forward to the RWC missives! 😉

  3. Paul Chalmers says:

    Hi Pat

    Great site.

    I have sent this on to Chris Hamilton – his wonderful mum (a McGuinness) would never have criticised his eating – he is now whistling in the mines in oz – let me know if he gets back.

    Have you seen this site http://www.mcguinnessclassics.co.nz/ – in gracefield.

  4. Paul says:

    A great bit o work here Patrick to be sure! It brings a tear to moi eye it does. Me ole Da, John William Kelly will be sitting up now in Dunedin takin note. He’d be proud. We are salt o the earth boy!

    See you lads soon. Bring it on!


  5. Maree says:

    Fantastic Pat – introducing myself – Maree McPadden – originally New Plymouth now Nelson – you guys have a great World Cup trip – look forward to reading all about it and following the site into the future.

  6. Kia Ora Pat!

    Ka Pai – a great beginning – O’Kiwi alongside spring and the RWC.

    Look forward to the O’Kiwi seasons ahead.

    Joanne Mary ‘Bernadette’ McPadden Doherty

  7. Peter Gibbs says:

    Kia ora Pat!
    Pauline Scahill and I just nearing end of a four-month stint exploring Ireland. Another Irish summer that never came (they say coldest for 57 years); but the people, the music and the landscape here are great craic! Great to see this initiative and be reminded of many connections.
    Peter Gibbs

  8. Paul Kelly says:

    Giday Peter
    Sounds a great wee trip there Peter! I hope you had a bit of Irish golf just to keep your “hand in” and a little dram on the 10th to warm the cockles of your heart!

    Cheers Paul Kelly

  9. Clare Fussell says:

    Great site Pat!, and particularly so as I’m another former pupil of OLRS. Those St Pat’s night concerts were the height of ‘glam’ for the little girls like me (Clare Murphy, OLRS 1953-1960).

  10. Maire Burns says:

    Hallo from Maire Burns, originally from Cahirciveen, Co Kerry, living in New Zealand 16 years. My son Brendan was born in NZ, albeit in the Currach Irish Pub which we owned for 12 years. When he was a small fella, I would constantly remind him that he was half Irish. One morning, when he was about 3, he looked very anxious whilst he was dressing himself, looked down at his body and said with a very perplexed voice “Mammy, which half of me is Irish?”

  11. Joe & Claire says:

    Hi Pat, we look forward to the RWC blog and all the stories. Have fun. Claire & Joe Hayes

  12. Kevin Greaney says:


    What a great idea. My father’s family is from county Cork and my Mother is from Nass County Kildare.

    Look forward to seeing more.


  13. Tony Ryan says:

    I started at OLRS in September1942 and went to Marist 4 years later.
    Thought you might be interested in the Celtic Curse which I have inherited and passed on to my offspring as either carriers or recipients. It is actually known by the medicos as haemochromotosis. I thought I was just being lazy when I took a catnap in the afternoon but in fact it was excess iron in the system. It was soon fixed although needs keeping up with on a regular basis.
    So lazy ignorant Irish there may be (in evidence last Saturday night), but it may be that the Irish forwards simply hadn’t had their monthly venesection.

  14. Pat Martin says:

    Hi Tony
    I’m pleased to hear that the desire for a nap in the afternoon is caused by iron deficiency. For a long time I thought I was of Mexican ancestry because I always wanted an afternoon siesta.

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