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, Jack 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 Reply’ button at the bottom of this post.
Look forward to hearing from you.
(This page was originally posted as Welcome when the site was launched – see the bottom of that page for Comments)