St. Patrick’s Day is tomorrow.. the day where college students drink green beer, adults drink Irish whiskey and children everywhere are dressed in green . My girls will be wearing orange… and green. In Ireland, orange is associated with Protestants and green with Catholics. Most people are familiar with the numerous conflicts that have happened in Northern Ireland over the years – notably Bloody Sunday and the hunger strikes. From what I can tell, neither side is innocent in the bloodshed that has happened in the past. And it’s not for me to say who is right or wrong – I’ll leave that to people more familiar with the facts. What I do know is that my grandmother always told me that our ancestors were Orangemen and, as such, our family wears orange on St. Patrick’s day.
I don’t know much about my Irish relatives to be honest. I am just under 10% Irish, on my maternal grandmother’s side. My Irish relatives all immigrated to New Brunswick, Canada around 1830 from Ireland – Elizabeth McFarland, James McKinley and Rose Elizabeth Kyle. Unfortunately, I have not been able to track any of them back to Ireland.. Passenger records from that time are difficult at best and I’ll admit, while I’ve spent plenty of time trying to trace them, I have done a poor job of doing so in an orderly fashion. The census records tell me they were Irish and show they were predominantly Methodist.
The following was in a handwritten note from my grandmother, Neva Dissly:
“1784 conditions so bad in Ireland – potatoe famine. James William McKinley from Coast of Shannon River County Downs Donegal Bay – only son or ____ met at grave. Rose Eliza Kyle come on sail boat – married by Anglican minister St Stephen N.B. – James McKinley – weary of silk merchants in St John then to new Ireland to Alma Homestead. Hamilton Kyle also came – brother”
Unfortunately I never took the time to fully understand my grandmother’s side of the family before she passed. Another note she made on one of my files indicates a Daniel Matthews that was an Orangemen. I never have found a Daniel Matthews in our tree, although I do not truly know who James Matthew’s father is (James is an Englishman who married Elizabeth McFarland in Canada).
Someday I will spend more time looking into my Irish roots and hopefully find exactly where in Ireland they came from. But for now simply acknowledging my heritage will have to do. So my girls will wear both orange and green on St. Patrick’s day. Why green you ask? Because while I am only about 10% Irish, my husband is around 50% Irish – which makes them almost 30% Irish. My husband’s ancestors were all Catholic – so we celebrate their heritage by wearing green.