Grenada, St. Patrick, & the Irish

[This article was researched and written by Margaret Hughes who herself has a wee bit of Irish blood.]

By Margaret Hughes.

Spanning slavery, war, education and the Catholic Church, Grenada has an intimate association with Ireland. One outstanding sign of this is the parish of St. Patricks which carries the name of Ireland's patron saint.

Patrick was captured and brought to Ireland as a slave from Europe about the year 400AD. He worked as a shepherd for some years, escaped and made it back home across the sea. Later, when he became a Bishop, he asked Rome to send him to Ireland to bring Christianity. He arrived in 432 AD. There was a Celtic festival at the beginning of Spring each year when the High King was the first to light the dawn fire on the hill of Tara, seat of the Kings. This established the power of the King. Patrick was a remarkable stratagist and, in order to get an audience with the King, decided he would light the first fire on the hill facing Tara. The ruse worked and the King sent for this audacious man. Patrick brought the Good News of Christianity and the King and his Kingdom were converted without bloodshed

Patrick's writings exist to this day and his most famous hymn is called the Breastplate of St. Patrick. The Seat of the Catholic Church is still at Armagh where Patrick established it. He is portrayed in bishops outfit carrying a staff and a Shamrock. The shamrock, which is the national emblem, is a native three leaf plant which Patrick is alleged to have picked and displayed to demonstrate the Trinity---three in one.!

In the 1600's, the dispossessed of Ireland presented a problem.Their lands had been taken away by the English. They were rebellious. One solution was found in carting them off to the sugar plantations of the Caribbean. So began the process of forced emigration. In the Treaty of Galway document, 1660, it is amazing to learn that one quarter of the city was sent to Barbados."Barbadoing" was a dreaded word. It meant than any hapless person found wandering about would be picked up and sent to the WestIndies. These captives were found to be useless at cutting cane under tropic sun due to the tenderness of their skin---and so became known as "Red Legs"

In 1779 the next significant group of Irish arrived in Grenada. It was the military contingent called the Irish Brigade under Count Arthur Dillon and his brother Edward. The Irish Brigade known as "The Wild Geese" were the leaders and their followers who left Ireland after the Plantation of 1601 to form armies in Europe to fight the English. These fearless soldiers arrived in Grenada with D'Estaing as part of the French Army. After a brillant manoevre by the invaders, the English surrendered without a fight and the town of St. Georges was handed to the Irish troops for looting. It is said that the Irish behaved in an exemplary fashion due to their own personal experience at home. It is interesting to note that families of D'Estaing and Dillon are well and alive today---direct descendants became Prime Ministers of France and Ireland respectively in the 1970s

The number of Irish wandering the earth increased dramatically in the 19th Century due to the Great Famine---the last famine in Europe---when 4 million Irish died or emigrated across the English speaking world. The numbers of these to arrive in Grenada were legion: O'Neal, O'Halloran, O'Brien, O'Reilly, O'Sullivan, Murphy, McCann, McGuire, McSweeney,McCarthy, McCabe, Quinn and of course, Grenada's own Galway Donovan, mentor of national hero, Teddy Marryshow

In 1827, the first Irish priest arrived in Grenada, a Fr. O'Callaghan. He was followed by Fr. Anthony O Hannan, who caused a rift in the Catholic Church in St.Georges and set up his own church for six years at the building in Lucas Street, still known today as La Chapelle.

The last formal group to arrive were the Irish educators. Kiltegan Fathers, Presentation Brothers and Sisters of Cluny who have done enormous work serving the families of Grenada in the schools and churches.

Trade between Cork and the Westindies has been lucrative for 300 years---beef and butter for the Westindies, rum for Cork and Dublin. And who would be without a glass of Guinness, Ireland's own. There's "atin' and drinkin'" in it as they say. The Guinness logo of the Harp which you see travelling around Grenada on the delivery van, is also the official stamp of the Irish State.!

So, with our Grenadian friends, we celebrate that strategist, St. Patrick, on March 17th. Horseracing being the favourite way to spend the day in Ireland, we in Grenada, will lift our glasses and say"Slainte" (health) as we think of the Green Isle across the sea.


Repeating our mantra about "Grenada's Story:"

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