At the turn of the Twentieth Century, with anti-Irish sentiment running high in both America and Britain, Irish Olympic athletes faced a choice of either competing as British athletes, for a crown and flag that they resented, or emigrating to America or Canada, where they were not wanted nor welcomed. The world did not yet recognize Ireland as a nation and these Irish athletes, who came to be known as The Irish Whales, became unlikely heroes as they set and broke records in track and field events between 1896 and 1924, competing under British, American and Canadian flags. Irish Whales Team[/caption] The Irish Whales were so named because they were large men, both in stature and in character. They were known for their fiery spirits, showmanship, and were the first Olympic heroes of the modern era. Pat McDonald, Simon Gillis, Con Walsh, John Flanagan. Matt McGrath, James Mitchell, Paddy Ryan and Martin Sheridan took the world by storm and did much to earn the Irish diaspora respect around the world. All told, the Irish Wales won some 25 gold medals between the Athens Olympics of 1896 and the Antwerp Olympics of 1920, mainly in the shot-put, hammer and discus events. During the 1906 Intercalated Games in Athens, the Irish Whales won the bulk of Britain's medals and the anger and resentment among the Irish athletes was starting to peak. After winning the gold medal for the hop, step and jump event Peter O'Connor ripped the Union Jack from the flagpole that had been raised above his head and replaced it with the green flag of Erin, making quite the statement to all who witnessed such a bold act of Irish patriotism. In 1908, the Summer Olympics were held in London and by then, most of the Irish Whales had joined the American Olympic team. There were countless diplomatic failures at these games, notably, the United States flag went missing and was not displayed in the Olympic stadium with the flags of all the other nations. According to Roger McGrath writer for Irish America, "As the music of Grenadier Guards filled the stadium, King Edward settled into the royal box with Queen Alexandra and Princess Victoria at his side. At the Bugler’s signal, the gate leading to the athletes’ quarters was flung open and the parade of national teams began. One by one, they marched and dipped their flags to the King of England. It was a glorious moment for the host nation. Even the hard rain that had drenched the stadium earlier in the day had stopped. God seemed to be smiling on the empire. Then came the Americans, including the world-record hammer thrower and New York City cop, Matthew J. McGrath. When they approached the royal box, the County Tipperary-born McGrath, a six-foot, two-inch, 245-pound human bull of a man, stepped beside the team’s flag bearer and is rumored to have said, “Dip that banner and you’re in hospital tonight.” Old Glory went unbowed past the King of England. The English were left in shock. London newspapers lashed the Americans with the severest criticism they could muster and called for an apology. Veteran Olympian and world-record discus thrower Martin J. Sheridan, another New York City cop, spoke of “Mighty Matt” McGrath and the other American team members when he answered the English by pointing to the flag and saying, “This flag dips to no earthly king.” The precedent had been set. To this day the United States does not dip its flag at Olympic ceremonies." The Irish Whales forever changed the Olympics, and inspired Irish and American athletes for years to come. They raised the standards of competition in track and field and gave Irish people around the world a sense of pride and encouragement that would help embolden Ireland to fight for freedom and independence. These mighty men will forever be our Irish Whales.
Whiskey is one of the greatest contributions the Irish have made to humanity. There is a diverse range of tastes and complexity of flavors which rival even the finest wines, the distilleries of Ireland produce a breathtaking array of whiskeys to delight any palate, and the experience of single pot whiskey is one like no other, and can best be described as "thousands of angels dancing on your tongue". What is a single pot still Irish whiskey? I asked Terry Kast, owner of the Celtic Ranch and whiskey aficionado : "What is a single pot still Irish whiskey?" she said "It's really a happy accident! The queen put a tax on any malted barley that went into Irish whiskey. In an effort to avoid paying the crown the Irish began adding unmalted barley in the distillation to the malted barley. This turned out quite lovely and thus the single pot still was created! This is uniquely Irish and makes a complex whiskey. And as usual the whiskey gets a glorious color from the barrels during the aging process." Some of the most interesting and famous single pot still Irish whiskey comes from the Midleton distillery in County Cork, Ireland. These particular whiskeys hearken back to the origins of Irish whiskey. Yellow Spot: last seen in the mid to late 1960s, originally created by Mitchell & Son Wine and Spirit Merchants. It's been reborn with the recent revival of Irish whiskey, and is aged in Malaga wine casks, giving it a spicy sweet nose and taste. Green Spot: like the Yellow Spot, it is a creation of Mitchell & Son Wine and Spirit Merchants. Matured in bourbon and sherry casks, it is aromatic, spicy and slightly woody. Only small quantities are brewed each year, making this a rare treat with fans across the world! Powers John's Lane 12 year: this derives its name from the Powers John's Lane distillery, rich in history and famed for its single pot still whiskeys. It is matured in bourbon casks as well as Olorosso sherry butts, giving it a notably earthy flavor and nose, with hints of wood and leather. Redbreast single pot still 12 year: this is the one I'm most partial to. It really tastes like angels on your tongue. It is truly heavenly in its color, aroma and flavor. The Olorosso sherry casks give it a fruitiness, it is also described as having a "Christmas cake character" Redbreast single pot still 15 year: originally launched as a limited edition whiskey, it has taken up permanent residence in the Redbreast catalog. It's renowned for its complexity of nose and taste. Matured in bourbon and Olorosso sherry casks, it has a fleshy fruit note with a spiciness to complement. Single pot still Irish whiskey is an unparalleled taste of Irish history, whiskey lovers of all nationalities agree it is possibly the single most important contribution the Irish have made to humanity. (Okay, I'm exaggerating, but these whiskeys are truly the stuff dreams are made of.) For a sample of these one-of-a-kind aqua vitae (waters of life) attend our Single Pot still Irish whiskey tasting on January 16 at 3pm. Reserve your glass, you don't want to miss this rare opportunity!
You don’t need to look far for a reason to party like a Celt. With eight sacred days in addition to the typical Church holidays like Christmas and Easter, Celts are always either planning a party or recovering from one. Here’s the yearly run-down for special occasions to celebrate: February 1 – St. Brigid’s Day, marking the beginning of Spring March 17 – St. Patrick’s Day, also the Vernal Equinox May 1 – Bealtine, or May Day, marking the beginning of Summer June 21 – Summer Solstice mid-August – Lughnasa, marking the beginning of harvest September 21 – Autumnal Equinox October 31-November 2 – Samhain, marking the sacred period between All Hallow’s Eve and All Souls Day December 21 – Winter Solstice But you don’t need to wait for a special day to host a celebration. Put out the invites for a “céilidh” (“a visit” or kitchen party), a féis (festival), a luadhadh (a milling frolic) or a bogadh (an immersion dance) and you can party like a Celt any old day of the year. Just make sure you have the appropriate food, drink, stories, and music on hand. Invite your favorite harpist, fiddler or bagpiper. Fire up the kettle with an Irish stew or colcannon. Break out your finest Irish whiskey and chill the glasses for the Guinness. Tell your favorite Celtic story, or just throw such a great party that it becomes the stuff of legend itself.
It is impossible to think of St. Patrick’s Day or Ireland without envisioning a wee little man dressed in green protecting his pot o’ gold beneath the rainbow. Leprechauns are as Irish as lads and lassies. While they are usually depicted as smiling, ginger-haired elves whose eyes twinkle with just the right amount of holiday mischief, the truth is that Leprechauns are best left alone. They drink heavily, are expert liars, and consider humans so greedy that they choose to avoid us at all costs. Sure, catching one means you are entitled to his treasure, but the little boogers are experts at tricking you out of both the gold and your sanity. A far better idea is to catch them and cook them. Delicious! You will need:
- 1 large leprechaun or two small leprechauns
- 5 bottles Irish whiskey
- 1 cup malt vinegar
- 4 gold pieces
- 1 cup salt
- 3 TBSP parsley