I’m Irish! (but what’s in a name?

Truthfully, there’s only a part of me that’s Irish, but I’ve embraced it for as long as I can remember. My maiden name was McGuire, and I always thought my Grandfather Henry McGuire was born in Ireland. One of the things I remember best about him is all the Irish stories, true and otherwise, he would tell us grandchildren. Our official family tree, however, places his birth in West Arthurlie, Barrhead, Neilston, RFW Scotland.

Henry & Winifred McGuire

Henry and a brother came to Canada and settled in an area just north and west of Edmonton, Alberta where a group of farmers set up the Paddle River and District Coop. A central point in the area was chosen for a store, and when an application was made to have a post office in it, a name had to be submitted. The McGuire brothers suggested Barrhead in recognition of their home in Scotland, and this was adopted.*

However, the McGuires (or Maguires) really did originate in Ireland.

“The Irish family of Maguire, the chiefs of Fermanagh since the year 1302, derive their name and descent from Odhar, the eleventh in descent from Colla-da-chrich, great-grandson of Cormac Mac Art, monarch of Ireland about the middle of the third century.”**

Maguiresbridge in County Fermanagh (Gaelic: Droichead Mhig Uidhir), takes its name from the family.

How did these Irish end up in Scotland?

John & Edith Aconit

“Irish immigration to Scotland was part of a well- established feature of early 19th century life in Ireland: the annual harvest migration. Scotland was Ireland’s closest neighbour (only 13 miles separate the two countries at one point)…

In the 1820s, up to 8,000 economic migrants crossed back and forth across the Irish Sea every year, bound for seasonal agricultural work or other temporary contractual work in northern England, Wales and Scotland….

While most of the temporary migrants and probably a small proportion of the skilled workers eventually returned home to Ireland, some chose to settle permanently….

In Girvan, Ayrshire, for instance, some three-quarters of the 6,000 population was Irish-born in 1831. By 1841, when the earliest Scottish census was taken, some 125,321 (4.8%) of the 2.6 million population was Ireland-born.

For my purposes today, it’s adequate to know they did, and some subsequently came to Canada.

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I married a Garvin, Scottish in name, but with an Irish connection I didn’t know about at the time. In a family history compiled by my brother-in-law, Murray Garvin, I learned…

“According to my father’s account, three Girvans migrated from the town of Girvan, Scotland [to Ireland]. One located in Carrickfergus, one in Stoneyford, County Down, and one at Glencoe, County Antrim, and it was from the Glencoe settler that we have our origin.”

Girvan was the original spelling of our name. That Glencoe settler was one David Girvan who had been born in Scotland in 1586. Traced through his lineage, two brothers, Robert and another David, emigrated from Ireland to the United States and then came to Canada in 1831.

“Robert Girvan, on reaching Canada, settled on the 4th line of Golburne (sic) Township, Richmond County, Ontario, taking up land and also opening a blacksmith shop.”

Robert married in 1836/38 and he and his wife Sarah Vaughan had fourteen children. Yes, fourteen! Seven of the girls were baptized, but apparently none of the boys. In baptismal records, spelling of the family name takes various forms, possibly because they were written phonetically, and, as the account suggests, “perhaps the Irish accent added to the confusion.” Two of the girls’ names were recorded as Girvin, one was Girvan, and four were Garvin, as were the parents. However, on his gravestone the father’s name is inscribed as Girvin. Our line carried on as Garvin, although we have relatives in Ontario who use Girvan. Ackk! What confusion!

Enough about names! It’s time to celebrate all things Irish. I’m ready to indulge in a little wearing’ o’ the green, and maybe have a slice of the chocolate brownies I’ve topped with green peppermint icing. It would go down nicely with a mug of Irish coffee … but I’m not sure I have the makings on hand. I suppose I shouldn’t admit to that, being Irish and all. 😉

Oh, and the photos here? They’re of my paternal and maternal grandparents. I was fortunate to know all four of them for many years, unlike my hubby who was just four when his last grandparent died. There are fewer photos of them but perhaps I’ll hunt them up for a future post.

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*TRAILS NORTHWEST
Barrhead and District Historical Society

**THE MAGUIRES OF FERMANAGH
By John O’Donovan

Céad Mile Fáilte — Yes, welcome!

Although I’m a second (third?) generation Canadian, on St. Patrick’s Day I always enjoy taking advantage of my vaguely Irish roots. I haven’t been spending much time here on the blog, so no “new” post today, but if you’d like to catch up on some of my earlier Irish-hued entries, you could click back into the archives:

2009 and again in 2014 – A Green Moment in Time

2010 – Spreading the Green Around

2011 – The Luck o’ the Irish and Other Blessings

2012 – An Irish Recipe and a Blessing

2013 – Going Green?

I apparently missed posting anything last year, but there’s enough now to keep you reading for a while, if you’re so inclined. And if you needed a little Irish song (with men in kilts, no less) to set the mood, you might like this…

Go n-éiri an bóthar leat

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A Green Moment in Time (Again)

“Way back in the olden days…” well, back in 2009, anyway, I admitted to being Irish and I shared a bit of the Irish legend and the shenanigans our family occasionally pursues to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The latter involve things like green-tinted milk and green cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches in school lunch boxes, green oatmeal porridge in the morning and perhaps even green mashed potatoes with green beans at dinner time. I’ve about outgrown that silliness, although on second thought, I made green cupcakes last year.

In honour of the day, I’ve brought back that blog post. I hope you enjoy it. No writing application today, just a Happy St. Patrick’s Day wish for everyone.

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‘Tis St. Patrick’s Day and I admit to wearing green. I could just as appropriately have chosen blue, mind you, as blue was the colour associated with Ireland until the mid-1700s. And non-Catholics might well choose orange. So why does green appear everywhere today?

Legend has it that St. Patrick chose a shamrock to help explain the concept of the Trinity to the pre-Christian Irish people. As the habit of tucking a shamrock into one’s hatband became a common sign of either Irish nationalism or loyalty to the Roman Catholic faith, references to “the wearin’ o’ the green” began popping up. Trust the rest of the world to go overboard with turning all things green on March 17th. Even  the Chicago River is green today.

We do get carried away, in both sacred and secular circles, as we celebrate the feast day of St. Patrick. But it’s a wonderful excuse to share a bit o’ Blarney with friends. However I draw the line at hoisting a pint of green beer or stout. Just thinking about it makes me feel a little green around the gills!

Go n-eírí an bóthar leat.

(May the road rise with you.)

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Going Green?

BlogBlank

Leafy greens

Ecologically green

Greenhorn cowboy

Greenstick fracture

Green apples

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No matter what version you favour, come mid-March there’s really no other green except an Irish one. It was St. Patrick’s Day yesterday. I wasn’t particularly innovative, but I wore green, and my visiting daughter baked a batch of green cupcakes for her girls.

DSC00843

There was a time — my children will vouch for it — when there was green porridge in the morning, green milk and green cream cheese sandwiches in the lunch kits, and probably green mashed potatoes at the dinner table. What can I say? I’m Irish, but in a ridiculously Canadian kind of way.

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Shamrocks

Blarney Stones

Irish Cream Creme Brulee 

An Irish Wolfhound if you like big dogs

or a Soft-coated Irish Wheaten Terrier if you don’t

Maybe a little Irish Step-dancing

Rainbows and Pots of Gold

A pint of Guinness

Leprechauns

Oh, it wouldn’t be St. Patrick’s Day without leprechauns, mischief and a bit of music! However you spent it, I hope you had a great day.

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An Irish Recipe and Blessing

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day to one and all!

This is the day to be celebrating all things Irish, sharing shenanigans and wearing green. At least that’s how North Americans seem to celebrate, along with perhaps raising a pint of ale or Guinness. We make more of St. Patrick’s Day here than they do in Ireland.

Since I can’t ignore my Irish roots I always have to do something special to mark the occasion. Most often it’s just the wearing of a bit o’ green, but my family will vouch for my tendency to doctor normally un-green foods until they turn a shamrock shade – for instance, green porridge for breakfast, or perhaps cereal with green milk, maybe a lunchtime sandwich with green cream cheese filling, or green Jello for dessert.

However, now that our children have moved on and I can no longer embarrass them with such things in their school lunches, I’m more restrained. I’m thinking of making my favourite Irish Soda Bread recipe today. (It’s tame, I know, but then you never can tell if I’ll give in to a leprechaun’s temptation and add a little green colouring to the buttermilk.)

I’m told there are two kinds of soda bread… a cake type that is normally kneaded and baked in an oven, and a farl type that is rolled out into a circle and cut crosswise into four equal quarters to bake on a griddle. While the farl type is apparently preferred more in the north of Ireland where my family originated, and the cake type in the south, my recipe happens to be the cake kind. It’s a little sweeter than the traditional loaf, too, but very tasty. I’ll share it as my St. Paddy’s Day gift to you.

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IRISH SODA BREAD

4 c. flour
¼ c. white sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
¼ c. butter (I’ve used margarine, too)
1-1/3 c. buttermilk
1 egg

Sift dry ingredients together and cut in butter.
Blend in buttermilk, egg and soda to make a dough that can be kneaded.
Turn onto floured board and knead gently until smooth.
Shape into ball, and place in greased 2-qt. casserole.
(You can also bake it on a cookie sheet if you prefer.)
Brush top with egg yolk or cream and slash a deep “+” on it.
Bake @ 350oF oven until done (about 45-60 minutes, or until bottom crust sounds hollow when tapped).
Wrap loaf in tea towel and cool 1 hour before cutting.

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 Go n-eírí an bóthar leat

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The Luck o’ the Irish, and other blessings

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As secular as Irish shenanigans may seem, there are some tenuous sacred roots to St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. For instance, it’s said the Shamrock was used by St. Patrick to illustrate the principle of the Trinity to people he converted.

While the Shamrock is associated with all things Irish, it’s actually a native of South Africa. Officially its name is Oxalis Regnelli; it grows from a bulb and produces small white flowers. History suggests the Irish people were anything but lucky so where the connotation of Irish luck originated is unclear, unless it has something to do with finding the occasional four-lobed plant among the Shamrock’s usual three.

Irish blessings abound and my favourite has always been Go n-eírí an bóthar leat, but in light of the ongoing assault of earthquakes in Japan its translation doesn’t seem quite so appropriate this year — may the road rise with you – although its intent is well-meaning:

May the road rise to meet you,

May the wind be always at your back,

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

The rains fall soft upon your fields and,

Until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Instead, I’ll raise a glass… mmm, maybe not. I’m not much for Guinness, so maybe it’ll be a mug of Irish coffee*… and offer the following to wish you all a Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

May the raindrops fall lightly on your brow.

May the soft winds freshen your spirit.

May the sunshine brighten your heart

May the burdens of the day rest lightly upon you.

And may God enfold you in the mantle of His love.

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*”Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat.” [Alex Levine]

Éirinn go Brách 😉

Spreading the Green Around

Here we are again, smack dab in the middle of another green day that has nothing to do with ecology or saving the planet – St. Patrick’s Day 2010. Last year I posted a few pithy Irish facts here and included a video clip of the Chicago River being dyed green for the occasion. (I’ll leave the environmental benefits of that to your imagination.)

The Irish and Irish-at-heart (I’m among the former) love spreading a bit o’ Blarney today. In years gone by I’ve been known to spread green cream cheese in sandwiches and pour green milk into thermoses for embarrassing school lunches. One time there was even green macaroni and cheese for dinner with green tapioca pudding for dessert. I’m a little more grown up now (yeah, right!). I’ll just wish you the luck o’ the Irish and leave you with the traditional blessing:

Go n-eírí an bóthar leat.

May the road rise with you.