Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Shillelagh

Top of the Day, to ALL! My greetings come to you with some Irish lore, compliments of the typically dutiful research of a dear, Hoya classmate (Georgetown '66), Mary Sellinger O'Rourke.  Too busy at Christmas, Mary always sends greetings on St. Paddy's Day.  Very much to my delight, as I've been relying on our family's 'authentic' shillelagh of late for strolling, I was (and am certain you will be too) fascinated by its history.  Learning the correct spelling was icing on the ole Irish oatmeal this mornin'.
      (Here we go and bless you, Mary!)
      Shillelagh is the Irish word for an oak club. Shillelagh was the name of an oak forest in County Wicklow on Ireland's eastern coast. Unfortunately, the forest no longer exists as it was cut down to provide wood for many famous English buildings.  The paneling of Westminster Hall is from the Shillelagh Forest.
      Shillelaghs are now made of blackthorn. The black color comes from a curing process in which the wood is smeared with butter and the stick is then placed up a chimney to cure.  (Would that wives could do the same with husbands afflicted with a penchant for 'a wee taste' now and again!)
      The large knob at the top is a blackthorn root and the bark is left on along with the knots.  The shillelagh functioned both as a walking stick and as a weapon.  When the knob on the end was hollowed out and filled with molten lead it was known as a "loaded stick".  (Odd.  Precisely how I referred to me hubby in his younger, leaner years.)
      At times, during the English occupation, it was illegal for the Irish to carry weapons. The shillelagh walking stick would then have a dual function. 
      Bata is the name for Irish martial arts, which could be executed with one or two shillelaghs or batas.  When two are used, one is for shielding; the other for attack.
       The winner of the Notre Dame/ University of Southern California football game is awarded The Jeweled Shillelagh, which is encrusted with rubies.

      In 1945, Bing Crosby recorded a song called, "It's the Same Old Shillelagh" about a young Irish lad who inherits his father's shillelagh.  It was quite popular at the time, but recently has become criticized for it's inherent violence and Irish stereotyping.  Most of this criticism has come from those who are not Irish.
      (Might I add -  probably knew I would - that these 'not Irish' dunderheads most likely are imbued with the inherent IQ of a box of frozen snow peas and, as such, fail to have the arsenal of functioning Betz cells required to appreciate the mentality of the post World War II fans of Master Crosby, the glorious armistice which was gained through necessary violence, and the pride in the Irish 'fighting spirit'.  Please see, 'Notre Dame', Ann Arbor: football.)


   Sure it's the same old shillelagh me father brought from Ireland
And devil a man prouder than he, as he walked with it in his hand.
He'd lead the band on Paddy's Day and twirl it 'round his mitt
And, devil a bit, we laughed at it, poor dad would have a fit.

Sure with the same old shillelagh, me father could lick a dozen men
As fast as they'd get up be gory, he'd knock them down again.

And many's the time he used it on me to make me understand
the same old shillelagh, me father brought from Ireland.


(May the road rise up to meet 'ya,
The wind always at yer back,
 And may 'ya get to Heaven afore the Devil   thinks to stuff ya in his sack! )
Later, Lorane. . . .   
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