Shamrock and the luck of the Irish

Speaking of lucky charms, it is commonly accepted in Europe that the 4-leaf clover brings good luck to those lucky enough to find one. The Irish are more pragmatic: it is the classic three-leaf clover (called in Ireland shamrock and not clover) that brings good luck, the Irish are real pragmatics as the classic clover is widely spread. Would the expression « luck of the Irish » come from the lucky shamrock?

Legend has it that St Patrick used clover to explain the Holy Catholic Trinity to Irish « pagans » in order to convert them. Nobody can prove it, however, what is clear is that the number 3 was a sacred number for the Celts, hence the interest of the traditional clover shape; the ancient Irish druids even used it to ward off evil spirits.

In more recent times, an academic explanation of the clover trilogy has been developed: Oxford, Cambridge and Trinity College!

Long used as a symbol of Irish « barbarism » (according to allegations by several English travelers and writers, the Irish would have the habit of eating clover, a food considered dirty by the English, it would seem in fact that it is a translation error), the symbolism has gradually become anchored on the Emerald Isle.

So, when Ireland became part of the Kingdom of England which thus became the United Kingdom with the Acts of Union in 1800, the shamrock was taken up in the arms of the United Kingdom as a symbol of Ireland, next to the rose of England and the Irish thistle. No wonder the Anglo-Saxons are the champions of landscaping…

For the record, it should be mentionned that the red saltire on a white background which is one of the components of the British flag, is in fact the Cross of Ireland, which was added to the Union Jack in 1800 with the Acts of Union.

Around the same time, and logically, the shamrock also became the symbol of independentists, another reason why it is seen everywhere in Ireland. The shamrock is now proudly used by all Irish, and several American presidents have even received as a gift a bowl of Waterford crystal decorated with shamrocks!

As for the famous expression « luck of the Irish », it would seem that it is not directly related to clover, although some associate the two. It was during the mining period that the expression would have emerged in the USA, « luck of the Irish » designating in a way that was both envious and condescending an Irish immigrant who had found a goldfield, implied the person found it by chance rather than knowledge.

It must be understood that Irish immigrants, whether in Britain or the USA, have often been frowned upon; until the 50s at least, many owners refused even to rent them a room, displaying « no dogs, no irish » on the door. I’m telling you this to make you understand the heavy irony underlying the expression at its beginnings. But the beauty of the language is precisely to change the connotations, and now all of Ireland prides themselves on having « the luck of the Irish! »

In conclusion, any luck is good to take, even that of the Irish who despite their tormented history have always continued to move forward until becoming the Celtic Tiger we know.. and remember: if somebody tries to sell you a 4-leaf clover, it is NOT a real Irish lucky shamrock!

Publié par pchatelain

Je suis une Française qui habite actuellement en Irlande et qui s intéresse particulièrement à la valeur des mots

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