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Thursday, March 10, 2011

In Search of an Irishman on St. Paddy's Day

As a feature reporter for NBC  in the Midwest years ago, my assignment was to interview Irishmen drinking and toasting on St. Paddy’s Day in local pubs in central Illinois.

A no-brainer, right?

My camerman and I thought we had an easy day ahead and expected to wrap the St. Paddy’s Day story up early so we could enjoy the holiday.

We entered one Irish bar and started conversations with the “revelers,” clanking their green beer mugs together, shouting “Erin Go Bragh” (an Irish blessing used to express allegiance to Ireland) and breaking into choruses of “Danny Boy.”

Everything seemed traditionally Irish. I was raised in Chicago where the river was dyed green for the occasion, and a parade paid honor to the many Irish communities that live in the windy city.

As I walked from one drinker to the next, I found many nationalities: Germans, Scots, Dutch, Italians and assorted heritages, but not one Irishman among them.

OK, so we picked the wrong bar randomly.

As the night wore on and we hit a number of pubs, I wondered if I was going to meet any Irish drinkers (or at least those who would admit it) in central Illinois.

That night as the bar voices got louder telling jokes and singing Irish songs, no one I talked to claimed to be Irish. I was baffled, and it was turning into a long night.

Astonished, I never did find one. My only choice as a roving reporter was to flip the story assignment to: There are no Irish in central Illinois’ drinking establishments on St. Paddy’s day (not much fun), or go generic and show people having a good time on an Irish holiday.

For one day wherever we are, we can all be Irish, gulp green beer and sing “When Irish Eyes are Smiling.” And that’s no blarney.

Here's to a long life and a merry one
A quick death and an easy one
A pretty girl and an honest one
A cold beer and another one!

Copyright © Erana Leiken, 2010-2011 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Clover leaf photo by Sarah Williams
Paddy's Day drinking kit photo by Steve Ford Elliott
Irish leprechaun photo by Chris Chidsey


  1. Erana, what a delightful story! I smiled throughout the reading:) Were you just a little disappointed?
    Oh well, at least "For one day wherever we are, we can all be Irish, gulp green beer and sing “When Irish Eyes are Smiling.” And that’s no blarney." Love it!

  2. Thanks, Debra, and cheers to you on St. Paddy's day:)