New Hampshire’s Irish Myths and Legends

I grew up in a New Hampshire household where St. Patrick’s Day

Engraving of an stereotypical Irishman from "Irish Wonders," by D.R. McAnally Jr., originally published prior to 1909

Engraving of an stereotypical Irishman from “Irish Wonders,” by D.R. McAnally Jr., originally published prior to 1909

and my Irish heritage was held in high esteem.  God forbid that I

should not wear green on March 17th. And it was entirely a ‘mortal sin’ if I wore anything close to a crimson or orange shade.

The following are the Irish myths that were passed along to me:

Irish Myth #1: “Green has always been a symbol of the Irish.”
Fact: The ‘wearing of the green’ actually began in the late 1700s. Earlier in Ireland’s history, possibly it was even unlucky to wear green, and a dark blue may have been the color of choice.

Irish Myth #2: “Local stores used to place signs, “No Irish Need Apply” in their shop windows.
Fact: There is NO primary evidence that any such signs were being placed in New Hampshire shop windows.  There indeed was friction between the newly-arrived Irish CATHOLICS and the settled residents of many places in New Hampshire including Manchester. Some of these anti-Catholic feelings, along with the murder of an Irish man resulted in riots on July 3 & 4, 1854 in Manchester NH. The first mention I can find of “No Irish Need Apply” in New Hampshire is when a SONG of that title was sung at an Old Folks Concert in March of 1874. [Farmer's Cabinet, Amherst NH, 1 April 1874, Vol 72, issue 38].  Even the History Channel continues to propagate this myth.

–Irish Myth #3: “Sprinkling holy water on the lintels of the house keeps lightning from striking.”
Fact: The house that my grandmother sprinkled water on has not been struck by lightning since it was built in 1903, even though it sits on the top of a prominent hill with a large tree next to it.  Whether that blessed water she sprinkled on it, from 1903 until her death in the 1960s, is still working is now unproven.  In the book “Thunder and Lightning (1901), by Camille Flammarion, she states, “On July 22, 1878 at Gien (Nievre), a woman while sprinkling her house with holy water during a storm, saw her holy-water bottle smashed actually in her fingers by the lightning, which at the same time smashed up the tiled pavement of the room. Please notice that the lightning does not hit the lintel!

New Hampshire is still the mother of many whose ancestors emigrated to colonial America from Ireland. The earliest of these were the Protestant Scots-Irish [please don't call them Scotch-Irish] who settled in Londonderry and Derryfield.  Much has been written about them, so instead I’d like to focus on my favorite New Hampshire Irish legends.

NH Irish Legend #1: The Lowly Potato first grown in the United States occurred in Londonderry NH. [My thanks to Heather Rojo at Nutfield Genealogy (blog) for this wonderful story].

NH Irish Legend #2: One of the best known New Hampshire Irish names: The McDonald (Restaurant) Brothers.  Maurice and Richard McDonald were born in New Hampshire, but their grandparents, Michael and Mary (Connor) McDonald immigrated from Ireland about 1875, settling in Newmarket NH.

NH Irish legend #3: Makem Music.  The famous Tommy Makem, often called the “Godfather of Irish Music,” was born and raised in Keady, County Armagh, Ireland, and immigrated to the United States in 1955.  He died in Dover NH in 2007, but his tradition delightfully lingers on.  Three of his sons, Shane, Conor and Rory (born in Dorgheda, County Louth, Ireland) teamed up with Mickey and Liam Spain to form the Makem & Spain Brothers. They continue to have their roots in New Hampshire, and to provide the world with the best of Irish music.

**ADDITIONAL IRISH READING**

Irish Wonders,” by D.R. McAnally Jr., originally published prior to 1909

Irish history and the Irish question” – by Goldwin Smith, 1905

**ADDITIONAL IRISH LISTENING**

- Irish Washerwoman, January 3, 1910

- Irish Polkas, 1922

- Irish Reels, 1917

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2 Responses to New Hampshire’s Irish Myths and Legends

  1. Thanks for the mention, and I love your list. I hadn’t heard the “sprinkling water on the lintel” story before, but that one is my favorite! I promise not to wear orange tomorrow.

  2. Pingback: Happy St. Patrick’s Day 2014 | Cow Hampshire

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