No green. No orange. No Irish.

Mar 17, 2016 | 3 comments

p3673_p_v8_acI grew up believing that I was “Scotch, Irish and English.” Never mind the whole Scotch-Scottish thing. I was proud of my heritage, especially the Irish part. I suspect my positive feelings about being from the Emerald Isle had more to do with Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald than anything else. They were in the movie “Going My Way” and the year I was eight years old it won 7 academy awards, including the one for best picture.

The plot involved a young Irish priest (Bing) taking over for an older priest (Barry), a lot of talk about Ireland, and the song “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral.”  I imagine the plot was pretty bland because, in those days, my parents were picky about which movies I saw. I’m not exactly sure their fussiness could be attributed to good parenting as much as to ensuring themselves of undisturbed sleep. After I saw “Fantasia” when I was three, I had horrible nightmares for weeks.

690145008.0.xAlso, I’m quite sure I was allowed to go to that particular Bing Crosby movie with my good friends Jackie, Joyce, and Robert Reading. I don’t know if they were Irish or not, but I was absolutely fascinated by the fact that they were Catholic. They went to St. Joseph’s parochial school in Alameda (and wore uniforms which I greatly envied); they ate fish every Friday; the priest came for dinner one Saturday a month and I got to help them clean their house in preparation; when we had sleepovers they taught me how to say a rosary. And they all had freckles-to-die-for.

The Reading kids went to the movies at least two Saturdays a month – matinees – and when they came home, they’d relive the plots for my benefit. They were allowed to attend lots more movies than I, even though Mr. and Mrs. Reading paid good attention to the Hays Office Recommendations. (They were the be-all end-all in terms of what was acceptable and what was unacceptable content for motion pictures produced for a public audience in the United States from 1934 to 1968.)

20160317_072115Anyway, in my little-girl mind, the Readings and Bing Crosby and “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” all had something to do with being “Scotch, Irish, and English.” It wasn’t until about the time the Hays Office was considered outdated that I finally went to Ireland, myself, and visited Enniskillen (in the North) on a quest for my ancestors. “But,” the friendly people at the City Hall Records Department told me, “your forebears came here from England. You aren’t really Irish at all.”

So… the top o’ the morning and Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to all my friends, Irish, non-Irish, and Irish wannabes! It’s our lucky day for sure and begorrah!


  1. Cuzzin Ralph

    You forgot to mention another famous song from Going My Way: Swinging on a Star. I found my mother’s old copy of the sheet music and I got a kick out of singing it and playing it on the piano in about 1961. I liked the words, such as “If you don’t give a feather or a fig. You could grow up to be a pig.” I even sang it to fulfill the performance part of my music merit badge in the Boy Scouts (although I could have chosen either clarinet or piano). Just to let you know I celebrated St. Paddy’s with green beer (and even a green gin and tonic for the heck of it).

    • sydney

      Actually there were five popular songs that came out of that movie and the film, itself, topped the charts throughout the 1940s. They don’t make ’em like that any more…
      Our celebration was corned beef and cabbage and wonderful soda bread that friends from Portland dropped off for us. I’m still full!

  2. Al Barela

    RE: “Going My Way” film – I was in the 6th grade when I saw it. I fell in love with
    Rise Stevens, mezzo soprano, who sang the Habañera aria as she performed in the opera “Carmen” as Father Bing Crosby watched in the stage wings.


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