Brendan Gisby: Stop taking the Mick – and Jock – out of yourselves

Spectators cheer as the St Patricks Day parade passes in New York. Picture: AP
Spectators cheer as the St Patricks Day parade passes in New York. Picture: AP
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Having been blessed with an Irish mother and a Scottish father, I share a dual love for and interest in Ireland and Scotland.

However I must say that the recent Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations across the world – particularly in Dublin and New York – have given me cause for concern over the perceived global image of the two countries.

Taking Ireland first. “Wherever green is worn”, wrote William Butler Yeats in his most famous poem, Easter 1916, when he foretold of a new Irish nation to rise out of the fire and rubble of Dublin’s O’Connell Street. Surely he could never have envisaged that the wearing of his beloved green would come to be dominated by giant shamrocks and even larger leprechaun hats?

Shamrocks and leprechaun hats.

Sadly, those two icons seem to denote Ireland on the world stage. In America, in particular, the “ould country” has become a caricature of itself, the equivalent of a Simpson’s cartoon. That irks me. And I’m certain it irks not a few Irish men and women.

Of course it’s good to see people enjoying themselves on “Paddy’s” Day, to give it its increasingly popular, dumbed-down name, but there’s so much more of Ireland to celebrate.

Its rich and inspiring history. Its magical, mystical landscapes. Its music. Its literature. Not forgetting the story of Saint Patrick himself.

And what about global perceptions of the other half of my national identity? Well, Scotland used to have a rather twee Brigadoon, tartan and shortbread image.

But if that wasn’t bad enough, the image now seems to have shifted to one of self-mockery, emphasised by See You Jimmy hats and deep-fried Mars bars.

Like Ireland, it’s becoming a caricature. Yet, also like Ireland, Scotland has incredible pools of history, landscape and culture to be proud of and boast about.

So my advice to both nations is to resist your obvious Celtic propensity for self-mockery. Please stop taking the Mick and Jock out of yourselves.

It’s high time to renew how you are seen by the world. It’s time to downplay the shamrocks and leprechauns in Ireland. And in Scotland, it’s time to dispense with the See You Jimmy hats, which in any event were an invention by a not-so-funny English comedian designed to insult Scottish people.

By all means, continue the tradition of celebrating your Bard’s birthday with a Burns Supper, a wee dram and recitation of Tam o’ Shanter, but enough of the shooting haggis jokes already!

And remember what your Bard told you: “O wad some Power the giftie gie us, To see oursels as ithers see us!”

Brendan Gisby is a retired businessman. He lives in Crieff, Perthshire and runs McStorytellers short story website: http://www.mcstorytellers.com