The Elusive Shamrock
by Brian Witt
The Shamrock. A small, three leaved plant. It was used by the patron
saint of Ireland to convert the Irish to Christianity, by explaining the
Trinity, the concept of three persons in one deity. It decorates buildings,
businesses, sports teams. It is a sign that a person is Irish, or has Irish
connections. It is the name of our organization. So, why the shamrock,
and what is it?
First, the why. The shamrock is a symbol of Ireland. Many a song
has been written of the Shamrock Shores. This little plant has been noted
as being worn by the Irish during St Patrick's Day for centuries. It has
been used in home remedies for healing sore eyes, indigestion, and curing
bad breath. Revolutionaries wore it as a sign of their Irishness. Yet,
for all of its connections to Ireland, it is not used anywhere by the Irish
Government on coins or symbols. So, where and when do its ties to Ireland
The first written references to the shamrock and Ireland were during
the reign of the Tudors in England. According to Jeanne Sheehy, in The
Rediscovery of Ireland's Past, The Celtic Revival, 1830-1930 (1980, Thames
and London Ltd.) it was considered a food staple of the Irish by their
English observers. Edmund Spenser, author of the Faerie Queen, and unhappy
habitué of Ireland, describes the eating habits of the Irish, in
the midst of a famine, as "yf they founde a plotte of water-cresses
and shamrokes, they flocked as to a feast for the time." Edmund Campion's
Historie of Ireland (1571) talks of "shamrotes, water cresses and
other herbs they feed upon."
By the late 17th Century, it had become a full blown symbol of Ireland.
Thomas Dinely, an English tourist, noted in 1681 that "The 17th day
of March yeerly is St Patrick's, an immovable feast when ye Irish of all
stations and condicions were crosses in their hats, some of pins, some
of green ribbons, and the vulgar superstitiously wear shamroges, 3-leaved
grass, which they likewise eat to cause a sweet breath."
Which brings us back to St Patrick. As a Celt preaching to the Celts,
Patrick could have utilized the trefoil successfully, in that many of the
ancient Celtic gods and goddesses were three personalitied entities. However,
there was never any mention in his, or in his contemporaries writings,
of his use of the shamrock to explain the Trinity to the Irish. Still,
the legend grew up around the saint and the plant. Copper coins minted
in the mid 1600s, known as St. Patrick's halfpennies, showed Patrick holding
a shamrock the size of his head, which would certainly have gotten the
attention of the Irish he was attempting to proselytize.
As the celebration of St Patrick grew, both in Ireland and in the
New World, the identification of the shamrock with the saint became one.
And the identification of the two became an identification of Irishness.
Parades in the Americas featured the Irish with springs of shamrocks in
their hats, and later with banners and emblems showing the plant. And in
Ireland, the use of it was noted, as well. Caleb Threlkeld wrote Synopsis
Stirpium Hibernicarum, A Short Treatise on Native Plants, in 1727. Threlkeld
noted that the Irish wore "in their hats on the 17th of March yearly,
which is called St Patrick's Day, it being a current tradition that, by
this three leaved grass, he emblematically set forth the mystery to them
of the Holy Trinity. However that be, when they wet their seamar-oge, they
often commit excess in liquor, which is not a right keeping of a day of
the Lord; error generally leading to debauchery."
What is a shamrock? There has been no clear or comprehensive definition
yet. Threlkeld showed the white clover, or the Trifolium repens, as the
shamrock. The name for clover in Irish is seamar. Shamrocks sold around
St Patrick's Day generally are the wood sorrel, whose Irish name is seamsoge.
In 1892, Irish botanist Nathaniel Colgan asked for people from 11 counties
to send him true shamrocks. Of the 13 samples he received, eight were Trifolium
minus, or yellow flowered clover. The other five were the aforementioned
Trifolium repens. He repeated the experiment the next year, and of the
35 submissions, 19 were Trifolium repens, 12 Trifolium minus, two Trifolium
pratense, purple clover, and two Medicago lupulina, or black medick. Again
in 1988 similar results were found, with white clover being the shamrock
Then, what defines a shamrock? Supposedly, it will never flower,
and it will never grow in anything but the soil of Ireland. That certainly
leaves out any of the samples that were found. Both clover and wood sorrel
flower, and both are common in most countries in the world. By definition,
neither would be a shamrock. Then there is the medical aspects of the plant.
Shamrocks were supposed to be good for eye infections. However, application
to the eyes of wood sorrel would, because of its acidic nature, incur more
problems than it would cure. And, although the sorrel is good in small
doses for indigestion, larger quantities would never be a diet staple of
a starving people.
What we end up with is a plant that symbolizes the Irish. We will
see it and know it represents the Irish and St Patrick. It will adorn posters,
websites and shop windows. On March 17, it will bloom grandly, and most
will smile when it comes into view. And no matter what you grow, it will
most likely be the real shamrock, as long as you believe it to be.
• SEPTEMBER 11 - Board Meeting at the Fred
McCann residence; 7 p.m.
• SEPTEMBER 17 - Regular Membership Meeting at
Senior Center; 7 p.m.
• OCTOBER 15 - Potluck Dinner followed by Regular
Membership Meeting at Senior Center; 7 p.m.
Several of our members attended the Beloit Snappers baseball game
on Tuesday, July 16, wearing their green Shamrock Club shirts and it was
an enjoyable evening.
Our first meeting for this year will be September 17. We will be
making plans for this coming year and we would like your input to help
our new officers know what you are interested in for our meetings and entertainment.
Come and show your support for our new officers!
• SEPTEMBER 10 - Board Meeting at Jingles, 6:15 p.m. General Meeting
at 6:45. Bob Kerans, Vice President of the Club, will give a 45 minute
presentation on the the potato famine in 19th century Ireland, the events
surrounding it and the effects on the Irish people. Baked potatoes with
assorted toppings will be provided by member Liz Reinartz for this event.
• OCTOBER 8 - Board meeting at 6:15 p.m. at Jingles. General meeting
at 6:30. Bob will present the second half of his talk emphasizing the practical
short and long term effects of the potato famine.
As a general policy and as a reminder to our own members, Shamrock
Club activities are usually scheduled for the second Tuesday of the month.
However, sometimes conflicts do occur that we have no control over and
the event is moved to the next available time.
This year the Christmas banquet will be at Jingles Coliseum Bar on
December 17, the third Tuesday. Members from other Shamrock Clubs are most
welcome to attend. Our request to our members is for new ideas and/or suggestions
as well as involvement in planning or coordinating this event. Entertainment
plans being considered for that evening are for a 5-piece Irish band and
an Irish dance group.
A special thanks to Margaret Rupert and Susan Morrison for providing
the transportation on Saturday and Sunday to Irish Fest. We are planning
on having Margaret, our membership chairperson, share information of the
days at Irish Fest with our Club members. We would also like to hear comments
about our first attempt to provide transportation to Irish Fest for Club
At Irish Fest the advisory board for all Shamrock Clubs in Wisconsin
met. Its discussions centered on the many activities of the different clubs
and how each benefits with the sharing of ideas.
The co-presidents this past year welcome their second year in office.
One of the accomplishments of our first year is establishing a uniform
date for payment of dues-December. This stabilizes our membership list.
Also, it provides overview for financial commitments for the coming year.
One of our biggest and proudest accomplishments has been the merger
of the Parade Committee with the Shamrock Club. Our members helped with
the success of the Parade itself as well as raising money for the University
of Wisconsin Children's Hospital. The Irish Parade liaison for our Club
is a new position on the board held by Reghan O'Day Walsh.
Any club receiving a membership list today is receiving a current
up-to-date list of our members!
We have also started a "give back" to our Club members
by offering them special reduced rates on Club events and hope to do more
of this in the future. Our aim is to provide benefits for those who choose
to be members of the Club.
Another plus for the Club this year, according the members' positive
comments, is the level of entertainment and the quality of the events:
very professional and very polished presentations. Instead of the usual
decrease in membership for the last few years, the Club has actually grown
about 10% and is still growing!
We would like to leave you with these few words: "you'll never
plow a field by turning it over in your mind" In other words, we want
you to become involved in the Club's plans and activities. Make it your
Club by attending the events and offering your time and talents.
- Co-Presidents: Paul Buckalew and Colleen Schams
Milwaukee President's Message
Ladies, Gentlemen, Irish All;
August, one of the Irish community's busiest months, began with the
Shamrock Club Meeting and a wonderful performance by Milwaukee Irish Arts...
hope you checked them out at the Irish Fest Theatre Tent and don't miss
them this fall at the Sunset Playhouse.
The Shamrock Club Annual Picnic... dancers, magicians, musicians,
hurlers and Guinness. A great time it was.
Next came... Irish Fest a week long festival packed into four fantastic
days. The Shamrock Club of Wisconsin State Meeting and Breakfast at the
ICHC. Parades, parades and performances by our Shamrock Club Color Guard
Pipes and Drums. The Annual Family Golf Outing and Dinner. The Hurling
Championship. The Currach Club Regattas at Irish Fest (and upcoming in
Boston on Labor Day Weekend, and at Annapolis and Albany at the end of
September... back to school, back to business, back to the Shamrock
Club... September 5 the Shamrock Club General Meeting... more great entertainment
and more Irish fun; something for everyone, so bring an old friend, someone
new from Irish Fest or ?? Check out the Calendar of Irish events... the
sessions, the ceilis, the Hallamor Concert Series, set dancing and the
Hurlers Ball and October gets even better.
LaCrosse Area Shamrock Club
Celebrates 30 Years
Thirty years ago, prompted by their belief that a Shamrock Club would
be a highly desirable addition to the cultural and ethnic diversity of
LaCrosse, Marcy Winchell and Elvena and Jim Slattery met several times
to study the feasibility of starting such a club.
Encouraged by the results of their research in August of 1972, Marcy
made arrangements with the Shamrock Club of Wisconsin (Milwaukee) making
LaCrosse the first local chapter outside of Milwaukee.
On October 22, 1972, Derry Hegarty, President of the Shamrock Club
of Wisconsin, Dr. Jim Hanlon and Dr. John Walton came from Milwaukee to
officially open the LaCrosse Area Chapter. At the initial meeting, Marcy
Winchell was appointed president. Ann Malin and Elvena Slattery volunteered
to serve as secretary and treasurer. About one hundred people were in attendance
that evening. Larry Vaaler and his daughter Diane, entertained the group
with several vocal selections.
Since then, during its 30 years of history the club has engaged in
a broad spectrum of activities, thoughtfully selected to enhance the social,
cultural and charitable welfare of the community.
The LaCrosse Area Shamrock Club would like to invite Irish loving
people from across the state to join us in the festivities while we celebrate
our 30th Anniversary on Saturday, October 19, 2002 at the All Star Banquet
Facility at 4735 Mormon Coulee Road in LaCrosse.
The celebration will include dinner and entertainment featuring Milwaukee's
own Blarney performing Irish-American favorites. Blarney is a featured
opening act performing annually at Milwaukee's Irish Fest.
Social hour begins at 6 p.m. and dinner of ham and chicken with all
the trimmings will be served at 7 p.m. The price for an evening of good
food and great entertainment is only $30 per person. Reservations may be
made by calling Sue Crothers (608) 788-6908 or Marian Schnell (608) 787-5500
by October 1.
(Club history taken from the 20th Anniversary booklet.)
Set Dancing Classes
FOR BEGINNERS: The fall series of Irish set dancing classes will
begin on Wed., September 18 at O'Donoghue's Irish Pub in Elm Grove. This
introductory series will emphasize basic movements and steps and is suited
to beginners and others wishing to start with the fundamentals. Over eight
weeks participants will build a solid foundation and thoroughly learn a
polka set and a reel set.
The classes will continue on Wednesdays through November 6 from 6:30
p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Instructors are Jim and Kathie Vint.
FOR EXPERIENCED DANCERS: Beginning on Wednesday, November 13, a series
of four classes will be offered for anyone with set dance experience. Participants
will learn sets that are commonly danced in the United States and Ireland.
These one hour classes will also start at 6:30 p.m. The fee is $3
EACH WEEK AFTER CLASS: Regular weekly dancing will follow each class
at O'Donoghue's. Class participants are invited to join experienced dancers
and practice what they have learned.
Registration Information: The class flyer with a registration form
is available on the Milwaukee Set Dance web site. Visit www.c7r.com/setdance/
or call Julie at (414) 321-3521 (e-mail: email@example.com).
Couples usually dance in waltz position. It is not necessary to come
with a partner. Smooth-soled shoes are very desirable. The sliding motions
of set dancing do not work well with soft-soled or rubber-soled shoes.
Location: O'Donoghue's Irish Pub is at 13225 Watertown Plank Road.
Take I-45 to the Watertown Plank Road exit (you'll go west), or I-94 to
the Moorland Road exit then north to Watertown Plank Road (just past Bluemound).
Take Plank Road for about two miles into the heart of Elm Grove. The pub
is on the south side of the road, next to the Elm Grove Inn.
Milw. Hurling Club
BLACK DIV.: McBob's 10-0; County Clare 6-4; Milwaukee Ale House 5-5;
BLUE DIV.: Shamrock Club 5-5 (wins division on tie-breaker); Hanley's
5-5; Derry Hegarty's 4-6; Champion's 3-7.
Shamrock Club Honoree Dinner
We are going to have a dinner to honor our own
Irishman fo the Year, Irish Rose, Parade Marshal
Everyone is welcome to come help celebrate
Sunday, October 6, 2002
Klemmer's Banquet Center - 10401 W. Oklahoma Avenue
$17 per person for dinner
Price includes soup, salad, dinner, ice cream, beverage,
tax, and tip
Free Beer - Cash Bar for Cocktails
Entertainment by Green Side Up
Cocktail Hour begins at 5 PM - Dinner at 6 PM
Come join the fun!
For Information and Reservations: Call Mike Payne at (414) 541-8427
Shamrock Club of Wisconsin
Milw. Chapter 2002-2003
Board of Directors
(L to R:) Joe Hughes, Mike Payne, Tom McAleese, Noreen Barclay, Bob
Hamill, Tim O'Brien, Jim Dickmann, Tom Smith, Sharon Murphy, Sue Dundon,
Jack Suit, Judge Dennis Moroney
Color Guard News & Notes
The two busiest months of the Parade Season, July and August, saw
your Color Guard, Pipes and Drums perform in numerous parades and festivals
throughout the State of Wisconsin.
Marching with pride and precision, the Unit appeared in 4th of July
parades in Menomonee Falls, Greenfield, New Berlin and East Troy. As the
group marched to the tunes of "God Bless America" and "America
the Beautiful" the crowds not only gave the Unit standing ovations,
but sang along as the music played.
Festivals are another venue where the Color Guard, Pipes and Drums
make appearances. South Shore Water Frolics, Pt. Washington Fish Days,
So. Milwaukee Heritage Days and Random Lake Festival were all on this year's
schedule. Once again the Color Guard, Pipes and Drums brought honor to
the Shamrock Club of Wisconsin by receiving awards for "Best Over-All
Unit" and "Best Color Guard Unit" at the South Shore Water
August saw the group appear in Sheboygan Brat Day, Richfield Days
and St. Francis Days parades. However, weeks of practice and rehearsals
went into our most important appearance - Irish Fest. New music along with
familiar standby tunes choreographed marching, provided for two special
performances by the group at the Cross Roads venue. We certainly hope you
didn't miss these excellent performances.
With Archbishop Dolan presiding at the Sunday morning Mass and the
three parades in which the Color Guard Pipes and Drums participated this
was one of our finest Irish Fest weekends ever.
2 - Janesville Labor Day Parade; 1 p.m.
5 - AOH Mass, St. Rose's Church; 5 p.m.
19 - Sister Bay Fall Festival; 11 a.m.
For further information regarding parade performances, special events/occasion
appearances or if you'd like the join the Unit, please contact:
Jim Dickmann: Director/Commander
Shamrock Club Color Guard, Pipes & Drums
Telephone (262) 377-2601
Fax (262) 377-3901
The Annual Shamrock Club Picnic was a huge success. Dancers and diners;
magicians, musicians and Miller; hamburgers, hot dogs and hurlers; guys,
gals and Guinness. Special thanks to the Steel Bonnets, Glencastle Dancers,
the pipers, Paul McTaggart, the Hamill family, Jim and Deb Dickmann, Jim
and Helen LeClair, Dick Stroud, Dick and Patsy Tierny, Tom and Barb Tibbals,
Joe and Becky Hughes, Bridget O'Brien, Sharen Murphy, Dave Neville at Miller
Brands, Kent Billingsly and Tom Miller from Guinness and the great games
at the lakefront by the Hurling Club. Thanks to everyone that came and
everyone who shared a joke, a story or a plate to pass. This is a wonderful
way to introduce new members to the Shamrock Club... P.S. Thank you, God,
it didn't rain.
Badger Football Tickets
Update on Oct. 5 Wisconsin vs. Penn State football game. We have
the tickets in hand. Everyone who ordered tickets please contact me. We
will start to collect money and mail out the tickets. On Oct. 5 we will
depart from Derry Hegarty's Pub at 5326 W. Bluemound Rd., time to be determined.
- Tom Smith (414) 384-4119
2002 Milwaukee Feis
The 2002 Milwaukee Feis marked the 13th year of continual Irish dance
competition here in Milwaukee. The Feis was held at the Four Points Sheraton
Hotel on Howell Ave. on Saturday, August 10. We were pleased to host over
1600 competitors mainly representing the Midwest. This single event brings
in over 4000 people for the weekend.
This competition included not only dancers, but also singers and
musicians compete for prizes. We even featured a soda bread competition
with some of the best soda bread in town. With the addition last year of
the Feis Fest on Friday evening, we provided family fun which included
the music of Leahy's Luck. This event prior to the Feis gave the dancers
and their families a relaxing night of fun with no worry of "what
will the kids do tonight". The three local dance schools, Cashel-Dennehy,
Glencastle, and Trinity provided the majority of the volunteers, but the
great volunteers from the Shamrock Club were a most welcome addition. Our
Milwaukee area dancers are well respected throughout the country, and these
competitions help them move up the ranks.
We hired Irish dance adjudicators (ADCRGs) and musicians from all
over North America. Since the Feis began, we have seen the interest of
music and dance grow to amazing numbers. It's wonderful to see that there
are now so many local Feis musicians available. The local musicians also
deserve recognition for their talent and dedication.
Badger State Feis
The first annual Badger State Feis was held Saturday, July 20, 2002
at the Wisconsin State Fair Park. Over 930 competitors from throughout
the United States competed in Irish dance and music competitions throughout
the day. Many of the results can be found at the website www.badgerstatefeis.com.
The feis was a great success due to the hardworking Glencastle Irish
Dancers' families who sponsored the event.
The Badger State Feis Inc. would like to thank the many Shamrock
Club volunteers that helped during the day and the area businesses that
supported the event.
The Milwaukee Hurling Club cordially invites members of the public
to attend the 7th Annual Hurler's Ball on Friday, September 6, 2002. Come
down to socialize, have a drink and enjoy an evening of fun! The Milwaukee
Hurling Club is the nation's only all-American, co-ed hurling club. The
Hurler's Ball is an end-of-season social event in celebration of a summer
of hard work and play on the hurling field. All are welcome!
Ball tickets are $40 and include the following: hors d'oeuvres; dinner
buffet; all the Guinness, Harp and Bass you care to drink; live entertainment;
silent auction; and, MHC Awards ceremony.
The ball will take place at the Sheraton Hotel, 375 S. Moorland Rd.,
Brookfield from 6 p.m to 1 a.m.
For tickets, please contact Ina Kielley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 229-6520
OR buy your tickets at one of the following Milwaukee area sponsor bars:
Hooligan's Pub, 2017 E. North Ave.; Axel's Inn, 2859 N. Oakland Ave.; County
Clare Irish Inn & Pub, 1234 N. Astor; Paddy's Pub, 2339 N. Murray Ave.;
Hanley's Pub, 35th & State; McBob's, 4919 W. North Ave.; Champion's
Pub, 2417 N. Bartlett Ave.; Milwaukee Ale House, 233 N. Water St.; and,
Derry Hegarty's, 5326 W. Bluemound Rd.
St. Patrick's Help Fund
St. Patrick's Help Fund needs non-perishable foods, Pampers, bus
tickets and school suplies such as pens and pencils, notebooks, folders
and backpacks. Please place in container at each meeting. Questions? Call
Katy Voss (414) 352-6479.
2nd Annual Hallamor Concert Series
DANU. Seven remarkably talented young Irishmen are returning to open
our 2nd Annual Irish Cultural and Heritage Center Hallamor Concert Series.
Seven is considered by many as a lucky number, and this proved to be true
last year when DANU opened the Concert Series. Due to a very large number
of audience requests, they will do that again this September - Friday the
13th to be exact.
These seven Irish traditional musicians based in County Waterford
bring a lively enthusiasm and a unique approach to the performance of Celtic
music. The seven make a most exciting and highly musical sound that stirs
the blood and lifts the heart. Successfully touring the US and Western
Europe has added to their stage presence as have two honors: the BBC Best
Band of the Year - 2001 and singer, Ciaran O Gaelbhain was named Traditional
Music's Singer of the Year -2001. A Grand Opening not to be missed!
DANU IN CONCERT
Friday, September 13, 2002 8 PM
$19 advance, $21 door
SUSANA SEIVANE and BAND. One week later - a never before experience
- a RARE TREAT! Coming from the northwest corner of Spain, an area known
as Galicia, the seventh Celtic nation, is SUSANA SEIVANE, a Galician bagpiper.
Susana began her musical career at the age of three. Her father and grandfather
were bagpipers and pipemakers. Therefore, it was only natural Susana would
have her own pint-sized bagpipes at the age of four. Dirty Linen calls
Susana Seivane the Tiger Woods of the Galician bagpipes. (The Galician
pipe, the gaeta, produces a softer, sweeter sound than those we are are
accustomed to hearing.) A number of critics have commented that her dazzling
artistry on the pipes clearly indicates that the pipes are capable of being
a lead instrument. Susana comes to the ICHC with five other Galician musicians
There is absolutely no doubt this will be a musical evening that will be
thoroughly enjoyed and talked about for a very long time. Mark your calendars.
SUSANA SEIVANE & BAND
Friday, September 20, 2002 8 PM
Individual tickets: $17 advance, $19 door
Irish Cultural and Heritage Center of WI
2133 W. Wisconsin Ave.,
Milwaukee, WI 53233
- Gwen Sisk, Publicist
If you chair a Milwaukee chapter Shamrock Club event, please make
sure you submit your list of volunteers to Sharon Murphy immediately following
the event. The list should include names and addresses for each volunteer.
In order to make sure each Milwaukee chapter Shamrock Club volunteer is
invited to the annual volunteer party, we need to have an accurate list.
NOTE: Please send your dues to your Membership Chairperson in your
chapter. All names and addresses are listed in Emerald Reflections.
Membership Report Milwaukee Chapter:
• June: 35 memberships up for renewal, 27 paid, 8 dropped for nonpayment.
• July: 29 memberships up for renewal, 22 paid, 7 due.
.• August: 87 memberships up for renewal, 15 paid, 72 due