The conquerors with the cute voice

HAPPY St Patrick’s Day.

Why we in Townsville celebrate the man who banished snakes and heathens from a country on the other side of the world is one of life’s great mysteries, like Mrs Murphy’s black baby.

But they must be asking the same question in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo and all the other unlikely places on the globe that sport at least one pub with a name like Finnigan’s or Hanrahan’s.

But I’m glad we do. I suspect there are more Irish people in Townsville than there are in Dublin. Where else would you find half a dozen Irish bands, Irish dance schools, Gaelic language lessons, tin whistle lessons and enough green beer to drown… well, even an Irishman.

Except that the Irish don’t drink green beer. They drink stout. It’s the others who drink beer and serves them right.

They’re like a disease, the Irish. A disease everyone wants to have. Stand in any pub in the city — or any supermarket or any football match — and yell: “hands up if you have Irish ancestry!”

The place will turn into a forest of arms.

Hanged if I know why. You can’t blame St Patrick. He never got over here. Too many snakes ands too many heathens, even for him.

So how is it that the Irish have managed to spread to every corner of the globe? (Which is the kind of thing the Irish would say, considering that a globe doesn’t have any corners!).

But if there wasn’t a road to where they were going, they just rolled up their sleeves and built one. I doubt there’s a road on the continent that doesn’t have Irish sweat on it.

Sure they were persecuted and starving in their homeland for hundreds of years. But that’s no different to dozens of persecuted nations. Gypsies, Africans, Jews, American Indians, Untouchables in India…

But if you stand in a pub and yell: “Hands up if you have Jewish ancestry!” you’d still be able to see clear across the room.

I think it’s their funny voice. Not funny peculiar, but funny cute. I have an Irish mate who says it will charm the clothes of a woman’s back.

I don’t know about that because I don’t have such a voice (although my grandmother was Irish as rain).

But, with the exception of Mr Guinness, they certainly haven’t made a name for themselves as businessmen.

It’s their funny voice, their ability to drink, and their capacity to laugh. Even at themselves.

Where else do you find a language in which the word for man is “fir” and the word for woman is “mna”; resulting in the unnerving truth that in the west of Ireland (where Gaelic is spoken in every household) the gents’ toilet all have an F on the door and the women’s have an M?

Where else can you sing a whole song with lyrics that go no further than “Skiddly-ree-me-doo-the-daddle–skiddly-ar-the-lal!”

Well yes, England, too. But they take themselves so seriously, and they didn’t invent Guinness.

And the English have villains. The Irish don’t have villains; they have rogues. Everyone loves a rogue, even when he’s charmed the clothes off your back.

Especially when he’s charmed the clothes off your back!

Well, I have been practising. Tonight (or rather, tonoight) I’ll be out there, begorrahing me way through the city’s Guinness like a nation of Irishmen.

You should be able to spot me. I’ll be the one standing in a sea of discarded clothes.

Women’s, with any luck.

As they say in Ireland… Slainte!