Shamrocks, Saints And Shillelaghs

Here’s the story behind some Irish icons and St. Patrick:

SHAMROCK: Shamrocks are actually clover plants.  The small, three leafed herb appears on the United Kingdom’s coat of arms with the English rose and Scottish thistle. The shamrocks found in U.S. flower shops are often imposters.

IRISH FLAG: Green stands for Catholics, orange for Protestants and white for a wish for harmony.

LEPRECHAUNS: Fairies who work day and night mending shoes of other fairies.

SHILLELAGH (shi-lay-lee): A walking stick. The word is Irish for stout oak club or cudgel. It’s also the name of a forest that once stood in County Wicklow.


387: Born in Britain to a Roman family. His original name was Maewyn.

Early 400s: He was taken to Ireland as a slave; after six years, he escaped to France where he studied for priesthood.

432: He was sent back to Ireland as a Christian missionary by Pope Celestine I, who named him Patricius, which means noble in Latin. He introduced the Roman alphabet, Latin literature and Christianized the land.

Familiar legend: He drove the snakes from Ireland by beating a drum.

Information is from Richard Atkinson/McClatchy Newspapers and TNS