Why the Shamrock is Worn
- Nashua Reporter
Nashua, Chickasaw, Iowa
March 15, 1917
WHY THE SHAMROCK IS WORN
Worn Not Only in Honor of the Saint, but in Remembrance of Days of Famine.
Who put a sprig of shamrock in their buttonhole on the 17th of March realize
that these little green sprigs more than once kept the Irish from death in dire
In 1596 the poet Spenser declares that the war had brought the miserable
inhabitants of Munster to a point where they "flock to a plot of watercresses or
shamrocks as to a feast." This "View of Ireland" he describes as the depth of
ruin to which a land formerly having abundant corn and cattle had been plunged.
The troublous times continued and the shamrock is mentioned as an article of
food again and again. Fynes ?arrison, in 1598, writes that the herb is still
"being snatched out of the ditches for food."
Withers in "Abuses Stript and Stript" (1613) sings:
And for my clothing in a mantle go
And feed on shamrocks as the Irish doe.
Not until later was the shamrock used as the national emblem of Erin.
Nathaniel Colgan, member of the Royal Irish academy, says the earliest record of
the "wearing o' the green" is contained in the diary of Thomas Dinely, who wrote
"17th day of March yearly is St. Patrick, an immovable feast, when the Irish
of all stations and conditions wear crosses in their hats, some of pins, some of
green ribbon, and the vulgar superstitiously wear shamrogues, three-leaved
grass, which they likewise eat (they say to cause sweet breath.) The common
people and servants also demand their Patrick's groat of their masters, which
they go expressly to town, though half a dozen miles off, to spend, where
sometimes it amounts to a piece of eight or a cobb apiece, and very few of the
zealous are found sober at night."
A later reference to the wearing of the shamrock appears in the works of Dr.
Caleb Threlkeid, a botanist of the early nineteenth century. He says: "The
people wear the plant in their hats in commemoration of St. Patrick, "believing
that St. Patrick used the three-lobed leaf to explain the Christian Trinity.
This belief is generally said by antiquarians to have arisen in the fourteenth
century, almost a thousand years after the time of Patritius" who died in A.D.
In that year, says the Annale of Ulster, "Patritius, the arch-apostle of the
Scoti (Irish) rested on the 16th day of the calends of April (March 17) in the
one hundred and twentieth year of his life, the sixtieth year after he had come
to Ireland to baptize the Scoti."
Cathy Joynt Labath
Iowa Old Press
Ireland Old News
Irish in Iowa