Although we associate the above saying with the Irish, just like other countries throughout history, they have not always been blessed with so-called ‘good luck’. An example of this would be in the late 1840’s when the Irish famine killed nearly 1/8th of the whole population, or in the mid- 1950s when a polio epidemic swept through Ireland as it did throughout Europe and America at that time. (It is estimated that there are over 7,000 acute polio survivors in Ireland).
Willie O’ Reilly (known as ‘Little Willie’) was the mascot for a fund-raising campaign in the 50s. He was a cute little boy shown on posters wearing callipers and using crutches. This was to point out what polio could do to children. Many children were institutionalized due to having polio. Willie himself lived in a convent hospital for 17 years. He still lives in Dublin today. Strangely, although the Salk vaccine was announced in 1955, no public vaccination was introduced in Ireland until 1957/58.
Of course, we all enjoy the levity and story that goes with the Irish and St Patrick’s Day, so let’s all join in the spirit and have a great March 17th. And don’t forget to wear the green!