From the West
Greetings from the West and Happy belated St. Patrick’s Day,
This is an article I found by a very learned Brother about the
Freemasonic connection we all share as travelling men in
regards to this minor March holiday we now use as a mirthful
excuse to observe intemperance with excessive drinking of
green beer. I hope you enjoy reading it, and perhaps learn a
little regarding our proud Masonic history.
By Midnight Freemason contributor Steven L. Harrison, 33rd
Degree, PM, FMLR
Every school kid learns March 17 is the day we celebrate
the life and deeds of Maewyn Succat, the second Bishop of
Ireland, who is better known as Ireland's Patron Saint,
St. Patrick. Those same school kids also learn Patrick's
great triumph was chasing the snakes out of Ireland. It's true,
there are no snakes in Ireland; however, that's more likely
because there have never been any snakes on the isolated
Captured and taken into slavery as a youth, Maewyn,
a.k.a. Patrick, escaped to the European mainland. While a
slave he had converted from paganism to Christianity, and
once on the continent, he sought refuge at Marmoutier
Abbey, a French monastery. There, he accepted his calling,
which was to convert other pagans to Christianity. With that,
he returned to Ireland and became very successful at making
those conversions. In a manner of speaking, the "serpents"
he figuratively chased from Ireland were the pagan Druids,
not actual reptiles.
After a successful ministry, Patrick retired to County
Down, where he died on March 17, 461 A.D. Although never
officially canonized by the Catholic Church he is, in fact,
recognized as a saint; and today we celebrate the Feast of
St. Patrick, or St. Patrick's Day, on the anniversary of his
death. However, even in Ireland prior to the late 18th century,
St. Patrick's Day was not that big of a deal. The same was true
in North America, where the churches in Boston, with its
large Irish population, didn't recognize the day until 1737.
From the West Continued
"So, what," you may ask, "does this have to do with the
About twenty years later, during the French-Indian War,
a young Masonic Colonel recognized the morale among his
troops was low and decided they needed what today we would
call some "down time." It was March, at the end of a long,
brutal winter and many of the troops were Irish. It didn't take
the Colonel long to figure out the best day to declare a
general holiday would be St. Patrick's day.
Several years later, that same Freemason, now a general
in the American Revolution, faced a very similar problem.
Billeted at Morristown, New Jersey, his troops were
discouraged after a long winter of devastating fighting and
losses. On top of that, the preceding winter of 1779-80 was
brutally cold. That General, George Washington, again had
many Irish troops under his command and once again he saw
the opportunity of celebrating St. Patrick's Day to boost
morale. With that, Washington issued the order giving his
troops their first day off in over two years, “The General
directs that all fatigue and working parties cease for
tomorrow the SEVENTEENTH instant, a day held in particular
regard by the people of [Ireland].”
The respite from the ravages of war and winter went
over well with the troops, some of whom were said to
celebrate with a "hogshead of rum." Washington is credited
with establishing the first instances of a secular celebration of
St. Patrick's day, a tradition which caught on and has grown to
become a major event today, with the hogshead of rum long
replaced by freely flowing green beer.
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