Monday, March 2, 2015

Celebrating with the Irish: St. Patrick's Day in Savannah, Georgia USA

SAVANNAH, Georgia -- A dozen Romantic Inns in Savannah encourage St. Patrick's Day revelers to explore beyond the sea of emerald green commercialism, Kiss Me I'm Irish, green grits, green donuts, and beer-on-the-run for more Irish heritage. 

Sergeant William Jasper monument, Madison Square
Savannah, Georgia USA. Unveiled February 22, 1888.
Photo Courtesy Sandy Traub
The Irish who immigrated to Savannah are among the builders of our nation. The successes of nineteenth century Georgia and Savannah – including construction of canals, highways, railroads, and military -- require robust recognition to Irish laborers, merchants, and volunteer militia men.  Even shoes "for the entire family, and for the slaves as well, were made by the typical cobbler of those early days, an Irishman who made the rounds of the new settlement each year." (Source: History of Savannah)

When visiting modern-day Savannah, "Hostess City of the South", we invite you to do more than peer into the windows of Savannah's restored 19th century homes. Book your lodging with us to enjoy an immersive experience in Savannah culture, including entertainment, food and southern storytelling.
Check for a Ceili (pronounced kee-lee), an Irish word meaning party, specifically one with live musicians, dancing, or general merriment. Some of our Romantic Inns will be hosting one for their lodging guests, or the innkeeper will point you to the Irish pubs where one is surely going on ... not only during St. Patrick's Day festivities!

Cows grazing on farmlands of Bethesda Academy,
an orphanage originally supported by the multi-
denomination Union Society. Today, farm to table
produce and dairy products are served on
Savannah tables from the colonial-era
Bethesda farm.
There are wonderful parallels to Ireland’s coastal heritage and the USA Georgia coast, both with foods of sea, forests, agricultural reliance, and traditions.

Some 9000 years ago the island of Ireland was a mass of dense woodlands with meandering streams and rivers. So was Savannah and the early British colony of Georgia when founded in 1733. 

Like Ireland’s inhabitants, early Savannah settlers “relied totally on the native mammals, birds, fishes and vegetation for substance…. Sometime between 4,000 and 3,000 B.C. the hunter-gatherer way of life was superseded by a lifestyle and economy based on predominantly on agriculture.… Domestic cattle, sheep, goat and pig were introduced into the country, as well as cereal crops such as wheat and barley.  This revolutionized the nature of Irish society, establishing a farming economy which has characterized Irish food until the present day…. Ale, brewed from the barley crop, was an important item of the diet and was consumed at any time of day and at main meals….” Bees were important for honey. (Source: Forward. The History of Food in Ireland by Regina Sexton)

For the Irish in Ireland, however, foods of the wild, including seafood and foraging were labeled ‘famine foods”, giving flashbacks to the tragic Great Potato Famine of the 1840s. Those day boat and farmhouse products are again popular on the fashionable tables of Ireland and Savannah, Georgia USA.

More of the Irish Back Story: The Irish Heritage in Savannah, Georgia USA

-    Of Irish and English lineage, attorney William Ridgely Leaken (born 1859) was appointed by President Taft as collector of customs for the port of Savannah. Prominent also as an author, he penned a series of romances, printed from time to time in the Savannah Morning News, including "The Romance of the Shamrock and the Lily," accounting for the presence of Irish regiments as assistants in the American cause at the siege of Savannah, "The Romance of Oglethorpe and His Birth", "The Romance of Salzburg and Ebenezer", and of other interesting stories. Source: A HISTORY OF SAVANNAH AND SOUTH GEORGIA BY WILLIAM HARDEN VOLUME II ILLUSTRATED THE LEWIS PUBLISHING
-        When James Oglethorpe established the first permanent settlement in Georgia in 1733, at least nine of the settlers who were granted land were Irish, John M. Harrison of the Atlanta Historical Society wrote in 1944. – Source: Savannah Morning News
Irish Jasper Greens monument, honoring
the Irish volunteer militia.
Catholic Cemetery, Savannah, GA
Photo courtesy Sandy Traub
-        Reliance on failed potato crops starved more than a million in Ireland and drove desperate families to immigrate to America and Savannah, Georgia.  
-     The first Catholic bishop presiding over Savannah was John England, a thirty-four-year-old Irishman.  – Source: New Georgia Encyclopedia
-        "The Irish came here [to Savannah] to work. There was no job that was beneath his dignity to do," said another historian, Cas Robinson, at a St. Patrick's Day event in 1991. "It was Irish muscle and sweat that built our highways and railroads, dug our canals, mined our coal, improved our commerce and trade." Most of South Georgia was built by the Irish, [Jimmy] Ray said. They founded towns like Dublin and Fitzgerald while they built canals and railroads across the state.” “They took jobs that slave owners in Georgia didn't want their slaves to do, Ray said. In addition to manual labor, they also formed the state's first fire brigades and police forces, which is where the term "paddy wagon" comes from. Source – Savannah Morning News, March 1999
-        “Before the Civil War, there was a growing population of Irish immigrants coming to Savannah in search of work. To help them feel more a part of their new home, many of these young Irish men got together, and in 1842 they formed their own military unit. The Irish Jasper Greens [The Greens], named for Sgt. William Jasper, a Revolutionary War hero during the Siege of Savannah, were officially recognized by the state in February 1843. Soon after, they were chosen to represent Georgia during the Mexican-American War in 1846. With no army existing in the South, once Georgia seceded from the Union, these battle-tested veterans promptly volunteered for duty.” – Savannah Morning News.
-        Thomas Paul Thigpen writes in his “Lay Leaders as Cultural Mediators: The Catholic Experience in Nineteenth-Century Savannah, Georgia” of the “cultural mentors” and the “aristocracy of the heart” which welcomed nearly arrived Ireland immigrants into Savannah. “Catholic lay leaders in Savannah built for themselves and their fellow parishioners a home where they could think, speak, and act confidently as Catholics, Americans, and Southerners.” 
-        The World’s first nuclear powered merchant ship N.S. Savannah visited Dublin Ireland port in 1964. In 1964, the first transatlantic crossing of an atomic powered merchant vessel from Ireland to the United States was made by the N.S. Savannah with a cargo of 6,000 cartons of bottled Guinness stout.
-        10 USA presidents have Irish ancestors. Franklin Delano Roosevelt married his distant cousin Eleanor Roosevelt on St. Patrick’s Day (1905).

Cheddar Cheese Scones
Recipe: Darina Allen

-        1 lb (450 g/31/4 cup) white flour, preferably unbleached
-        1 level teaspoon (1/2 American teaspoon) salt
-        1 level teaspoon (1/2 American teaspoon) breadsoda (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda)
-        Sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 12-13 fl oz (350-375 ml) approx.
-        egg wash
-        4 oz (110 g) grated cheese, we use mature cheddar.

First fully preheat the oven to 230C/450F/regulo 8. Sieve the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre. Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a floured board, knead lightly for a second, just enough to tidy it up. Pat the dough into a square about 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep, brush with egg wash, cut into 12 square scones. Dip the top of each scone into the grated cheddar cheese, place on a baking sheet. Bake on a hot oven for 230C/450F/regulo 8 for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200C/ 400F/regulo 6, for 5-10 minutes or until cooked. Serve with soup as a snack.



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