Where does the "Luck of the Irish" come from?

Posted by Ola Kosakowska on the 26th of November 2015 at 09:27:24

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Most of us probably know the expression “The Luck of the Irish” – but I personally have never wondered where this term is actually coming from.

An Old Mining Expression: During the second half of the 19th century, the gold and silver rush years in the US brought up some very successful, fortunate miners that found their ‘pot of gold’. Most of the successful miners were actually of Irish and Irish American birth. With time, Americans came up with the term 'the luck of the Irish.' Of course, it carried with it a certain tone of irony, as if to say that only by being lucky could the Irish succeed. Indeed many native Americans despised the Irish people.



An expression used to undermine the Irish in the country they emigrated to:The natives of the USA in particular despised the Irish settlers who were successful and felt their fortune was down to 'luck' and not due to their hard work. In London, even as late at the 1950's many boarding houses in the capital had signs in the windows that read "No Black, No Dogs, No Irish"! Many job advertisements clearly stated "No Irish Need Apply". Should the Irish succeed in a foreign country, it was seen as "Luck" and not strong will or determination or hard work etc.


The IrIsh Luck = Bad Luck? During Ireland’s past, many Irish were forced to emigrate due to the potato famine for instance. Often, abroad, the Irish were treated badly and had to struggle to make a living.Some emigrants didn't even survive the sea crossing, others grew ill and with no health care, suffered badly. Childhood disease saw many families lose their children, with that their reason for succeeding was not so great and depression followed in many cases by alcohol abuse.Many of the original Irish settlers in the US, the UK and Australia never saw their family again. Indeed on the night before a person emigrated a party was held, a sort of 'funeral' wake which is a traditional Irish custom when someone dies.Therefore, some believe that the expression is rather an ironic one, stating that the Irish are not lucky after all.


Irish Potato Famine

Luck = Hard Work? Some others believe that the Irish people were born lucky. After having to emigrate Ireland for the States and other countries the Irish succeeded to prosper when others struggle – possibly due to their determination and hard work? Does the term lucky equate to hard work?

The role of the Leprechauns? Still others believe, the term comes from the legend of the 'Little People' as they used to be called - Leprechauns. In the myths and stories of the Irish, finding or catching a leprechaun (who would then need to give you gold) was a lucky event that could only take place on rare occasions and in Ireland.

Irish Leprechaun

Wherever the origin of the phrase 'Luck of the Irish' stems from or what is was originally intended to mean, fact is that the Irish are indeed very fortunate people. They are proud of themselves, their country and culture, hardworking, funny and nowadays loved by nations all over the world.

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