It’s just not good enough that St. John’s has gone so long without a gratuitous Irish suburb.
Thanks to former premier Danny Williams, we’ll soon have one the size of Gander.
Galway, that fourth largest city of the Emerald Isle, is now the
new name for Williams’ 2,400-acre development on the other side of Mount Pearl.
Williams chose the name to honour his mother, whose surname is Galway. But it’s hardly a surprise he went with some Irish moniker.
This is the premier, after all,
who launched “Talamh an Éisc: The Fishing Ground,” a permanent exhibit at The Rooms depicting
“the close relationship that exists between Ireland and Newfoundland and Labrador, spanning hundreds of years to present day.”
Visitors are encouraged to “find out why so many people from Trepassey to Tilting describe themselves as Irish Newfoundlanders.”
A capital idea, that, notwithstanding the fact there’s no permanent exhibit celebrating our connection with … oh, I don’t know, England, France or Portugal?
Time for a rewrite
The desire among Eiro-Newfs to rewrite the landscape is understandable. The city is rife with reminders of our British colonial past.
We have Duckworth and Gower streets, named after governors, as well as Kensington Drive and Cornwall Avenue.
And Empire Avenue must surely stir the bile.
True, we do have Dublin Road and Belfast Street, but then the Scots have Edinburgh Street and Aberdeen Avenue.
We even have a nod or two to Wales, such as Burry Port Street and Vaughan Place. It makes my one-quarter Welsh blood surge with pride.
I wasn’t so proud several years ago when a group of Welsh descendants tried to stir up a little tribal passion on St. Andrew’s Day. I did a writeup for The Telegram, but my exuberance for fair comment got the better of me and I referenced, ever so delicately, the rather unpolished performance of the resident church choir. I was immediately disowned.
In any case, despite all the reminders of British colonialism, we’re often led to believe St. John’s is Irish to the core.
Apparently we all grew up under the thumb of the priest. How else could so many Irish bands thrive in one small community?
Have ye got a tin whistle, laddie? C’mon, there’s always room for another.
St. Paddy’s Day is not just another holiday here. It’s a national fête. In some ways, we are more Irish than the Irish.
You don’t think so?
Ask former Irish PM John Bruton. He spent as many Paddy’s Days on George Street as he did on native soil.
So, now we have Galway — which is a three-syllable word, by the way, pronounced “Gall-a-way.” Don’t believe me? Listen to Anna McGoldrick.
And our Ireland away from Ireland is complete. Or is it?
A 2011 census found well over half of this province’s residents identified ethnocultural ancestry as Canadian first.
And among those reaching for ethnic homelands, 40 per cent chose England, while 20 per cent cited Ireland.
Alas, only half of one per cent traced their heritage to Wales. I am in a lonely minority.
But this is not, I assure you, an Orangeman’s rant.
There is something markedly more colourful about the Irish heritage in Newfoundland than most of the others — including those of our aboriginal landlords.
I have happily consorted with some of the most authentic Irish descendants around, and even managed to marry a woman with roots in County Cork.
What’s so surprising about the 2011 census, however, is that it occurred to less than one per cent of respondents to simply tout their ancestry as “Newfoundland.”
Jaysus! Whatever happened to that pride Danny gave back to us?
Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s
commentary editor. Email: email@example.com.