Irish go green and orange
Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series on Irish heritage.
Some Irish don’t celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day.
March may be a month of green outfits, green decor and even (the somewhat questionable) green beer, yet, the Irish have another color — orange.
While the green represents the Catholics, the orange represents the Protestants.
Saint Patrick’s Day is a traditional Catholic celebration that has evolved in the United States to encompass Irish heritage generally. Yet Irish Protestants, who traditionally haven’t observed the holiday, still share an equal love for their homeland.
Andrew Tinker, a teacher at Hollidaysburg Area Junior High School, talked about the experience of his mother, Margaret, 79, who was born into a Presbyterian family in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1940. She has lived in Blair County for more than 40 years with her husband, Andrew’s father, Ralph Tinker.
Margaret and Ralph Tinker were living in his hometown of Huddersfield, England, when he received a job offer doing sheet metal work in Connecticut. In their late 20s, with two young children – Allison and Stephen – they packed up everything they owned into a 5-foot-cubed wooden crate and sent it over on a boat, then boarded a plane for America.
“It was a leap of faith,” Andrew Tinker said. “They moved over for opportunities, but I think there was a lot of desire and excitement to go along with it.”
Andrew Tinker, 48, was the first family member from either side born in the United States. In 1978, the family moved to the Altoona area where Ralph Tinker became a partner at Season-Aire.
Andrew Tinker talked about the distinction between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is politically tied to England, Scotland and Wales, but has many who identify as Irish. Tinker says his mother is one of them.
“Northern Ireland still has deep Irish heritage and is under the influence of the United Kingdom,” Andrew Tinker said. “However, the personality of the people is kind of a blend — they identify with Great Britain but at the same time still identify with traditional Irish culture.”
Tinker said that through all of the changes of moving to a new land, he believes his mother found comfort in that traditional culture that she brought with her. The nostalgic music was a big part of that, he said.
“The Irish have very unique, traditional and national-type music,” he said. “It’s not all just Irish pubs and drinking songs — there is a lot of that — but the music I grew up with was always about Ireland and how much the Irish love Ireland.”
The Tinkers also kept an important tradition from both Ireland and England — tea.
“My dad being British and my mom being Irish, we always had tea,” he said. “We would have tea time after dinner, usually around 7 or 7:30 every night, and every morning between breakfast and lunch.”
Tinker did confirm a stereotype of Irish cuisine on two trips to Northern Ireland in 1980 and 1984.
“It’s potatoes,” he said.
“They would make potatoes for breakfast, you’d have potatoes for lunch and potatoes for dinner.” He described it as “around the clock potatoes.”
On those trips, Tinker had the opportunity to experience Irish culture and history first-hand with his mother and her family. He said that he walked miles with his grandfather, Edward Petherick, to see “every historical place in Northern Ireland.”
Tinker did address that big assumption often placed on his mother and family, being of Irish descent.
“People would always say, ‘Well, you must have had a big Saint Patrick’s Day celebration,’ but we never really did,” he said — with one exception. He said he remembered one time his family had some friends over for the holiday, they all donned green hats and his father dyed his beard orange.