“May good Saint Patrick bless you
And keep you in his care,
And may Our Lord be near you
To answer every prayer.”
—Irish Blessings: With Legends Poems & Greetings
“There’s music in Irish names—
Kilkenny . . . Tipperary . . .
There’s beauty in the countryside,
From Cork to Londonderry,
And whoever makes his earthly home
Close to the Irish sod
Has found a bit of heaven
And walks hand in hand with God.”
—Irish Blessings: With Legends, Poems & Greetings
Here at the time of St. Patrick’s Day 2014 if you are looking for something to read about Irish quotes and blessings, I suggest you visit (or revisit) those sites in which I offer information and quotes from a variety of Irish books in my personal library.
On the subject of Irish saints, names, and quotes there are of course many other sources that can be accessed by simply searching online under those subjects.
One of the most recent sources of interesting Irish saints and names was an article in the Tulsa World that appeared on Sunday, March 2, 2014, titled “Not Just St. Patrick: Ireland home to many saints.”
In that article there is a striking photo of a statue of St. Patrick in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin in which the beloved saint stands in front of lovely stained-glass windows honoring “the fifth-century saint who brought Christianity to Ireland.”
At the time of the writing of this blog post that article could be accessed at:
St. Ciaran (St. Kieran)
“Clonmacnoise [the Irish monastery founded by St. Ciaran or St. Kieran] remains a Celtic Christian site worthy of a visit by anyone interested in ancient things Celtic. To this day tourists and pilgrims still visit Ciaran’s monastery to see some of the finest monastic ruins and high crosses in all of Ireland.”
—“Commemoration of St. Ciaran (St. Kieran)”
Besides the universally known and revered St. Patrick, among the lesser-known Irish saints (and their areas of ministry) discussed in that Tulsa World article were: St. Kevin (Glendalough, County Wicklow); St. Brigit (Kildare, County Kildare); St. Declan (Ardmore, County Waterford); and many others.
The one lesser-known Irish saint (and his area of ministry) featured in that article of most interest to Mari and me was St. Ciaran (pronounced KEER-un) who established a now famous monastery at Clonmacnoise in County Offaly from which Christian missionaries were sent out all over Europe. To learn more about this equally famous saint—famous at least in his native Ireland, if virtually unknown in the United States—read the following excerpt from that Tulsa World article below.
“Clonmacnoise, County Offaly: St. Ciaran”
In neighboring County Offaly, visitors can explore the magnificent remains of the sixth-century monastic site founded by Ciaran in Clonmacnoise. It includes the ruins of a cathedral, two round towers, three Celtic crosses and the largest collection of early Christian gravestones in Western Europe.
Ciaran’s path to sainthood was launched as a young man, when he supposedly restored a dead horse—just one example of his way with animals. Legend has it that a fox carried his psalter (psalm book) and a stag held his books on its antlers while he studied.
After performing the usual round of miracles, Ciaran decided to build a monastery at Clonmacnoise, smitten, he said, by the beauty of the lush green plains and sweeping river Shannon. First though, he had to settle a boundary dispute with a neighbor who offered him land as far as he could throw his cap. After Ciaran uttered a prayer, a gust of wind swept his hat across the fields. To this day, a sudden squall in the midlands is sometimes called ‘Ciaran’s wind.’ The neighbor was eventually made a saint as well—St. Manchan.
The reason this relatively unknown Irish Catholic saint from the Middle Ages is of such interest to two modern-day “Baptiscopalian Methodist Arkies” who have lived half their lives in predominately protestant-evangelical-charismatic Oklahoma is quite simple: We named our younger son after him!
As our Yankee friends say, “Go figure!”
But Why Ciaran?
“Because of his prominence in the early Irish church, St. Ciaran is known as one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland.”
——“Commemoration of St. Ciaran (Kieran)”
Although we wish we could say that we named our second-born son Keiron (our spelling of Ciaran) because we were divinely informed that he was destined to become a great Christian apostle, the truth is much more romantic and adolescent, perhaps indeed a bit mundane.
The simple fact is, the reason we gave our second-born son the Irish name of Keiron is the same reason we gave his older brother, our first-born son, the Irish name of Sean: We learned the name from the movies and liked it!
The story goes like this.
Being a professed lifelong “hopeless romantic” from childhood I have always loved movies. In fact, when growing up in small-town McGehee, Arkansas, which had only one movie theater, I used to go to the “picture show” every time it changed features, which was usually four times a week.
Each week the local theater showed a different film on Sunday-Monday, Tuesday (only), Wednesday-Thursday, and Friday-Saturday. And I never missed a one of them. In those days, parents could allow their youngsters to do that because the admission price was so low and because there was little danger of their little darlings being exposed to anything they shouldn’t see! (See my earlier post titled “The Way We Were.”)
For the first few years after Mari and I were married in December 1962, though our first purchase was a nineteen-inch, black-and-white Zenith television set (see my earlier post titled “A Thing of Beauty Lasts Forever”), we continued to frequent the closest movie theater whenever possible. In our first teaching position in the little East Arkansas cotton town of Holly Grove, that nearest movie theater was in Brinkley (see my recent post titled “Addenda to Blog: Christmas and Our Fifty-First Anniversary”).
That Celtic name “Sean” for the English “John” was known to few Americans, especially in the cotton fields of East Arkansas. However, we were already familiar with it, having seen the 1960 film The Sundowners, which was set in turn-of-the-century Australia and starred Robert Mitchum, Deborah Kerr, Peter Ustinov, and Glynis Johns.
In that engaging film Mitchum played a rugged individualist, an itinerant sheepherder of Irish descent named Paddy Carmody. Naturally, his only son, played by Michael Anderson, Jr., was named Sean. Since Mari and I were already planning our first child, correctly assumed to be a boy, since Peacock girls are scarce, and since I wanted to honor my Irish grandmothers, we immediately looked up the “correct” Irish spelling of that name and chose it for our future firstborn, though his birth would not actually occur until 1966.
As might be expected in that era and area, not many residents of SEARK were as familiar with the name “Sean” as were we “down-home intellectuals and rural sophisticates.” Not long after the “blessed event” the rumor went through the neighborhood, “Did y’all hear? Jimmy ‘n’ May’un named their new baby ‘Seen’!”
Of course, through time, especially with the growing popularity of the James Bond moves and the actor who played him in those early films, Sean Connery, the name of Sean because known and even poplar—though often appearing in America with a variety of spellings such as Shawn, Shaun, Shon, etc.
However, a problem arose when we began to search for an Irish name for our second son since none of the usual such names (Patrick, Michael, Timothy, etc.) seemed to fit.
Finally, fate (or something a bit more spiritual) intervened through the same source as the inspiration for the name Sean: the movies.
But Why Keiron?
About that time we saw a Walt Disney film titled Darby O’Gill and the Little People. Besides starring Sean Connery as a “handsome, strapping young Michael from Dublin,” this lilting Irish fantasy also included in its cast an unknown (to us) Irish actor named Kieron Moore (real name Kieron O’Hanrahan).
Mari and I liked the Irish name Kieron right away and began to try to learn more about it.
Meanwhile, two years after the birth of Sean in 1966, we happened to see the 1968 futuristic sci-fi movie titled 2001: A Space Odyssey which starred a young actor named Keir Dullea as one of the leading characters: two American astronauts on a daring voyage to the planet Jupiter.
Coincidentally, on the very morning I was writing this part of this post, there was an article in the Tulsa World about the fact that American rocket scientists were “plotting a robotic mission” to one of the two moons of Jupiter. The thinking is that these moons might have more chances for water—and thus life—than either earth’s moon or the planet Mars, both of which have been explored by unmanned probes. For more on this subject, see “NASA plots daring trip to Jupiter moon” published in the Tulsa World on March 5, 2014, accessible at the time of this writing at:
Adopting the “K” and “on” spelling from “Kieron (Moore),” and alternating the “i” and “e” as in the first name of “Keir (Dullea),” we came up with the unique spelling of “Keiron.” Of course, as a shorter version for family use, we often called our son “Keir,” as we have continued to do since his birth on March 29, 1970.
But as soon as Keiron/Keir was able to learn to use his name and especially to be identified by it by others outside the family, he hated it!
For many years, he avoided using it to identify himself, choosing rather the family name. Even to this day, he tends to follow that same practice, in keeping with his required name tag on all his military uniforms: Peacock. (To read about Keiron’s military service with many photos of him from childhood to the present, visit my blog post titled “A Soldier’s Story.”)
While he was a child, although we had never particularly celebrated St. Patrick’s Day as a holiday or holy day, in an attempt to convince Keiron/Keir that his name was one to be proud of, we began to emphasize our Irish family heritage. It was then that we started celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with cards, gifts, parties, etc., and to magnify the life and ministry of St. Ciaran.
Through these intervening forty-plus years Keiron/Keir has seemed to reluctantly accept his name (if not to embrace it) though he still tends to avoid using it whenever possible, calling and identifying himself simply as Peacock.
It has helped that through these decades the name Ciaran/Kieran/Kieron/Keiron has become more popular and has appeared more often in public use.
For example, several years ago there was an American Country-Western singer named Kieran Kane.
In the 1990s the movie series titled Home Alone, starring the child actor Macauley Culkin, became enormous popular. It turned out that Macauley had a brother named Kieran, “a former stage actor with a long career on Broadway.”
Then in 1998 popular Hollywood actor James Caan starred in a film titled This Is My Father, in which he played a character named Kieran Johnson, “a lonely, middle-aged, Chicago-based high school history teacher who feels disconnected to his life . . . [and] decides to take a trip to his mother’s small old hometown of Kilronan, County Galway, Ireland.”
All such instances of the name Ciaran/Kieran/Keiron/etc. only serve to make the proud and ancient name more widely known, used, and respected. For that blessing, as for the one on whom we endowed it, we are greatly appreciative.
St. Patrick’s Day and Irish Blessing
“If you’re lucky enough to be Irish . . . you’re lucky enough.”
So now you know why we gave our two sons Irish names; why we give St. Patrick’s Day cards and gifts to our two grandsons aged thirteen and eleven; why our house is always decorated for St. Patrick’s Day with Irish music playing in the background; why we send annual St. Patrick’s Day greetings to friends and family; and why I publish blog posts with an Irish theme, often closing with an Irish blessing, such as this one, my favorite:
“May God give you many years to live,
For sure He must be knowin’
That earth has angels all too few,
While heaven is overflowin’.”
—Irish Blessings: With Legends Poems & Greetings
PS Keiron has two sons to whom he gave double ancestral Peacock names: Levi Jesse and Thomas Benjamin. But the boys prefer the shorter versions of Levi and Ben.
The photo of St. Patrick was taken from this Web site:
The photo of St. Cieran (Kieran) was taken from this Web site:
The photo of Clonmacnoise was taken from this Web site:
The photo of The Sundowners was taken from this Web site:
The photo of 2001: A Space Odyssey was taken from this Web site:
The photo of Dr. No was taken from this Web site:
The photo of Darby O’Gill and the Little People was taken from this Web site:
The photo of This Is My Father was taken from this Web site: