Pop Culture Blind Spot: Darby O’Gill And The Little People

Three truths and a lie, St. Patrick’s Day Edition:

  • I grew up Irish dancing and thus I never went to school on St. Patrick’s Day because I had performances.
  • I mostly look like a leprechaun.
  • Every year, my family watched Darby O’Gill and the Little People sometime around St. Paddy’s day.
  • I despair every time someone calls it St. Patty’s Day. Who’s Patricia?

Answer: As you probably guessed from the post title, I’ve never seen Darby O’Gill and The Little People. The 1959 Disney movie is a cheesy, beloved Irish-American classic starring (according to Wikipedia)… Sean Connery?! Woah. In my defense, in the 90s if your family didn’t have the VHS tape of a movie or it didn’t air on a station you got, you just didn’t see it. I’m rectifying that now, so please don’t disinvite me from the next ceilidh or soda bread baking night.

Set design of Irish movies from the 1940s-1970s is the main reason for a lot of lingering Irish stereotypes. Namely, that it’s always vaguely the 1800s with thatch roofs and dirty stucco walls and like … spinning wheels and butter churns and shawls everywhere.

Is the old lady, The Widow Sugrue,  the same old lady from The Wedding Singer? I know it’s impossible but one has to wonder.

It’s not.

If you’re playing Irish Movie Bingo, fill in your square for Pretty Young Lass Needs A Husband

It takes me about 3 minutes to get into the mode where I understand what anybody is saying. It’s not because I’m not used to Irish accents. It’s because these aren’t Irish accents (Katie’s is often OK. Widow Sugrue’s reminds me of elementary school plays where you didn’t know how to do the accent you were supposed to do so you just talked weird).

It’s called Darby O’Gill and The Little People, and for whatever reason I assumed Darby would be a leprechaun too. Nope. Just a guy.

If you’re playing Irish Movie Bingo, fill in your square for Group Of Men Telling Legends In A Pub.

The special effects of Darby talking to leprechaun King Brian are surprisingly very good. Sometimes I think modern CGI makes things look more fake than old-school camera tricks.

The image links to an explanation of some of the *movie magic.* I’m duly impressed.

It also reminds me of the parts of Mr. Rogers when take the trolley to the Land of Puppetville or whatever that was.

If you’re playing Irish Movie Bingo, fill in your square for Village Priest Solving A Financial Problem.

Young Sean Connery could get it.

By the way, Sean Connery is one of those people who’s never been young. He’s 29 here and his face is care-worn and weathered.

Everyone’s sideburns are huge. Little House on the Prairie sideburns.

If you’re playing Irish Movie Bingo, fill in your square for Woman Leans Out A Half-Door.

If you’re playing Irish Movie Bingo, fill in your square for Old Man Plays The Fiddle.

These leprechauns have the best outfits. They’re total Keebler Elf getups.

I’d live inside this Leprechaun Ceilidh. It’s like the Trolls hideout without all the LSD, or Munchkinland without the specter of murder. Yet, anyway.

So many dorky Irish in-references: Brian Boru, the harp that once thro Tara’s halls, a tribe of people cowering away from direct sunlight (no? Just me?).

When Darby plays his fiddle really fast and the leprechauns start dancing crazy, you could forget what I said about “without all the LSD” before. This is trippy.

If you’re playing Irish Movie Bingo, fill in your square for Somebody Gets Someone Drunk In Order To Trick Them.

Always been a sucker for a cat vs leprechaun sequence. Another triumph for old-school special effects.

All these songs sound the same. Bless Janet Munro and Sean Connery. They’re trying so hard to have Irish accents in their scenes together. Sean Connery has natural 21st Century American Invisalign Teeth. Janet Munro, an English actress, definitely looks Irish.

Darby would be a cute name for a dog, right?

Darby, requesting whisky: The best in the house!

Barmaid: [look of shock and fear, because best in the house means things are SERIOUS. Also because Darby gives the drink to a man inside his rucksack.]

I start laughing out loud when Katie starts singing in a drippy voice while preening her weird short bangs and suddenly I can’t stop laughing.

Keep expecting this to turn into an SNL sketch where King Brian is really gross or filthy.

If you’re playing Irish Movie Bingo, fill in your square for Woman Gets Offended When Man Loves Her.

The banshee looks like you’re meant to be looking at it through special glasses.

“29. Sean Connery is TWENTY NINE” – me, out loud, trying to convince myself that Very Adult Man Sean Connery isn’t even 30 here.

The ghostly horse and carriage is actually spooky in a laser light show at the planetarium kind of way. If I saw this as a kid I’d be unnerved.

By the way, the headless horseman doesn’t really have an Irish accent, either.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I laugh every time they sing that stupid song.

If you’re playing Irish Movie Bingo, fill in your square for Characters Drive Away In A Horse-Drawn Cart.

The bottom line: I enjoy old movies, and this was an enjoyable old movie. The underlying question with our Pop Culture Blind Spot posts is whether cult favorites are good of their own accord, or if you have to have some sort of earlier sentimental connection to them to really love them.  I could see being really into Darby O’Gill And The Little People if I had loved it as a kid, and seeing at is an adult I have a healthy appreciation for the old-school special effects and the imaginative story. It actually made me realize, in comparison, how much more I liked last year’s St. Patrick’s Day Pop Culture Blind Spot, The Quiet Man. In the battle between Rugged Men Who Aren’t Irish Playing Rugged Men Who Are, Sean Connery vs John Wayne, John Wayne takes this round.


You Know You’re Irish-American When…

Although I’d argue that I’m just plain American (even if I have ancestors who were from somewhere else), this time of year I can’t help but notice that there are a few things that set apart Americans from Irish backgrounds.  Irish-Americans are also different from Irish people, and if you’re reading this from Ireland most of these items won’t sound familiar to you. Yes, Irish-Americans are their own weird little subculture. Are you a part of it?

You know you’re Irish-American when…

  • As soon as you were old enough to count to three, you were old enough to count to “one two three, two two three, three two three.”

  • Not only have you been to a feis and a ceilidh, you can spell and pronounce both.
  • You have siblings or cousins with the following names: Molly, Megan, Caitlin, Shannon, Erin, Katie, Kelly, Sean, Ryan, Brian, Kevin, Patrick. Nope, those aren’t all Irish names. Doesn’t matter.
  • The men in your family – above a certain age – all wear those flat tweed caps.


    As a kid, one of my non-Irish-American friends remarked that my dad always wears a beret.

  • You have at least one acquaintance with the same first and last name as another famous Irish-American. For instance, my cousin shares a name with Shannen Doherty (but spelled differently), and my Irish dance teacher was Eddie Murphy (… he’s Irish, right?).
  • Your grandmother (even if she was a Republican) idolized JFK until the day she died.
  • To this day, your aunts use “he looks like JFK” as the ULTIMATE compliment.

    I think I almost got blacklisted from the family when I said he “just looks like a regular guy.” Now JFK Jr., on the other hand…

  • You have attended a funeral where nobody was named Danny. Danny Boy was sung anyway.

  • You, or someone in your family, would argue to the grave that Danny Boy and When Irish Eyes Are Smiling are NOT real Irish songs.
  • By the time you were 6, you owned a piece of claddagh jewelry, knew the whole story behind it, and could identify what the different parts symbolized.
  • You cringe when non-Irish friends say that they bought a claddagh for themselves. The horror!
  • Someone in your family is still really pissed at the English. Like, more than you expect contemporary people in Ireland to be.
  • And they’re probably really jazzed about the centennial of the Easter Uprising, too.
  • You own at least one of those itchy sweaters, probably more, purchased every time somebody in your family goes to Ireland.

    Accurate, except where are the rest of the kids?

  • You have had to set friends straight on the proper way to make tea. You have all but given up on ordering tea out. Thanks for the lukewarm water that I’m supposed to, um … dunk?… a tea bag in, though?

St. Saoirse Of Irish-America.

  • Christmas shopping is easy because you have one relative who collects Belleek, Connemara Marble, or Waterford Crystal.


  • As a child, you believed in –  and were terrified of – leprechauns, fairies or banshees.

    Scarred for life.

  • You know EXACTLY what I’ll tell me ma.
  • You had your first drink at the AOH (that’s Ancient Order of Hibernians to outsiders).
  • All of your uncles have retained their childhood nicknames within the family: Danny, Tommy, Jimmy, Mickey, etc.
  • Even if you aren’t super into St. Patrick’s Day, people assume you are and practically congratulate you when the holiday rolls around.
  • You have at least one family ginger.


    … or a few.

  • You also have family lore about Black Irish (read: why your one brother has black hair).
  • There was a shillelagh and a St. Brigid’s Cross hanging in your house growing up.

    Bowl of fire entirely optional.

  • If you have the stereotypical Irish phenotype – freckles, light skin, light eyes, red hair – strangers ALWAYS tell you you must be “very Irish.” Which is weird because isn’t “very Irish” like… from Ireland? And everything else is not very Irish?

Literally me.

  • You were the family with the big bottle of sensitive skin-formula SPF 50. In the Northeast. In March. 
  • There are four or more children in your family. You have described it as a “small family.”
  • Listing all of your nieces and nephews’ names in order, properly, in one breath, is practically a party trick.
  • You grit your teeth when someone says St. Patty’s Day. Or Corn Beef.
  • Family parties: light on the food, heavy on the booze.
  • You, or someone in your family, has a first or last name that other Americans cannot spell or pronounce.
  • You have corned beef and cabbage around St. Patrick’s Day, but that isn’t the only time of the year that you eat boiled meat.
  • If you didn’t go to Catholic school, you went to CCD. Meaning you were one of those kids who used to get into our desks every Sunday.
  • And I’m not saying Irish-Americans can hold a grudge, but that was TWENTY YEARS AGO.
  • Irish Catholic guilt trips are real.
  • So is the Irish Goodbye. Every gathering wraps up with a round of “wait, when did Aunt Whoever leave?”


St. Patrick’s Day Hangover Cures for Adults

Unpopular American opinion: I could care less about St. Patrick’s Day.

In fact,  I was never really into St. Patrick’s Day. In elementary school, I suppose it was an excuse to wear green and possibly get those gold chocolate coins that Leprechauns give out (is that how it works?) As a college student, I was into it in the sense that I liked hanging out with my friends and avoiding all work as much as possible. It was also a big deal in Boston, as one can expect, so I got into the spirit of things, but I was never really a hardcore celebrator. It doesn’t help that I’m not that big of a drinker either.

Now, well now I’m 28. Nothing has really changed. Except for the fact that I’m older. And if you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re older too. Well, in the sense that you’re older than you were last year. And as adults, drinking and going out has changed since the days of college (hopefully). It’s not as easy to rally after a big night of drinking for class the next day. Now you have to actually rally or else you will get fired for not doing your job at work.

But, in the spirit of trying to keep our youth alive while still attempting to have fun, here are some helpful tips to get you through today (and any forthcoming holiday or big night out where your age prohibits you from being as much of a party animal as you used to be).

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

Ladies, we all know makeup can transform us from monsters in the morning to Angelina Jolie-like creatures after just a few applications of moisturizer, foundation, powder, eyeliner, eyeshadow, mascara, blush, lip gloss, and you’re good to go. Except now that you’re out of college, you probably have invested in legit/quality makeup so the results are most likely better than they used to be back in the day. Men, unless you already have a regular makeup regimen, you’re on your own. If you can’t feel good, you might as well look good.

Eat Breakfast

I’m assuming if you decided to stay up on a Monday night to drink your cares away instead of staying in to watch the third to last episode of How I Met Your Mother, the chances of you getting up early in the morning to make yourself a hearty breakfast are slim to none. But, in the event your body is just accustomed to getting up for your 9am work schedule, make sure you don’t skip out on bfast today. Make it, buy it, whatever. Just give your old, haggard body some sustenance. But just make sure it’s not that shit you used to eat on a dollar budget back in the day. You have money now. Well, a bit more than before. Invest in some real food.

Water: Does a Body Good

If you don’t know by now that you should hydrate as much as possible when you’re drunk/hangover, I don’t know what to tell you. I’m surprised you made it this far, frankly. But like any hangover when you’re old or young, water is essential. Just take your Nalgene to the water cooler and fill the puppy up. Perhaps make a friend while at the water cooler. Do people have water cooler talk anymore? If you’re not ‘into’ water, take the Gatorade/electrolyte drink route to replace all the salt and potassium you lost while dehydrated.

Take a Long Lunch

And by ‘long lunch’ I mean go in your car and take a nap. Or find a secret spot in your office to take a nap. Just go take a nap.

Avoid Extemporaneous Chit Chat

Here’s your chance to blow off small talk with your annoying co-workers. Without making it seem like you actually have a hangover, just give the impression you are too busy to stop and talk or something. You’re still technically impaired when hungover, not as bad as being drunk, but you’re not fully 100% functional until the hangover is gone. Basically you don’t want to make any big decisions or say something you don’t mean during this time. I say it’s the best excuse to not talk to people. Take it while you can.

Go To Sleep Early

That whole your body needs 8 hours of sleep thing isn’t a myth, y’all. It’s real life. And it’s even more important when you’re drunk/hangover. Your body needs to recover, especially since it’s not as young as it used to be. Basically, just take this entire experience as a wakeup call.

Most WTF-Worthy Irish Folk Lyrics

The music of Ireland and I have a long, antagonistic history. Considering Ireland’s love for long, antagonistic histories, that’s probably not surprising, right? See, my dad is one of those old American men who has adopted Professional Irish Guy as part of his persona. You may know the type. His family has been in the United States for over 100 years (well, except for his own mother who was French Canadian, so really, only half of his family), yet he turns red in the face when he talks about “the English,” is a card-carrying member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, wears one of those tweed caps in all seasons, and listens exclusively to Irish folk music. I spent many horrible family car trips listening to my dad’s “Irish tapes,” which were always of old white dudes who sounded like pirates warbling slightly under-key. Lots of accordion. It was not great. Three of us were forced into Irish dance, so we couldn’t even escape that damn music during our extracurricular time. Every family party has a soundtrack of 200-year-old fiddle tunes that were 12 verses long and illustrated an entire war. I understand that there is good Irish folk music – but I’ve heard a lot of the bad stuff in my days as well, let me tell you.

Whether you’re listening to good Irish tunes or very bad ones, there are a few things in common. The traditional songs fall into a few neat categories. There’s what I like to call “deedle-eedle” music. These songs are lighthearted ditties about drinking or love, sound like something you’d find on a CD of tunes for preschoolers, and often have nonsense lyrics like, well, “deedle eedle ay.” Then, there’s the war ballad set. That’s why my dad hates England so much. Finally, you have the songs that are designed to make you want to draw a warm bath … and grab a sharp knife. Really depressing stuff.

In case you don’t believe how WTF-worthy some Irish tunes are, let’s allow the lyrics to speak for themselves:

A Bunch of Wild Thyme

Centuries before Taylor Swift slut-shamed her BFF Abigail, the Irish wanted to remind young ladies that they’re worthless without their … umm…  thyme. Which is the world’s most confusing and ill-constructed metaphor for virginity. Although, judging by the over-extended metaphor in the chorus, at least she’s not going to … germinate any sprouts?… the way they’re doing it. This is surprisingly filthy. I hate it.

Come all ye maidens young and fair
And you that are blooming in your prime
Always beware and keep your garden fair
Let no man steal away your thyme

Chorus: For thyme it is a precious thing
And thyme brings all things to my mind
Thyme with all its flavours, along with all its joys
Thyme, brings all things to my mind

 All For Me Grog

A poet of our generation once said “I did it all for the nookie.” A poet of olde Erin said basically the exact same thing. Irish-Americans, please realize that whatever romantic, beautiful story you’ve heard about why your ancestors came to America, the real reason they crossed the ocean was because they’d spent all their cash-money on lassies drinkin’ gin.

All for me grog
And it’s all for me grog, me jolly jolly grog
All for me beer and tobacco
For I spent all me tin on lassies drinkin’ gin
Across the Western ocean I must wander.

Courtin’ in the Kitchen

It’s like it was written by an eighteenth-century version of a men’s rights activist. Do they know about this song? I sense an anthem!

I said she did invite me, but she gave a flat denial
For assault she did indict me, and I was sent to trial
She swore I robbed the house in spite of all her screechin’
And I got six months hard for me courtin’ in the kitchen.
Sing too-ra-loo-ra-lie, singing too-ra-loo-ra-laddie
Sing too-ra-loo-ra-lie, singing too-ra-loo-ra-laddie.

When I Was Single

This is the Irish folk interpretation of “Ugh, am I too old for crop tops now?” Except in this song it’s a plaid shawl. I don’t know if tearing a handkerchief in two had some sort of significance in days of yore, or if this lady’s husband is just real weird.

When I was single, I wore a plaid shawl
But now that I’m married, I wear none at all.

Ah, but still I love him!
I’ll forgive him!
I’ll go wherever he goes!

He bought me a handkerchief: red, white, and blue
But before I could wear it, he tore it in two

Finnegan’s Wake

Tl;dr: some dudes got real boozed up at a wake, they got in a drunken brawl (because, Irish), spilled some liquor on the dead body, who – game changer! – was totally alive. BEST WAKE EVER.

With my phil-la-loo, hub-ba-boo, whack-hur-roo boys
Didn’t we sing ’til our jaws did ache
And shout and laugh ’til all was blue
With the fun we had at Finnegan’s Wake.

Then Mickey Mulvaney just showed his head
When Tim Donovan flung a full quart at him
It missed him, and fallin’ on the bed
The liquor was split on the face of Tim
Now the spirits new life gave the corpse, my joy!
Tim jumped like a Trojan from the bed
Cryin’ whilst he walloped each girl and boy
“T’underin’ Jaysus, did ye t’ink I’se dead?”

Maids While You’re Young

Sage advice: Don’t marry an old man. They’ve lost all their fal-do-rum, fal-diddle-die-ree-um. Which may be the male version of thyme.

An old man came courtin’ me, hey ding doo-rum-die
An old man came courtin’ me, me being young
An old man came courtin’ me saying would you marry me
Maids, when you’re young, never wed an old man.

Because he’s got no fal-do-rum, fal-diddle-die-ree-um
He’s got no fal-do-rum, fal-diddle-fal-day
He’s got no fal-do-rum, he’s lost his ding-do-rum
Maids, when you’re young, never wed an old man.

The German Clock Winder

In the omitted earlier verses, a German clock winder named Fuchs (f’real) comes to town. He meets a lady and “winds her clock,” which sounds sort of mechanical and not really fun. Especially once her husband comes home.

Now as they were seated down on the floor
There came a very loud knock on the door
In walked her husband and great was his shock
For to see the old German wind up his wife’s clock

Singing too-ra-loom-a-loom-a
Too-ra-loom-a-loom-a, too-ra-lie-ay
Too-ra-lie, too-ra-lie, yoo-ra-lie-ay
Too-ra-loom-a-loom-a, too-ra-loom-a-loom-a
Too-ra-lie-ay, too-ra-lie-ay
Yoo-ra-lie, yoo-ra-lie-ay

The husband says he, “Now look here, Mary Anne
Don’t let that German come in here again
He would up your clock and left mine on the shelf
If your old clock needs winding, I can wind it me-self!”

A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day

Things I’m glad about: (1) I don’t meet dog-killing braggarts who regale me with their canine-killing antics in song every day.

Oh, I took up my dog,
And him I did shoot,
All down in the County Kildare.
So be easy and free,
When you’re drinking with me,
I’m a man you don’t meet every day.

The Auld Orange Flute

Ugh. PAPISTS. Amirite?

And all he did whistle and finger and blow
To play Papish music, he found it no-go
“Kick the Pope,” “The Boyne Water,” and such like would sound
But one Papish squeak in it could not be found.

Old Maid in the Garret

It’s like this song goes from a rom-com about a hapless single gal to a freaking Hitchcock movie somewhere between the verse and the chorus. I mean holy cow. Why do they have to lock her in the garret?

Oh now there’s my sister Jean, she’s not handsome or good lookin’
Scarcely sixteen and a fella she was courtin’
Now she’s twenty four with a son and a daughter
Here I am, forty five, and I’ve never had an offer.
For it’s oh dear me, how will it be
If I die an old maid in a garret.