Well, it’s Saint Patrick’s Day again, and today as I walked through Liverpool the city was buzzing with the usual tricolours, green top hats, flutes and drums.
As it is everywhere, Paddy’s Day is huge in Liverpool, and it warmed my heart to hear the Boys of the Old Brigade wafting out of a bar as I walked past. Commercially driven sentiment or proud cultural celebration – it makes no difference in the end as long as the city is alive with the rebel songs we know and love.
This year I had my usual sly wink and nod from my English friends, most of whom know I rarely bother with the spectacle anymore. I had the usual womb-ache that comes with seeing tiny babies dressed as pots of gold and laughed with the lads drinking and dancing in the street. And, as usual, I rolled my eyes at all those proud republicans lining up for their pints of Guinness.
It might not be too well known now, but it was certainly known at the time that Arthur Guinness was a staunch unionist, who opposed home rule and was accused of spying for the British occupiers. It’s also thought he provided men and other support to British forces in Ireland.
Described by historians as “steadfast in his loyalty to the crown” it is also documented that one of his descendants in 1913 donated £100,000 to the UVF arms fund, an enormous figure for the time.
During the lead up to the 1916 Easter Uprising, republican Guinness employees became afraid to join demonstrations for fear of repercussions in the workplace.
On the 29th April 1916, two civilians were murdered by British soldiers in the grounds of the brewery. They were said to be Sinn Feinn members, but were later found to be two employees with no connections to Sinn Feinn at all.
Later the company began to dismiss workers who were suspected to be involved in the rebellion or sympathetic to the revolutionary movement.
Arthur Guinness made it very clear he did not support his fellow Irishmen in their struggle for freedom, and wanted Ireland to remain under England’s control. He and his descendants supported and helped to fund the British against the Irish and continued to victimise republican members of staff afterwards.
Even as late as the 1980’s a PR spokesman for Guiness told the press that they should “make the distinction that Guiness is an English company” and distance themselves from the “Irish connection” as much as possible.
Now I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll have a whiskey.