Irish-ish and vaccinated

My family is so many generations deep in Canada that I don’t really feel Irish. A little Irish-ish, maybe.

Enough that tomorrow I will drink Irish beer and eat Guinness Stew sopped up with Irish Soda Bread.

I do it to honour my ancestors who immigrated and suffered—really suffered—so that I can sit in my warm house and eat plentiful food in good health. They lived in a remote log cabin. No plumbing. No furnace. No Mac’s Milk on the corner or butchery down the street.

It is especially fitting to do so this year, during a pandemic, because in 1866 my ancestors lost three children in one week to a diphtheria epidemic.

Children aged 13, 11 and 9 just . . . gone . . . in the space of a week.

Three children in one week lost to a disease that we never have to think about because WE HAVE VACCINES.

Time has made some people complacent. North Americans born after 1920 don’t know how death used to brush up close in daily life. Our generation has never seen with our own eyes an entire family wiped out in a week, because WE HAVE VACCINES.

Cheers and Éirinn go Brách!

And when it’s your turn, get the vaccine.

Shamrock cookies
Photo by Jill Wellington on

16 thoughts on “Irish-ish and vaccinated

  1. kyoungtravels

    Amen to that! I’m working on a family history project with my mother and learned of an uncle who survived the First World War, just to come home and die from the Spanish flu in 1918. Another huge medical advance we take for granted is antibiotics. My mother (born in 1934) nearly died from pneumonia when she was small because there weren’t antibiotics for common folk then (they were being saved for soldiers). She remembers overhearing her parents talking, and they expected her to die. We do need to be grateful for vaccines, antibiotics and all those other medical advances we take for granted.

  2. Ally Bean

    That’s a powerful lesson from the past. Three children in one week is awful. We are so much better off now, in ways that our Irish ancestors would find incredible. Enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day dinner. 🍀

  3. Joni

    My Irish ancestors immigrated during the potato famine in 1846, three brothers and their families, and I found a similar incident when I was researching their history. In our cemetery there are two tiny gravestones of two young children a 5yr old girl and an 8 yr old boy who both died the same week in March 1863, and then two years later in 1865 their 18 yr old sister died, leaving that branch of the family with only one remaining son. They packed up and moved across the border to Michigan a few years later and I lost track of them…..probably wanting a fresh start. I always wondered what they had died of, as March can be flu season too. I remember lining up for the polio vaccine in grade 2, and had several friends in university who had polio when children and had leg braces and after effects. We take vaccines for granted.

    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      Yes, when we read those cold, hard facts – the dates of death and the numbers – it’s hard for us to understand how devastating that would have been. May we never have to discover how it feels first hand.

  4. marianbeaman

    Thanks for the reality check, Arlene, today. My ancestry too contains a lot of death and persecution, but today we focus on the positive.

    Do enjoy those Irish shortbread cookies. By the way, contrary to my posting last week, I did get to write a tribute to St. Patrick’s Day. Though I’m not Irish, I love the good cheer of the day.

    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      I’m surrounded by people of Irish descent here in the Ottawa Valley – there are tons of us. St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal. The best part is, everyone joins in the celebration whether they have Irish heritage or not. It’s just a fun day. Lots of fiddle music and dancing. Friends and family. The best. Happy day to you too!

  5. karen

    🍺🍀Cheers to you and this important reminder of historical context often forgotten. Let’s honor our ancestors by using everything at our disposal now, which includes hindsight and gratitude. Oh, and raising a glass too!

    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      Thank you for dropping into my blog. My heart always leaps with joy every time I hear of another person getting the vaccine. We’re getting there . . . we’re getting there . . . soon I will be able to hug my friends! Have a wonderful day.


What do you think? Let me know. Comments make me really happy.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.