Dear Little Shamrock: Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

“Dear Little Shamrock” published in Detroit by Whittemore, Swan & Stephens, 1870.

2020 St. Patrick’s Day celebrations will look a bit different for many who are used to sharing a beer at their local Irish pub; nevertheless, we can still celebrate the spirit of Ireland and the Irish by sitting at the piano, listening to some favorite ballads and songs, and doing a little online research in the Library’s collections.

The shamrock is the well-known symbol of Ireland, usually decorating homes, bars, and other gathering places on St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint, is said to have referenced the three-leafed plant as a symbol of the Holy Trinity. During the 18th century, however, the shamrock took on political meaning when used as a symbol by groups such as the Irish Volunteers and the Society of United Irishmen. Green, the color of the shamrock, was also adopted as the revolutionary color of the United Irishmen, as referenced in the popular Irish song “The Wearing of the Green” (listen to the song here). The shamrock adorns architecture in Ireland, features in countless emblems for national organizations, and was registered as a trademark by the Government of Ireland.

The Library of Congress website features a wealth of material related to the shamrock, including 37 pieces of sheet music that reference the great symbol of Ireland. My pick this St. Patrick’s Day is the sweet song, “Dear Little Shamrock.” There are actually multiple editions of the song available online. You can play through the music at home and gather friends around to sing together; or, listen to the beautiful voice of Irish tenor John McCormack sing to you through the Library’s National Jukebox.

The Library’s website features far more Irish tunes and ballads to play through at home, and the National Jukebox will entertain you with countless recordings as well. And if you are as enchanted by John McCormack’s voice as I am, read more abou the Irish tenor in this archived blog post and listen to more recordings online. May the Dear Little Shamrock bring everyone some cheer – and luck!

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