IT’S THAT time of year again folks.

As we approach St Patrick’s Day the Guinness, Bailey’s, soda breads and Kerry Gold butter fly off the shelves.

Come March 17 everyone’s a little Irish, dressed in green, eating and drinking Irish, doing an Irish jig and looking for a little man at the end of a rainbow with a big pot of gold.

The Irish people take the day pretty seriously.

It’s also a national holiday and certainly a day marked off on the calendar - the green, the Guinness and the parades all contribute to a great day down at the local pub!

But did you know, St Patrick’s Day used to be a dry day?

Hard to believe, right?

Based on its religious associations the day was considered an alcohol-free day up until the 1960s when the law was changed and the drinking traditions allowed pubs to open all day on St Paddy’s Day (never call it St Patty’s Day).

St Patrick was not Irish, he was from Wales, a fact that many of us don’t realise – he served as a missionary in Ireland.

He was sold into slavery in Ireland when he was a still teenager, becoming religious.

He escaped back to England, became an ordained priest, and after that happened he started converting the Irish Celtic pagans to Christianity.

He was not canonized by the pope, making his saintly status somewhat questionable.

The shamrock symbol was a teaching tool that St Patrick was said to have used to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Sun, and the Holy Spirit.

He was also associated with the colour blue – ‘’no way!’’ I hear you say – but it’s true, blue was associated with Ireland being under British rule.

Since the Irish rebellion in 1798, the tradition of green has stood for its nationalism.

Americans claim to have 12 per cent Irish heritage.

It’s always around this time of year that the Irish Americans come out of the woodwork, claiming Irish heritage through their ancestors who emigrated to the US just after the famine.

Today the Irish US splurge on flavourful corned beef accompanied by cabbage and pints of Guinness. Maybe I should give it a try this year.

So there you have it, some interesting facts you might not have known.

Remember, if you do see a little leprechaun sat at the end of a rainbow you will be given three wishes!   

Irish Wheaten Cheese and Onion Bread 


450g/1lb plain or bread flour, sift 

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda 

1 teaspoon salt 

1 bunch spring onions, chopped 

60g/2oz melted butter 

125g/4oz English mature Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated or crumbled 

300ml/10fl oz buttermilk or you can use 200ml/7fl oz natural yogurt mixed with 100ml/3fl oz milk 

1 tablespoon milk to glaze 


1. Preheat the oven 200c/Gas Mark 6 and dust a baking tray with flour. 

2. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a mixing bowl, and add a couple of grindings of black pepper. 

3. Stir in most of the spring onions and cheese, keeping a little back for the top of the loaf. 

4. Make a well in the centre and add melted butter and enough buttermilk to bring it together into a clean ball, and add a little more milk if needed. 

5. Shape the dough into a 18cm round and put onto the prepared floured baking tray. 

6. Mark the loaf into quarters, cutting halfway through the dough using a sharp knife. 

7. Brush the top with a little milk, then scatter the remaining spring onions and cheese on top. 

8. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the loaf is crispy and sounds hollow when tapped. 

9. Cool on a wire rack before serving - best eaten on the day of baking or reheated next day.