Irishisms in Harry Potter

by Rainycat

“Er –– is it my eyes or has everything gone green?”
Ronald Weasley – pg 76, Goblet of Fire

Once upon a time, there was a land in Western Europe that was home to all magic.

Wise druids ruled their tribes, conducting their meetings on hilltops, shrouded in grey mist. In the trees lived the fairies, responsible for all types of mischief, and now and then, they aided whomsoever they pleased. Armies raced through the forests, so lightly footed that they broke no twig, reciting twelve books of poetry. Power-mad queens waged violent wars from their castles over very trivial matters, only to result in destruction on both sides. Witches trained princesses to defy their fates, and under the dark, cloudy skies superheroes were born. Fierce giants roved the land, casting deep valleys in their wake.

Of course, all that ended when St. Patrick came along.

The above describes not the “Land of Far Far Away” (although for you, reader, that may well be the case). As you may have already guessed, I am talking about Ireland. There are many Irish references throughout the Harry Potter books, as you may have noticed.

Who won the Quidditch World Cup? Ireland did, back in the summer of GoF. The Irish team were already hotly-tipped favorites, and they did it, though Bulgaria put up a strong opposition. As England, Scotland and Wales had been knocked out, Ireland served as the next nearest country for the Hogwarts lads to support.

In spite of the inevitable competitive attitudes of both teams, the atmosphere before and during the match is very good. Everyone is cheering and having a good time in general. The above remark made by Ron is in reference to the Irish area of the campsite, where their tents are disguised as green hills. Across Europe, at least, Irish supporters have a reputation for being a good and outgoing crowd.

The mascots (Leprechauns –– what else?) put on a good show, though the spectators do later feel cheated by their roguery.

However, we are all aware of what happens only hours after the match. Afterwards, Arthur Weasely makes a comment about drink being consumed. I sincerely doubt that this is a stab at the Irish; but it certainly equates alcohol with rowdy behavior at such events. I realize that the Quidditch World Cup is a very exciting location for an international Death Eater riot, but I wonder if this occurrence is linked to the hooliganism that is an unfortunate aspect of English soccer matches in particular.

JK Rowling has said on her website that the Irish team members were named after her friends. I’m guessing there’s no story or plot twists to any of those characters!

Interestingly, I noted that it is the Republic of Ireland who win, and not Ireland as a united country. Though the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland play as separate teams in soccer, the island is united in rugby.

Secondly, one of the principle members in Harry’s year is Seamus Finnegan. He is clearly Irish. His first name does, in fact, translate to James (plot twists, anyone?).

Seamus is a proud young man – half blooded, he states. He calls his mother “Mam” – a common maternal term for Irish children. He is perhaps a more complex character than his best friend Dean. We see this most notably in OotP, when Seamus refuses to believe Harry and Dumbledore but is eventually swayed.

The “Kenmare Kestrals” are his Quidditch team, and he patriotically keeps his green rosette on his bedside table for many months after the World Cup. The fact that he supports a Kenmare team may locate his family in County Kerry (Southern Ireland).

It is not yet clarified, but I think it may be safe to say that Hogwarts, like Durmstrang and Beauxbatons, caters for a regional area, and not for one nation. In this case, there are probably many other Irish students, but Seamus remains the prominent one.

Scotland, as the location of Hogwarts, has many ties with Ireland, among them the closely related language. I have noticed that the word “boggart” bears an uncanny resemblance to the Irish word “bagairt,” meaning threat. As boggarts themselves are a creation of the victim’s fear, they are threats, and nothing more. A boggart cannot harm, only threaten.

Apart from the “Kenmare Kestrals,” there is at least one other Irish team mentioned inQuidditch Through the Ages. This team is the “Ballycastle Bats” – Northern Ireland. There are Irish creatures mentioned in Fantastic Beasts –– the Augurey is also known as the “Irish Phoenix”.

Another Hiberno-magical phenomenon mentioned in the HP books is the banshee. Seamus’ boggart is a banshee. A banshee is a sort of phantom-woman, who appears outside a house and wails – this is a sign that someone inside the house is very close to death (I don’t know if it’s significant that Seamus’ approach was to rid her of her voice, thus preventing death). Professor Gilderoy Lockhart recalls in his books how he defeated the “Bandon Banshee” –– Bandon being a town in Cork.

A cultural point that is more an Irish thing than British is Halloween. Halloween isn’’t really a huge thing in Britain –– Guy Fawkes Day is bigger, and that’’s five days after. It gets a quick mention in PS/SS, but other than Dumbledore’’s fiery phoenix, it doesn’’t get another mention. We all know about the huge number of events that have taken place on Halloweens over the years in the HP world – ranging from that famous night to the weekend the DA was formed.

As Ireland was the last place in Europe for Celtic customs to linger, Halloween, or the night before the Samhain festival (which was one of the feasts conducted by the druids), was not squashed by Roman invasion. As is the nature of Halloween, it is only obvious that a school for witchcraft and wizardry should celebrate it!

A great number of Irish actors have successfully portrayed the HP characters on the big screen. Both actors that have played Albus Dumbledore are Irish – the late Richard Harris and the currently cast Michael Gambon. Devon Murray of course plays Seamus, and Brendan Gleeson will be seen as Mad-Eye Moody in the upcoming GoF film.

So reader, have a great 17th March, be you Irish or not!