Sunday, March 11, 2018

There's more to Irish Chicago than turning the river green

                               Hazel Lavery living and dying, that tale
                               As though 
some ballad-singer had sung it all; 
                                                                        —W.B. Yeats
     Green beer and leprechauns, step-dancing and corned beef. Who decided that St. Patrick’s Day always has to be the same?
     Not to take anything away from Bushmills, soda bread and “Danny Boy.” Fine in small doses once a year.
     But there’s so much more to Irish history in general and Chicago Irish history in particular, wonders that never get hinted at, even leading up to the day when big buttons proclaim everybody is Irish.
     Such as? For instance? We could mention … oh, to pick one example … the Chicago woman whose acclaimed beauty landed her face on Irish banknotes for half a century.  

       What, you don’t know the story? Well, pour yourself a Jameson, laddie, pull up a stool, lass, because Hazel Lavery, as Yeats observed in verse, is the stuff of legend, only it’s true.
     The currency is not the half of it. She was friends with George Bernard Shaw and neighbors with Winston Churchill, whom she taught to paint, a lifelong comfort against his “black dog” of depression. She was rumored to be the lover of both freedom-fighter Michael Collins and Kevin O’Higgins, leader of the Irish Free State, which some believe she had a direct hand in creating.

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  1. Intriguing story. Thanks, Neil. We needed that.


  2. Found a fun essay on the internet about Hazel that was published in Porkapolis a few years ago as well as some of her portraits, many but not all of which give her a haughty look because she rarely is shown smiling. Not a beautiful woman really, but one can’t disregard her looks in favor of her intellectuality; at least I can’t. Nor could her husband, it would appear.


  3. It's interesting that the Irish chose an intellectual, or at least a woman who knew from intellectuals, to be the face of their country, as opposed to the French who just take the good-looking actress du jour.


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