My Father the Leprechaun

by Allen Roy MacPherson

4. The Leprechaun Suit

“Having a habit definitely doesn’t make you a monk
Nor does having Clover Green in bed make you an Irishman
But if you come up short you might as well be a Leprechaun
Or maybe consider becoming a celibate ol’ monk.”

“The Leprechaun’s Suite” -A. R. McClurichaun

I drink just as much as my father did but I handle it better. I’m never drunk after drinking; he was, always. I definitely inherited the gambling gene from him, but the numbers are not in yet on which one of us that demon destroyed the most. I inherited a lot from him inherently but not physically except for ugly toenails. I am a black man, while he always insisted he was a brown man, famously telling a female American immigration officer who, in correcting his presented form, wrote his color as ‘black’, “Take a look at my shoe”. The officer looked down.

“What color is it?” he asked.

“Black,” she answered.

“Now take a look at me.” I think she may have had a tough day and couldn’t be bothered. She left it as ‘brown’. (I haven’t travelled to the United States for 31 years but I somehow think they have removed that section from the form). He was not a Pan-Africanist nor a Back-To-Africa supporter, smoked cigarettes, but not weed, and despised Rastafarianism, Rastas, including Bob (Marley) and especially Peter (Tosh) both of whom I loved and admired (actually knowing the latter). My father, however, was a  Black Nationalist deeply involved in the labor movement and the so-called ‘politics of change’ especially before Jamaica’s independence, but not as much after because he was very anti-communist and thought the socialism being preached promoted here was closer to the Russian model while pretending to be the British one. He didn’t see the need for Ebony magazine because “the White Man does not have an Ivory magazine, and doesn’t feel he needs to and if he did we would accuse hom of  racism.” He was a student of Latin and claimed erroneously that he could use that knowledge to dissect every English word and know the meaning even if the word was new to him. However a lot of the English language also has non-Latin Anglo-Saxon (which is basically German) roots. When I testingly asked the meaning of negro (now a badword), he answered “From Latin, it means black”. This was in the 70’s before the word was passé.        

“So are you a Negro?” I asked.        

“The White Man says so” he answered, “but he is more Pink than White and I, I am a brown man.” He was not alone in the country. Many of my fairer-complexioned compatriots are nicknamed ‘Brownman’ and ‘Browning (the women)’. Some with a tip of straightish nose and a hint of straigtish hair mixed with more than a dash of ignorance sadly call themselves ‘White’. Locally and colloquially they are called ‘Jamaican  Whites’ for once they land on American shores their inherent blackness is harder to hide. My father, in 1950’s fashion, brushed and greased his hair til it appeared shiningly straight, but those waves would curl on the shores of the nape of his neck, revealing its true texture. He however did not want to be White. He was very patriotic. The colors of our national flag are Black Gold and Green, which brings me back to his favorite green leprechaun suit which my mother hated so much, often wearing it with a green tie and yellow shirt (for the Gold? His brownness and inert blackness ‘repping’ for the Black? Maybe. Who knows?)

This, though, is what I know I about that green suit. In mid-March 1974 my father traveled to New York on business. On a slightly blustery Sunday morning, he dressed up in his favorite green suit and stepped out of Hotel Wentworth onto the pavements of West 49 Street in search of a bar to have a few drinks, but only a few, as funds were limited and mostly dedicated to the business he was there for. He noticed the proliferation of people wearing green, like himself but didn’t pay it much attention. He was intent on his drink. A few blocks away he turned into an Irish pub. Everyone there was white but suprisingly they all greeted him loudly and with smiles as if they knew him before. Before he could an order a drink, the bartender enquired what he wanted. Vodka, of course. The group who had ordered it for him, lifted their green caps – those who were wearing – and gave him the thumbs-up, which he returned with a mouthed ‘thank-you’. After that drink, another one came, from another group, with the same silent pleasantries. They were kind, but a rowdily loud but he was not worried. They didn’t look like thugs or hooligans, seeming more mature than that, in both age, manners and dress. Soon, some of the patrons drew closer to him. One asked, “What’s your name, my friend?”

“MacPherson” my father answered. His new acquaintance seemed overjoyed about that and repeated to the others, “McPherson. That’s his name.” It began to echo through the pub as one group shouted his name to another. More drinks began to come his way. When some patrons couldn’t hear because of the din, the others spelled it out for them, “M-C-P-H-E-R-S-O-N”. My father never told them his name was Scottish not Irish. He never told them it was spelled Mac and not Mc. Although that may not have changed anything based on the celebratory mood they were all in. He asked the bartender “Why this enormous generousity?”

“You’re wearing the green” the bartender answered, “and you’re a Mc. You’re half-irish -“

“Yep” my father answered, before the bartender finished.

“And half-black?”

“Yep, yep” my brown-complexioned father answered.

“It’s St. Paddy’s Day”, the bartender explained. After that night’s extended drinking spree, my drunken father had to be escorted back to his 46th Street hotel  by two young Irish-American girls, whose names he remembered only as ‘Mousey’ Brown and Ginger, which i suspect was really only their color. That became one of his stories that had no conclusive ending, but from that time until his death, he planned all his business trips for mid-March and always made sure my mother packed that favorite leprechaun green suit.     

“Wearing green
Doesn’t mean
You’re Irish,
Or have kissed
The Blarney
Got the Gift
of Gab
Or from Tír na nÓg,
Or the Tuatha Dé Danann
Or a green-suited Leprechaun.
It Just means today
Is St. Paddy’s Day”

’17 Green’ – MacSewell M. McKie

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