By Herb Sparrow
Although the guest of honor was laid out in his best suit of clothes, he looked a little worse for wear. Actually “Pat Murphy” was a rag-filled replica of a corpse used to demonstrate a traditional late-19th-century Irish wake.
The program is one of many Irish experiences groups can arrange in Dublin, Ohio. Although the town was not settled by Irish — it was named by its surveyor, who was from Dublin, Ireland — the convention and visitors bureau proudly proclaims that “Irish is an attitude” in the Columbus suburb.
Groups can choose from 22 hands-on Irish experiences in Dublin, from learning a few phrases of Gaelic to having a Four-Leaf Clover Scavenger Hunt searching for Irish trivia and treats throughout downtown.
Kathy Jo Smith, portraying Murphy’s daughter, told us about the rituals of a wake in a room set up in a local motel.
“The wake was more than getting drunk around a dead guy,” she said. “It was to celebrate life.”
A wake would last for three days, during which the corpse was never left alone or in the dark. Although wearing his best clothes, Murphy was barefoot. “You don’t wear shoes on holy ground,” said Smith
She explained the items in the room, which included a covered mirror, a clock stopped at the time of death, salt to ward off fairies, an Irish Bible and a liquor bottle.
Neighbors and children would be sent to tell not only the community, but also any bees or cattle the deceased might have owned about the death, lest the creatures become upset and leave the farm.
A traditional wake included food and drink, music and storytelling, and “wake games” such as feats of strength, wrestling and practical jokes.