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Why does Ireland have Forty Shades of Green?


Why does Ireland have Forty Shades of Green?
© 2006 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

When we think of Ireland, we think of the Emerald Isle, the shamrock, the "Wearing of the Green" and the 37 other almost proverbial shades of green. But just why do we talk about "Forty Shades of Green"?

The Song

It is the fault of one man - none other than Johnny Cash. The "Man in Black" was so taken in by the Emerald Isle that he went green and reputedly penned an whole album's worth in celebration of Ireland. While Cash seemed to be genuinely in love with Ireland at the time (1961), songs from that period seem to be seriously sentimental and overwrought today.

Cash's signature Irish song is "Forty Shades of Green", including the confession that "most of all I miss a girl in Tipperary town, and most of all I miss her lips as soft as eiderdown". Apart from Dingle, Donaghadee, the Shannon, Skibbereen, Shalimar, Cork and Larne, making this a very all-Irish song. And a celebration of the good old times when "the farmers drain the bogs and spade the turf". Never mind that a lot of these farmers might have told Cash to be on his way, preferring some modern comforts themselves.

And so ... Johnny Cash was responsible for creating the idea of Ireland being "forty shades of green". This was added on by Ireland's seminal rock group "Boomtown Rats", with singer Bob Geldof also mentioning "sixty shades of red" in reference to the "Troubles".

The Reality

But does Ireland really have forty shades of green? Though nobody has actually counted them, this would be a good guess - green is the dominant color in Ireland's landscape. The simple reason for this is the Irish weather. While generally described as eternally changing, it is only changing within certain parameters. The influence of the gulf stream and the general climate combine to make Ireland well-balanced.

Seasons are not very pronounced - one usually enjoys "spells of" summer or winter, not the season as such. And even when Jack Frost nips and snow falls it will be on lush green fields. The green may fade a bit, but it never goes away.

And as you will see when visiting Ireland: Johnny Cash was right - Ireland really has forty shades of green.

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