The Irish Blessing has universal meaning

The Irish Blessing is everywhere.

“May the road rise to meet you; may the wind be always at your back.”

I thought about that recently when I noticed it on the back of the Mass card for the funeral of Frank Long (shown in the photo above) at the Holy Trinity Church in Middletown.

Mr. Long, 91, was an Irish Catholic born in the “Little Dublin” sector of Middletown. He and his wife, Jeanne, sent all 14 of their children to Fenwick, though Frank had graduated from all-boys Hamilton Catholic in 1950, before Fenwick opened.

When I was writing sports for the Hamilton JournalNews from 1979-1993, chances are that if I covered a Fenwick game, there was a Long playing. I once asked daughter Annemarie what it was like to be one of 14. She laughed, “Don’t be late to the table.”

“May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rain fall soft upon your fields.”

Perhaps the Irish Blessing, an ancient Celtic prayer, is so ubiquitous because its meaning is so universal. I’m neither Irish nor Catholic, but I certainly appreciate the sentiment.

The Irish potato famine and religious conflicts sent some 4.5 million Irish to the United States between 1820 and 1930, including 1.5 million of those between 1845-1855. Today, some 12 percent of this country is of Irish descent. They don’t have to deal with NINA — “No Irish Need Apply” — signs any longer.

When the late Bob Murphy — the New Jersey Irishman who was the well-regarded publisher of the Middletown Journal and then the Hamilton JournalNews in the 1980s and 1990s – retired in 2000, I attended his retirement dinner on a snowy evening.

He was a great guy to work for. I had a chance to offer a few words, but then I fell back on the Irish Blessing. It was the best I could do; but, as I think about it, maybe that really was the best.

The Irish Blessing is also a song, interestingly, with several different orchestrations. The one I am most familiar with, and prefer, is by Lori True. It is always a staple of the Kairos senior retreat at Badin High School.

There was some synergy at the Long funeral with word floating around that one of his 45 grandchildren, Andy McCarthy, had just been named boys head basketball coach at Fenwick High. Andy’s mother, Annemarie, had once been the girls head basketball coach at Fenwick. Frank Long, who loved sports, would have loved that.

Some years ago, I attended a choral concert at my alma mater, Princeton High School in Cincinnati. There was a special guest group of college singers, who closed the program by spreading out into the aisles and singing the Irish Blessing.

I noticed a woman sitting near me was softly crying. She looked at me and said, “Music and faith, all at the same time.” I wasn’t focusing all that well — I had something in my eyes.

“And until we meet again, may you keep safe in the gentle loving arms of God.”

Amen to that.

Dirk Q. Allen is a former writer and editor of the Journal-News. He is the media relations liaison at Badin High School in Hamilton. Connect with him by email at

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