March 27, 2013

Mark Millican: Making atonement for a missed holiday

Even if I were to forget what holiday is on the horizon, my surroundings at home would always remind me. My wife, Teresa, decorates every few weeks in anticipation of the next noteworthy date on the calendar. For example, there was a lot of green around the homestead in anticipation of St. Patrick’s Day a couple of weeks ago, and now all the trappings of Easter have arrived.

But a recent chiding let me know I’d failed in my end of the “bargain” to celebrate our nation’s holidays.

“Is this guy Irish?” she asked after reading a guest columnist I had allowed to write in my space on the editorial page in our weekly newspaper just before St. Patty’s Day.

OK, OK, I get it, there was nothing in the paper that week — save some timely advertising — about the big day where anyone with a drop of Irish blood in their lineage finds an excuse to celebrate. So seeing that atonement is a large part of the Irish Protestant-Catholic ethos, there must be amends!

Growing up with the last name Millican brings its rewards and funny moments. Your humble scribe is immediately identified as Irish, but while my full name — with “Ben” in the middle — should roll out with a bit of alliteration, more often than not it’s mangled by the newfound acquaintance or stranger on the other end of the phone.

Most often it’s mispronounced “McMillan,” but I’ve also been called “McGillicutty” and of course, “Milligan” — like Gilligan. (There’s no need in a family newspaper to go into what my drill instructors at Parris Island called me.)

Around 20 years ago I was “on holiday” (as they say in the British Isles) in Franklin, N.C., also known as the “Gem Capital of the World.” But amid all the rock shops I made one “gem” of a find — the Scottish Tartans Museum (scottishtartans.org) on Main Street. I was inspecting the items inside when a dignified yet genteel Scots-Irish curator approached and asked of my interest. I told him my name and of the many mispronunciations and he then informed me, “But ah, they’re all of the same original clan” — to my pleasant surprise.

It’s easier now since an expert has weighed in to help take the various bunglings of my namesake clan in stride.

It sure never bothered my father. As a wee lad he taught my brothers and me an Irish ditty or two, such as “The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond” with the memorable lyrics:

“Oh, ye’ll tak’ the high road, and I’ll tak’ the low road,

“And I’ll get to Ireland afore ye;

“But me and my true love will never meet again

“On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond.”

The astute songster will notice where my father omitted “Scotland” in place of a far fairer country, and I also recall we Southern-ized the words somewhat. I don’t recall my father singing “Danny Boy,” but like a true Irishman, a tear forms in my eye every time I hear it rendered. Perhaps Dad didn’t want his sons to see him cry.

It’s always been a dream to go on holiday to the Emerald Isle and perhaps do some bicycle touring and ancestry hunting, with my lovely golden-haired lass by my side. While there I may even hoist an Old Bushmills in memory of my “Da,” as they say, and I believe he’ll know it when I do.

Mark Millican is a former Daily Citizen staff writer.

Text Only
  • Move carefully, but soon

    No one intended for it to happen. No one had any bad motives.
    But during a period of 40 years or more, quite a few people didn’t do enough planning, didn’t have enough foresight to see what all of the development in Dalton would do.

    July 27, 2014

  • Local school systems must bear costs of federal immigration failure

    No word. No warning. Little help.
    That’s what Dalton Public Schools officials received from the federal government when it dropped 30 Central American students into local classrooms last school year.

    July 26, 2014

  • Sacrifices worth honoring

    Members of the Dalton City Council were recently approached by representatives of the local chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart with a request to declare Dalton a Purple Heart City. Council members indicated they will approve the request.

    July 24, 2014

  • We must do better

    The numbers tell a sad tale.
    Registered voters: 36,843.
    Cards cast: 5,307.
    That means the turnout for Tuesday’s runoffs in Whitfield County was a measly 14.4 percent, according to unofficial results from the Whitfield County elections office.

    July 23, 2014

  • Letter: Control immigration

    Thousands are starting to pour into our country, and things are getting personal. Why would we end up the bad guys if we turn away children who aren’t ours? How does it make us better people to let one man steal from our children and stand by and do nothing?

    July 23, 2014

  • Helping with Book Blast betters the community

    The school test results are in, and students in Whitfield and Murray counties mostly improved from a year ago, mirroring or exceeding average scores of their peers.

    July 23, 2014

  • Mark Millican: Guns are already everywhere

    Though it happened over 30 years ago, the image is still vivid.

    July 22, 2014

  • Charles Oliver: Former officer works overtime improperly

    Stephen F. Hall has pleaded guilty to theft by deception and falsifying a government record.

    July 22, 2014

  • Dalton council should seek answers

    Judicial elections in this area are usually pretty staid. In fact, they are generally nonexistent, since most judges run unopposed.

    July 21, 2014

  • Letter: Something to think about

    It has been better than four months now since Malaysia Flight 370 went missing. During that time we have heard all kinds of speculation, conjecture and opinions as to what happened to it. The only certainties to emerge are that the Malaysians fumbled the ball early on and there are some understandably distressed loved ones left to deal with their losses.

    July 21, 2014