By Betty Leigh
We can’t imagine St Patrick’s Day without a shamrock. But what about a song for the shamrock? “The Dear Little Shamrock” was written by Andrew Cherry who was born in Limerick on 11 January 1762. His father, John Cherry, was a printer and bookseller and had planned that his son would have a career as a clergyman. However, the family had some financial problems and so, at the age of eleven, young Andrew had to leave school and travel to Dublin where he became apprenticed to an old friend of his father’s, a Mr Potts, printer and bookseller in Dame Street.
Mr Potts was fond of the theatre and took Andrew along with him when he went there himself. Andrew developed a love for the theatre and at fourteen he went on stage for the first time, at the age of seventeen he gave up the printing trade to join a company of strolling players, making his first appearance with them in Naas, Co. Kildare. From an acting viewpoint he was considered a great success but his share of the profits was exactly tenpence halfpenny!
After a number of months he returned to printing. But three years later he was acting again and also writing plays. He wrote 12 plays in all, and his acting took him to Bath, Swansea and London’s Drury Lane, where he was a great success. At this stage he received a request from a theatre manager asking Andrew to work with him again. This particular manager had not paid Andrew very regularly in the past, so Andrew sent the following witty reply: “Sir, I am not so great a fool as you take me for. I have been bitten once by you and I will never give you an opportunity of making two bites of A. Cherry.”
Andrew died in Monmouth on 7th February 1812, aged fifty. He is now largely forgotten except for his best-loved song “The Green Little Shamrock”:
There’s a dear little plant that grows in our isle,
‘Twas Saint Patrick himself sure that set it;
And the sun on his labor with pleasure did smile,
And with dew from his eye often wet it.
It thrives through the bog, through the brake, and the mireland;
And he called it the dear little shamrock of Ireland —
The sweet little shamrock, the dear little shamrock,
The sweet little, green little, shamrock of Ireland!