The first Irish American

Kerry man. St. Brendan the Navigator

Next Columbus day, remember who really found America.

Columbus Day has just gone by in the United States, marking the Italian explorer’s famous journey across the Atlantic. Most Scandinavians will wag their fingers and remind us that the Viking Leif Erickson got there four hundred years earlier. The Norse Vikings were driven out of Ireland in 1014 at the battle of Clontarf, by High King Brian Ború, and haven’t been back since. So we can forgive them for not knowing America was discovered eight hundred before Columbus.

Like most great things in this world, it was done by a Kerry man. St. Brendan the Navigator and sixteen pilgrims set out from his native Éireann “to find the Garden of Eden”. On his way Brendan passed an island where “great demons threw down lumps of fiery slag from an island with rivers of gold fire”, (volcanic Iceland), and “great crystal pillars” (Icebergs). They even disembarked on a whale thinking it was an island. Typical Kerry men. He might be the least believable of the three explorers, but he’s the most entertaining. That’s what matters most, at least in Co. Kerry…

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