Seeing as how it’s a day to celebrate all things Irish and how I generally tend to have Oz on the brain, I thought of the song “Mister Dooley” from the original 1902 Wizard of Oz stage play. Now, when I say it’s from that play, that doesn’t mean it really has anything to do with Oz. Musicals in those days frequently contained unrelated songs that characters would stop the action to sing. In fact, “Mister Dooley” was originally written for a different play altogether, The Chinese Honeymoon. The song is sung in an Irish brogue about an Irishman who somehow seems to be present at every historical event. The character did not originate with the song, however, but rather in a newspaper column by Finley Peter Dunne.
In the late nineteenth century, Dunne began writing a column under the name of an Irish immigrant bartender in his own Chicago named Dooley, who commented on the events of the day in a satirical fashion. While the column eventually lost popularity when ethnic humor began to fall out of fashion, some of Dooley’s sayings still crop up from time to time. Apparently “politics ain’t beanbag” is still pretty well known, although I don’t recall having come across it before.
The excuse for using the song about Dooley in The Wizard of Oz was that the Wizard of Oz was Irish, in the typical comical stage fashion of the time. Actually, from what I’ve heard, he was sometimes played as another nationality, but it seems like the Irish one stuck. While I’m sure L. Frank Baum had nothing to do with the inclusion of the song in the show, he had Irish ancestry and was likely a fan of the Dooley columns, with his article “The Real Mr. Dooley” being about Dunne’s inspiration for the character. Baum actually had his own column with a local making satirical observations in dialect before Dunne did. I have to wonder if that kind of thing was common in those days. It’s not entirely clear whether Baum’s Wizard is Irish in the books. His last name is Diggs, which is actually English, but there apparently were Diggs families in Ireland as well. One of the Wizard’s many middle names is “Phadrig,” an old form of the name Patrick. And that brings us right back to St. Patrick’s Day.