Grimace has taken the world by storm since McDonald’s brought back the iconic character last month. The friendly, purple blob-like creature, who celebrated his 52nd birthday this year, quickly became a social media star after debuting his signature Grimace Birthday Meal and purple Grimace Birthday Shake.
Grimace is still a somewhat of a mystery to his fans, and the debate over whether the mascot is a taste bud, the physical embodiment of a milkshake, or simply a purple blob has yet to be settled.
Coasting off of Grimace’s renewed popularity, a different member of the Grimace family has been making a comeback. A recent viral TikTok asked, “Can we please talk about the fact that Grimace has an Irish uncle named ‘Uncle O’Grimacey’?”
Grimace’s green, Shamrock Shake-loving uncle is having his own moment in the spotlight, thanks to his famous nephew. But who exactly is Uncle O’Grimacey, and what is his role in the Grimaceverse?
‘Sláinte’ to the Shamrock Shake
Uncle O’Grimacey debuted as a McDonaldland character in 1975 to promote McDonald’s seasonal Shamrock Shake.
As his name suggests, Uncle O’Grimacey is Grimace’s Irish uncle, according to McDonald’s Wiki. He is a green Grimace, and usually appears in classic Irish attire such as a green cob hat, vest and shillelagh, a traditional Irish cane. Like Grimace, he is from Grimace Island, along with Grimace’s Grandma Winky and aunts Millie and Tillie.
Unlike Grimace’s other family members, who have largely remained background characters in the McDonald’s universe, Uncle O’Grimacey has a very important job.
Every March, Uncle O’Grimacey delivers his signature Shamrock Shakes around McDonaldland in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. During his tenure, Uncle O’Grimacey appeared regularly in McDonald’s ads and commercials promoting his beloved shake. His last known public appearance was said to be in the mid-1980s.
Though Grimace had a lengthy criminal background as a milkshake thief before rebranding as the lovable, goofy monster he is today, Uncle O’Grimacey seems to have been created solely as the Shamrock Shake’s friendly mascot. He and Grimace now share the honor of being the faces of two iconic (and colorful!) McDonald’s shakes.
Despite his lengthy absence, Uncle O’Grimacey hasn’t been forgotten by his fans. Nostalgia account Consumer Time Capsule tweeted in February, “Today is the *official* release date for SHAMROCK SHAKES. Unfortunately, it’s next in a long line of years with no sign of Grimace’s Irish uncle, UNCLE O’GRIMACEY, as seen on this 1980 McDonald’s shake cup.”
Another loyal fan tweeted on June 26, “Uncle O’Grimacey never got the love he deserved.”
It remains to be seen whether Uncle O’Grimacey has a chance at returning to the current McDonald’s mascot lineup alongside his famous nephew.
Why did Uncle O’Grimacey disappear in the first place?
The most obvious reason is that Uncle O’Grimacey was simply phased out along with many other McDonaldland characters, including Mayor McCheese, the Hamburglar, Birdie the Early Bird, and Captain Crook, during the fast food company’s rebrand in the ’90s.
After facing a copyright lawsuit over Mayor McCheese and the McDonaldland ads, McDonald’s decided to scale back their use of the kid-friendly characters and promote a more mature image for their restaurants.
The second theory about Uncle O’Grimacey’s retirement is far more controversial. As the rumor goes, according to Billy Penn, Uncle O’Grimacey was removed from public eye after an actor playing the mascot in Philadelphia made comments in support of the IRA. (The IRA, or Irish Revolutionary Army, refers to a series of paramilitary groups that have historically fought for Irish independence from British rule.)
However, this theory has almost no factual basis: There is no record of any Uncle O’Grimacey-related incident in Philadelphia at the time.
The story is much more likely to stem from a 1997 article by satirical newspaper The Onion, which facetiously reported that the IRA demanded year-round access to the seasonally available Shamrock Shakes, and attributed inflammatory fake quotes to Uncle O’Grimacey.
“Release the shakes to us at once,” The Onion joked on behalf of Uncle O’Grimacey, “or the lives of your children will be forfeit.”
Poor Uncle O’Grimacey was almost certainly framed. Nevertheless, the rumor continues to make the rounds on social media.
“Was Uncle O’Grimacey in the IRA? (discuss),” one Twitter user asked.
Another tweeted, “Was planning on going to bed early but instead have chosen to research my theory that Uncle O’Grimacey was in the IRA.”
Will Uncle O’Grimacey ever make a comeback?
McDonald’s did not respond to a request for comment, but a then-spokesperson for the company told CNN in 2012 that Uncle O’Grimacey would not be back to promote his Shamrock Shake any time soon.
“We will not be bringing back Uncle O’Grimacey or the jingle you referenced,” former McDonald’s spokesperson Ashlee Yingling said at the time.
While Uncle O’Grimacey may not rejoin the cast of McDonald’s mascots, his fans can remember him each March with the return of the Shamrock Shake.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com