A pastor who will have a lot to answer for by Sunday evening

A day when most Irish people go 'just a little bit mad'.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

Not that much by way of hard historical facts is known about him, but for all that, St. Patrick does have a lot to answer for in a term of a green wave that sends ripples around the globe on March 17 each year.  My earliest memories of Lá Fhéile Pádraig were in the days leading up to the 17th of scouting expeditions in the fields near a stony cregg bounding our land, that had a reputation for producing decent pockets of clover.

Shamrock patches through the fledgling Spring grass were always greeted with little shrieks of excitement as clumps were disentangled from the earth to be penned onto our lapels on St. Patrick’s Morning for the obligatory visit to the local church and the sermon that invariably mapped out the life and times of our most famous cleric.

Excuse the pun, but we all took it as a gospel: the detailed account of his capture by a band of Irish pirates from his home somewhere in the North-West of England, which is now known as Cumbria.

Of course, the ultimate irony of all this is that our veneration of the person we regard as the very epitome of Irish culture and Christianity was actually a West Brit (well ok a North-West Brit) but we’re now more open-minded about these kinds of things, and we just can’t be racist about Patrick’s origins.

According to some historical accounts, the name that Patrick used for himself back in the 5th century was Patricius and what a string of variations that has given rise to down through the centuries: Patrick, Pádraig, Padraic, Paraic, Pat, Patch, Pateen, Pádraigeen and the sometimes not so complimentary use of Paddy or ‘The Paddies’, although I’ve always felt that Paddy somehow had a kind of pleasant ring to it.

Even a little cursory stoking of the historical coals around the 5th and 6th centuries doesn’t provide many clear flames of information. One of the theories that has done the rounds was that there were in fact two St. Patricks, but one of them – a holy man by the name of Palladius – seems to have been largely written out of the script, but he too had a curious tale to tell.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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