Originating in Annandale Scotland, our family have settled throughout the world. During the lowland clearances, the Irish Plantations and before, our family have moved to Ireland for work and to escape prosecution. From there many went on to the Colonies. Some stayed in the country and some came home to Scotland. However, for those that stayed in Ireland, the Great Potato Famine of the 1800’s again caused many to seek their fortunes elsewhere or come home.
However, although our family were never Gaels nor on the norm spoke Gaelic, we do have people of our name who are descendent from their ancestors in Scotland and are classed as Scots – Irish. As such our piece this week’s blog is on St Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland
According to History.com:
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated annually on March 17, the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. St. Patrick’s Day 2023 will take place on Friday, March 17. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years. On St. Patrick’s Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink and feast on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.
Since around the ninth or 10th century, people in Ireland have been observing the Roman Catholic feast day of St. Patrick on March 17. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place not in Ireland but in America. Records show that a St. Patrick’s Day parade was held on March 17, 1601 in a Spanish colony in what is now St. Augustine, Florida. The parade, and a St. Patrick’s Day celebration a year earlier were organized by the Spanish Colony’s Irish vicar Ricardo Artur.
More than a century later, homesick Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched in New York City on March 17, 1772 to honour the Irish patron saint. Enthusiasm for the St. Patrick’s Day parades in New York City, Boston and other early American cities only grew from there.
Over the next 35 years, Irish patriotism among American immigrants flourished, prompting the rise of so-called “Irish Aid” societies like the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick and the Hibernian Society. Each group would hold annual parades featuring bagpipes (which actually first became popular in the Scottish and British armies) and drums.
In 1848, several New York Irish Aid societies decided to unite their parades to form one official New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Today, that parade is the world‘s oldest civilian parade and the largest in the United States, with over 150,000 participants. Each year, nearly 3 million people line the 1.5-mile parade route to watch the procession, which takes more than five hours. Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Savannah also celebrate the day with parades involving between 10,000 and 20,000 participants each. In 2020, the New York City parade was one of the first major city events to be cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; it was again cancelled in 2021. The parade in New York and others around the country returned in 2022.
Up until the mid-19th century, most Irish immigrants in America were members of the Protestant middle class. When the Great Potato Famine hit Ireland in 1845, close to 1 million poor and uneducated Irish Catholics began pouring into America to escape starvation.
Despised for their alien religious beliefs and unfamiliar accents by the American Protestant majority, the immigrants had trouble finding even menial jobs. When Irish Americans in the country’s cities took to the streets on St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate their heritage, newspapers portrayed them in cartoons as drunk, violent monkeys.
The American Irish soon began to realize, however, that their large and growing numbers endowed them with a political power that had yet to be exploited. They started to organize, and their voting bloc, known as the “green machine,” became an important swing vote for political hopefuls. Suddenly, annual St. Patrick’s Day parades became a show of strength for Irish Americans, as well as a must-attend event for a slew of political candidates.
In 1948, President Harry S. Truman attended New York City‘s St. Patrick’s Day parade, a proud moment for the many Irish Americans whose ancestors had to fight stereotypes and racial prejudice to find acceptance in the “New World.”
Who was St Patrick
Like all of the British home nations, and in fact many throughout Europe, we have our Patron Saint and their days. In Scotland we have, St Andrews Day on the 30th of November, in Wales, St David’s Day on 1st of March, in England, St George’s Day 23rd April and our subject matter, St Patrick’s day on March 17t
But who was St Patrick and was he Irish? Well according to the EB, he was a 5th century Saint credited to bringing Christianity to pagan Ireland. He was made the Irish Patron Saint and national Apostle. Interestingly his role in bringing Christianity to the Picts and the Anglo Saxons in his homelands shouldn’t be forgotten.
Although St Patrick was venerated as a saint in Ireland from the seventh century he was never formally canonised. It wasn’t until the 1630s that on the of 17 March, the traditional day of his death, was he added to the Catholic breviary (a book of prayers) as the Feast of St Patrick.
Patrick was born to a British Celtic family who had been Romanised. Although there are many theories of his birthplace, there is strong hypothesis that he was born in the Welsh/Cumbric speaking Kingdom of Strathclyde on its seaward border. So in a similar vein to our own family,he was born a welsh speaking Celt. It was from his home that in aged 16, he was captured by Irish pirates/raiders from the villa of his father, Calpurnius, who was a minor local official and Deacon of the Christan Church at the time and carried of into slavery in Ireland.
Working as a herdsman for 6 bleak and rough years, it seems this allowed and focused his attention to turn his life into one of fervorous devotion and faith. He eventually escaped captivity and found passage back to Britain. Not an easy journey it seems as he nearly starved to death and was briefly captured a second time before he was finally reunited with his family. It is also thought that by choice and following his faith, he spent some time in Europe.
It was through a dream that he was called back to preach in Ireland. It seems that this is taken from one of the best known passages in his ‘Confessio‘. After returning to Britain , he was delivered a letter headed “The Voice of the Irish.” As he read it, he seemed to hear a certain company of Irish beseeching him to walk once more among them.
“Deeply moved,” he says, “I could read no more.” Nevertheless, because of the shortcomings of his education, he was reluctant for a long time to respond to the call. Even on the eve of embarkation for Ireland he was beset by doubts of his fitness for the task. Once in the field, however, his hesitations vanished. Utterly confident in the Lord, he journeyed far and wide, baptizing and confirming with untiring zeal. In diplomatic fashion he brought gifts to a minor king here and a lawgiver there but accepted none from any. On at least one occasion, he was cast into chains. On another, he addressed with lyrical pathos a last farewell to his converts who had been slain or kidnapped by the soldiers of Coroticus. He is not to be confused with Caratacus, a Celtic war leader from Southern England
Strathclyde, in British history was large native Brythonic kingdom that from about the 6th century, had extended over the basin of the River Clyde and adjacent western coastal districts, the former county of Ayr. Its capital was Dumbarton, “fortress of the Britons,” then known as Alclut. The name Strathclyde was not used until the 9th or 10th century.
Converted to Christianity in the early 6th century, the men of Strathclyde, in alliance with the Cumbrians, later in the century waged war against the still-pagan Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Bernicia (later part of the larger kingdom of Northumbria).
The 5th-century king Coroticus, against whose depredations St. Patrick wrote, may have been a forerunner of its rulers; the earliest reliably attested kings are Tudwal and his son Rhydderch, who probably lived in the late 5th and early 6th centuries. In the 7th century, however, the Northumbrians established supremacy over the whole of Cumbria, but Strathclyde was not finally defeated until 756. Vikings overran and destroyed Dumbarton in 870, and, in the first half of the 10th century, Strathclyde became subject to the Anglo-Saxon kings of England, one of whom, Edmund I, in 945 leased it to Malcolm I, king of Scots. Thereafter, Strathclyde’s destiny lay with the Scots. It became a province of Scotland after the death of its king Owain the Bald, who in 1016 (or possibly 1018) helped Malcolm II defeat the English at Carham in Northumberland. Interestingly, Malcolm II was the first to rule over a land which roughly corresponded with the borders of the Scotland of today.
St Patrick in Ireland
Careful to deal fairly with the non-Christian Irish, he nevertheless lived in constant danger of martyrdom. The evocation of such incidents of what he called his “laborious episcopate” was his reply to a charge, to his great grief endorsed by his ecclesiastical superiors in Britain, that he had originally sought office for the sake of office. This seems far from the truth and in point of fact, he was deemed to have been a most humble-minded man, pouring forth a continuous paean of thanks to his Maker for having chosen him as the instrument whereby multitudes who had worshipped “idols and unclean things” had become “the people of God.”
The phenomenal success of Patrick’s mission is not, however, the full measure of his personality. Since his writings have come to be better understood, it is increasingly recognized that, despite their occasional incoherence, they mirror a truth and a simplicity of the rarest quality. Not since St. Augustine of Hippo had any religious diarist bared his inmost soul as Patrick did in his writings. As D.A. Binchy, a renowned Irish Scholar who was most austerely critical of Patrician (i.e., of Patrick) scholars, put it, “The moral and spiritual greatness of the man shines through every stumbling sentence of his ‘rustic’ Latin.”
As previously stated, it is not possible to say with any assurance when Patrick was born. There are, however, a number of pointers to his missionary career having lain within the second half of the 5th century. In the Coroticus letter, his mention of the Franks as still “heathen” indicates that the letter must have been written between 451, the date generally accepted as that of the Franks’ eruption into Gaul as far as the Somme River, and 496, when they were baptized en masse. Patrick, who speaks of himself as having evangelized heathen Ireland, is not to be confused with Palladius, sent by Pope Celestine I in 431 as “first bishop to the Irish believers in Christ.”
Toward the end of his life, he retired to Saul in County Down, where he may have written his Confessio. It is said that an angel conveyed to him that he was to die at Saul, the site of his first church, despite his wishes to die within the ecclesiastical metropolis of Ireland. His last rites were administered by St. Tussach (also spelled Tassach or Tassac).
As in all cases, where fiction can be misconstrued as facts, before the end of the 7th century, Patrick had become a legendary figure, and the legends have continued to grow.
One of these would have it that he drove the snakes of Ireland into the sea to their destruction, (However, there were never any snakes in Ireland according to fossal records due to water surrounding the Island since the glacial period) Patrick himself wrote that he raised people from the dead, and a 12th-century hagiography (a body of Literature that embraces acts and lives and veneration of Christian Saints ed) places this number at 33 men, some of whom are said to have been deceased for many years.
He also reportedly prayed for the provision of food for hungry sailors traveling by land through a desolate area, and a herd of swine miraculously appeared.
Another legend, probably the most popular, is that of the shamrock, which has him explain the concept of the Holy Trinity, three persons in one God, to an unbeliever by showing him the three-leaved plant with one stalk. (This is not dissimiler to the religious links to the fleur de lis on the Carruthers Chief’s Shield)
Traditionally this had led to Irishmen the world over to wear shamrocks, the national flower of Ireland, in their lapels on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. (called the seamroy by the Celts and considered sacred as it symboliosed the onset of spring).
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