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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Paddywhackerry

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Myths and Legends
Paddywhackerry or Patron ?

Once they landed in Ireland the next chapter of Patrick’s life is unsure. Patrick himself tells of working for a master near to, “the woods of Foclut by the western sea”. This could be County Mayo on the west coast of Ireland, although he may well have settled in a variety of locations since his capture. One school of thought is that the ‘western sea’ was in fact Lough Neagh, in the centre of Ulster.

Since Slemish in County Antrim, in the north east of Ireland, has been strongly linked with Patrick’s presence as a sheep herder, this version of events could be plausible, since a view of the Lough, from the top of Slemish, is possible. Without any real knowledge of the geography around him, Patrick may have assumed that the water in the distance was the sea.

Wherever he was in Northern Ireland, most likely tending sheep or cattle, he began to experience thoughts about God and to use prayer for the first time with any real conviction.

Patrick hinted that his Christian faith meant much more to him when he was on his own, away from home and feeling the pain of loneliness – perhaps something that the modern day Irish abroad can empathise with. Patrick began to see visions and have vivid dreams, where God would show him the right way to live and prepare for the future.

After six years in captivity, Patrick heard a voice telling him his ship was ready. Puzzled, as the only harbours he knew of were back on the east coast of Ireland ( the west coast of Ireland was seen as the edge of the world at this time ) Patrick travelled over 200 miles to the south east coast and boarded a ship.

Patrick`s next port has historians pondering various locations: Wales, Cornwall and even France. The French connection is borne out in writings of an 8th Century monk, Tirechan, who compiled a version of the alleged travels of St Patrick: “The fear of God I had as my guide through Gaul (France) and Italy and the islands in the Tyrrhene Sea (the Mediterranean)”.

Another French link is the monastery island of Lerins, Cote d'Azur. The monk Honoratus, who cleared the island of reptiles and lizards to build a monastic retreat for saints, bishops and scholars, founded it. Could the infamous claim, that St. Patrick rid Ireland of snakes, have started here?
St Patrick depicted chasing snakes
© BBC 2003

There is a suggestion that Patrick helped Honoratus clear the island as he began to galvanise his religious devotion. The pagans of Ireland wore snakes or serpent motifs, perhaps Patrick used the ridding of snakes as a metaphor for ridding Ireland of paganism.

Yet another French association has Patrick as a nephew to St. Martin of Tours, where he spent 20 years as a monk before seeing another vision which called him back to Ireland, in around AD 432. The French towns of Saint-Patrice de Claids and Saint-Patrice du Desert add more weight to the notion of the saint having an influence in Gaul.

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