Irish Culture and Customs
by Grainne Rowland
"Watch out! Hide! Here come the raiders!" My family's servants were screaming and running for cover. I watched in horror as my father's land and house were overrun. The raiders came with the Irish king, Niall of the Nine Hostages.
Suddenly, I was grabbed from behind, tied up, and roughly pushed towards a waiting ship. I, Succat, was being taken as a slave!
I struggled to get free. I thought of how angry my father would be when he learned that his son had been kidnapped. My father was the most powerful man in that part of Britain. Surely he would rescue me!
I was thrown on board the ship with the other captives. The ship quickly sailed away. The raiders began to celebrate their successful attack. I knew then there would be no rescue. I was only sixteen years old.
In Ireland, I was sold to Miliucc, a chieftain in Co. Antrim. I was forced to herd pigs in cold and rainy weather. I was hungry, wet, and shivery with cold. Always, I was lonely.
I was a slave for six long years. I learned the Irish language and the customs of the Irish people. I also learned to pray.
One night in a dream, I heard a voice say, "Behold, your ship is ready." I woke up and knew my chance to escape had arrived! I began my long walk to freedom.
After many days, I reached Wexford, 200 miles away. I found a ship nearly ready to sail. But the captain was searching for someone to care for a pack of Irish wolfhounds on the journey. I was just the person! I was on my way home!
The ship landed in northern Gaul, where there was only desert. For many days, we wandered in that desert. We found no food. The sailors made fun of my God. They asked why He didn't send us food. So I prayed. To the sailors' surprise, a large herd of pigs came into sight, squealing and grunting. It was enough meat for not only the men, but all the wolfhounds as well!
On the day I walked into my home again, my mother and father ran to hug me. They both talked at once and asked question after question, never giving me time to answer. That night, I was the guest at a huge party. I was given many gifts.
During the next few years, I studied in several places. I finally became a priest. It was then that I was given the name Patrick.
One night, I had another dream. I saw the people of Ireland. They pleaded with me, saying, "We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more." I knew I must return to Ireland.
When I arrived back in Ireland, I first went to Tara, the home of Irish kings. I asked King Leary's permission to preach in the country. He agreed and I began to travel throughout Ireland. I brought many people to the Christian faith.
In about the year 441, I spent 40 days alone on a rocky, windy mountain praying for the Irish people. The mountain is now known as Croagh Patrick, or the Mountain of Patrick.
One day, I was telling the people about God. They did not understand. So I picked a shamrock and showed them that there are three leaves but only one plant. Then the people could better understand that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit make only one God. That is why, when you see a picture of me, I am usually holding a shamrock.
I trained new Irish priests, and they learned many things. They knew how to copy and beautifully decorate the Bible and other books. They copied everything by hand and made paint from plants and minerals. In later years, the people of Europe forgot about learning. The Irish monks and scholars kept copying books and kept important knowledge alive.
Not long before I died, I built a large stone cathedral in the town of Armagh. I also had a school built there. It later became a famous university.
I died on March 17, 493, in the town of Saul, in Co. Down. This was the same place I had built my first church.
Many towns wanted the honor of giving me a burial place. So my body was put on a wagon drawn by two oxen. The oxen pulled the cart to the town of Downpatrick. There I was buried.
My body lies in a cemetery next to the Downpatrick Cathedral. The grave is marked by a large granite stone and the name Patrick.
Grainne Rowland, in the teaching profession for over 21 years. Since 1994, Grainne has written Irish folktales for children and adults, as well as stories of famous Irish people.
If you would like to contact her, Grainne would be delighted to hear from you.