I welcome the excuse to put a picture of a green pyramid at the top of my post – with justification: it’s Saint Patrick’s Day, and all over the world things are turning green! It’s a campaign by Tourism Ireland to encourage people to visit the country, as tourism is now probably the largest industry here. As well as the Pyramids and the Sphinx, the Sydney Opera House, the London Eye, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and even the Angel of the North are getting the green treatment, along with many other well known landmarks. I’ve added a couple of my own – why not?
We were staying near Dublin at the weekend to attend a wedding and, as there were three Irish people and me around the breakfast table, I asked the others to tell the story of St Patrick. They did a good and convincing job: I now know that Patrick was descended from a Roman family living in the north of England. He was captured by Irish raiders when a young man and kept as a slave for six years, before escaping home to Britain. After a while he had a vision in which he was being called back to Ireland to become a Christian missionary. He trained as a priest and crossed the Irish sea again. He was one of several early saints in Ireland. He has also become a hero figure in Irish folklore, and appears in many pre-Christian legends, including stories of Finn McCool and the Children of Lir.
My breakfast companions assured me that St Patrick cast all the Snakes out of Ireland (but I was interested to learn today that there are also no Snakes in New Zealand, Iceland, Greenland and Antarctica) – although someone cheekily introduced Slow-worms into Clare in the 1960s, and they are now breeding happily in the Burren (ok – Slow-worms are in fact legless Lizards – but they do look a bit like Snakes). The story I like best about St Patrick involves his ash wood staff which he always carried with him. Whenever he was evangelising he would stick it into the ground: on one occasion it took so long to get his point across to his listeners that his staff had taken root and become a fully grown tree before he was finished!
St Patrick died on 17th March – probably in the year 493 AD. It’s fitting that we should end our blog (for the moment) on St Patrick’s Day: we leave Ireland this week having spent a wonderful winter getting to know and falling in love with this little bit of land sticking out into the wild Atlantic. We will be back – and, hopefully, we will continue our posts then. Meanwhile, Finola has written our goodbyes so well above that I don’t need to say any more…