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Column: Cardinal Rules Part 16. The REAL story of St Patrick.

The (not) Primate of All Ireland unearths exclusive extracts from The Book of St Patrick, the definitive biography of our national patron saint. Maybe.

Image: via Flickr

THERE ARE MANY conflicting tales about the life of Saint Patrick.

So to mark this special day I thought it best to clear up any uncertainty once and for all by presenting excerpts from The Book of Patrick. It is the definitive biography written by Patrick’s companion and faithful manservant Bran.

The Patrick contained herein may be old, partially blind, and prone to mild bouts of confusion, but I am sure you will agree his ardour for his vocation remains undimmed.

September 23rd, 490AD

We stop by a stream for lunch. Patrick chats to a rock which he has mistaken for me. I say nothing.

As we pack our things to go, I notice a snake in the grass. I steer Patrick away from it.

“Did you hear that?” he says “It sounded like a sn-”

“Look!” I shout, “A pagan!”

“Where? Where?” Patrick asks.

“Oh, it’s gone. We must have startled it.”

As we make our way along the road Patrick says “Not many people know this, but I’m actually Welsh. Write that down.”

October 5th, 490AD
We meet St Kevin on a country road. He shows us his new crozier.

“It’s got a notch for every pagan chieftain I’ve converted,” he says with a smug grin. Patrick smiles, but I know he is secretly seething.

“So, banishing the snakes from Ireland, Patrick. Is it true that was just a metaphor?”

Patrick bristles: “Well, actually-” I try to push him along the road. “We really need to be going,” I tell Kevin.

“I’ve been using my toes to illustrate the beatitudes,” Kevin says “Simple idea. Really sticks in people’s minds. They get it like that,” he snaps his fingers. “Are you still using that tricky shamrock thing for the three persons in the one God concept?”

I push Patrick away before he can say anything. As we walk away Kevin shouts after us “Hey, Patrick. I think I just saw a snake.”
We can hear his laughter on the wind. Patrick is so angry he falls into a ditch.

October 21st, 490AD

A wet windy day. Patrick tells me more of his past as we make our way along the road. “Not many people know this, Bran, but I’m actually Scottish. Are you writing this down?”

“Aye,” I reply.

October 30th, 490AD

We meet with a local pagan chieftain. We ask him if he is sure he wants to convert to Christianity. He points at the village folk. “If the crops fail, this lot get to sacrifice me to the sun. Where do I sign?”

We hear word that St Kevin has arm wrestled a druid and won. Patrick tries to be casual about the news, but later I notice him grumbling to himself while eating some cress.

November 7th, 490AD

Patrick tells me about his childhood growing up in a French village before his capture by marauders. “I was made to herd sheep on the side of a mountain.”

“Someone in my village was exiled for that.”

“I said herd, not hurt. Pay attention.”

November 8th, 490AD

Patrick tells me about his time as a slave minding pigs on the side of a mountain and pining for the fields of England.

November 27th, 490AD

Patrick explains the three persons in the one God idea to a group of pagans. The questions are coming thick and fast. “What are the sleeping arrangements?” “Are there any arguments over cleaning duties?” “What happens when one of them needs to go and, you know..?”

It is a long day.

December 1st, 490AD

Patrick spends the morning detailing strict guidelines regarding the celebration of his posthumous feast day. He says something about a day of abstinence and prayer devoid of food and alcohol. I think he also mentions something about no public celebration of any kind.

That evening he suggests I have the guidelines carved in stone for future generations. I tell him I think it sounds like a great idea, and that I will seek out a stonemason as soon as possible. I am too embarrassed to tell him I have lost the vellum on which I wrote the guidelines down.

December 18th, 490AD

We are sitting on a hill planning our day. “It’s been years since I’ve rid Ireland of all its snakes. I should really do something new,” says Patrick. “Maybe rabbits. Rabbits are a nuisance.”

That night I catch him shouting at a snake, “Begone vile floppy eared fiend!” I say nothing.

December 19th, 490AD

“Did you see that rabbit last night? I certainly showed him,” Patrick winks at me, twirls his crozier, and falls into a bush.

December 31st, 490AD

News reaches us that Kevin has lost three toes due to frostbite. Patrick receives the news with good grace and a pious air, but later I catch him dancing in a field with his crozier while shouting gleefully at a rabbit.


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