Who was St Patrick?

Posted by The Skibbereen Eagle | March 17, 2015 0

PDTrinitydublinToday’s Google Doodle celebrates St Patrick’s Day. But aside from drinking a lot of stout, wearing green and having a party, what is the feast day of Ireland’s patron saint really about?Go green

The patron saint of Ireland brought Christianity to Ireland. He is believed to have died on 17 March sometime in the 5 century (some scholars place his death in AD 461) but the modern origin of the festival now celebrated globally stems from the 17 century. It was designated a religious feast day after the Vatican officially recognised the date in 1631. chicago-green-riverst-patrick-day-parade-new-york-city

It is an official public holiday in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the British Overseas Territory of Montserrat. However, as anyone who likes a drink will know, St Patrick’s Day is celebrated far more widely. Galicia, a small region in Spain, has some interesting links to Ireland. There is a body of historical evidence that indicates Ireland was settled by the Gaels, from the Iberian Peninsula.

For the Skibbereen Eagle’s guide to the real St. Patrick click on this link:


There’s also an unusual link with Nigeria, to which St Patrick is also the patron saint of (he shares the title with the Virgin Mary). Home to 20 million Roman Catholics, St Patrick (and celebrations around him) landed along with the Catholic missionaries in the early 20 Century and has stayed ever since.st-patricks-day-2015-google-doodleSt-Patricks-Parade_V1

How is it celebrated?

ShamrockKatepotd-shamrockFrequently by drinking far too much of the black stuff, often referred to as Guinness. According to Diageo, the global drinks firm that owns and distributes the inky drink, more than 13 million pints are consumed world-wide every St Patrick’s Day. That’s a lot of stout.

When did it become the all-singing, all-drinking party?

Not until fairly recently. It wasn’t even an Irish public holiday until 1904, although the Irish elites did celebrate in the latter half of the 19 century with an annual ball held in Dublin castle – but for most ordinary folk it remained a quiet day. Until the 1970 pubs remained closed on 17 March in Ireland and the only place which could serve alcohol legally was the bar at the annual Dog Show in Dublin!

The holiday – as we know it today – stems in great part from the United States, rather than the Emerald Isle.

Is St Patrick’s Day is actually an American holiday?

Not exactly, but they can be credited with turning it into the party we know it as today.

The Charitable Irish Society of Boston organised the first US celebration of St Patricks in 1737 with a small (elite) dinner to celebrate the Irish saint. The concept of a parade was started in 1766 when Irish Catholic members of the British Army were permitted to march the streets of New York. When the Irish arrived in New York they were at the bottom of the food chain living in the notorious Hell’s Kitchen. The glorious parade today celebrates how they crawled out of there first to take Manhattan and then the US of A! Hell’s Kitchen is today called Clinton by NYC’s Realtors and is very desirable now the Irish have left! The Parades were also important because they could display openly national emblems and wear the “Green” – displays which were considered seditious in British ruled Ireland. St. Patrick’s vestments as Bishop of Armagh were actually blue and St. Patrick’s Blue is the National Colour of Ireland.st-patricks-day-2013

New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade – 245 Years Young


As increasing numbers of Irish migrants arrived on American shores, and were frequently characterised as dirty, diseased or drunken, the celebration became a chance for the migrant communities to showcase their national pride and praise both the spirit of their homeland and their new home. By the mid-20 century, manufacturers realised the potential of the holiday and turned it into big business. Nowadays anyone with even the vaguest claim to Irish ancestry (approximately 34 million Americans) takes to the streets for parades, parties and pub crawls. Niagra-Falls-Greenpdburjalarab33

Ireland has been busy turning 150 of the world’s most famous landmarks a bright shade of green, as part of its celebrations for St Patrick’s Day. Some of the monuments included are taking part for the first time ever in 2015, such as the Colosseum in Rome and Nelson’s Column in London. In Iceland – which is taking part for the first time – Reykjavík’s main landmarks, the Perlan glass dome, Hallgrímskirkja church and Harpa concert and conference hall, were illuminated with a green light in honour of St Patrick’s Day.

Beannachtaí Lá Fhéile Phádraig daoibh go léir! Happy St. Patrick’s Day from the Skibbereen Eagle!  

The Skibbereen Eagle

In 1898, to widespread bemusement, a small Provincial Newspaper in an equally small town in the South West corner of Ireland sonorously warned the Czar of Russia that it knew what he was up to and he should be careful how he proceeded for “The Skibbereen Eagle” was wise to his game and in future would be keeping its eye on him! It is doubtful that Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias, even noticed the Eagle’s admonitions but as history soon proved he should have paid closer attention to the Eagle’s insightful opinions!

Today, powered by its readers and contributors, from its cyber eyries in Ireland and the centres of the Irish Diaspora The Eagle casts its Cold Eye on Life and Death and much in between.
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