Isn't it amazing how ghosts come back to haunt you?
Dave and Paul are correct. We don't know where Patrick was born or lived prior to his capture by Irish raiders. I submitted the following to Celtic-L in 1996 when I was young and enthusiastic. It's in the archives somewhere.
I haven't read Thomas O'Loughlin's book yet, so maybe my drivelings have been superceded.
dePaor, Liam (Ed.)(1986). 'Milestones in Irish History', Mercier Press, Dublin

Hanson, RPC (1983). 'The Life and Writings of Saint Patrick'.

Richter, Michael (n.d.). 'Medieval Ireland'.

16 January 1996
Shae Clancy

The Popular Legend

Patrick was captured, at the age of 16, by Irish pirates during a raid on
Wales and was brought to Ireland.  He was sold as a slave to Milchu (Milcho,
Miliucc) who put him tending swine on Mount Slemish in Co. Antrim.

After six years, he had a vision in which God told him to escape and that he
would find a ship to take him home.  He travelled about 200 miles,
eventually found the ship and persuaded the captain to take him on board.
He made his way back to Wales and began studying for the Church.

Some years later, he had dreams in which multitudes of Irish beseeched him
to return to Ireland and convert them to Christianity.

He landed in Co. Wicklow in 432 CE but, having been repelled by the natives,
he sailed north to Strangford Lough.  He almost immediately converted the
local chieftain and then travelled south to Tara, where he arrived at Easter
time.  The king of Tara, Laoire, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, refused
to convert to Christianity and warned Patrick that he could not light the
Paschall (Easter) fire until after he (the king) had lit his own fire to
honour his pagan gods.

Patrick went to the nearby Hill of Slane and lit the Paschall fire, in spite
of the king.  Laoire sent warriors to capture Patrick but, after a debate
with the king's druids and bards, Patrick converted many of the king's
people and was given approval to continue his mission.  He travelled
throughout Ireland, converting the population as he went.  He explained the
mystery of the Holy Trinity using the shamrock (three sections to one leaf)
and, in thanksgiving for his success in converting so many people from
Paganism, he banished all the snakes from Ireland.  He also extracted a
promise from God that Ireland would sink under the sea before the end of the
world, thereby saving the Irish from a more terrible demise.

He founded many monasteries in Ireland before his death.  He is buried at
Downpatrick, Co. Down.


The 'True' Story

Available historical evidence suggests that the true story may never be
known.  There is no doubt the Patrick was a real person who came as a
Christian missionary to Ireland in the fifth century.

Two written works, both in Latin, are attributed to him - a 'Letter' to
Coroticus and his 'Confession'.

The Letter is written to Coroticus and his soldiers who had attacked some of
Patrick's converts, killing some and taking the rest to be sold as slaves to
the Irish and Picts.  The Letter excommunicates those to whom it is
addressed and demands repentance and reparation.

The Confession was written near the end of his life and is an
acknowledgement to God of the goodness he has shown to Patrick during his life.

Both are believed to have been written by Patrick but the surviving
manuscripts are copies, probably written in the 9th century.

Several other works have been attributed to Patrick but there are varying
degrees of doubt about their authenticity.

Most of the Annals give details of Patrick's career.  They all agree that he
arrived in Ireland in 432, the year after Palladius, who was sent as bishop
from Rome.  They differ about the date of his birth and the date of his
death is put at 461, 489 or 496.

Based on Patrick's own writings, which were later 'modified' by scribes, it
is possible to construct a biographical outline which is, at best, tenuous.

Where was he born?

He says he was born in 'Bannaven Taberniae', but does not say where this is.
There seems to be no place of that name known from Roman Britain.  His
father, Calpornius, lived in a Roman villa or estate and, since there is
little evidence for Roman villas in the northern part of Roman Britain,
Patrick's birthplace must have been further south.  Irish pirates would not
have raided the east coast, nor would they travel far inland, so it is
likely that Patrick's home was on the west or southwest coast of Britain.

When was he born?

Patrick laments in his Confession that his capture by pirates interrupted
his education and deprived him of the capacity to write correct and elegant
Latin.  This phase in the Roman education system was the equivalent to
modern University, when the student was about 16.  Roman administration,
including the education system, broke down in Britain about 405 - 408.
Thus, Patrick must have been captured before this, and, since he was about
16 when captured, he cannot have been born much later than 390.

Other evidence from his writing suggests that he could not have been born
much earlier than 390.

Where did he spend his captivity?

Tradition says Mount Slemish, Co. Antrim.

Patrick says that he travelled 200 miles to reach the boat that would take
him home.  If he was in Antrim, he would not have had to travel more than
about 30 miles to get a boat.

He tells of his dream in which he heard 'the voices of those who were by the
Wood of Voclut, by the Western Sea' who asked him to 'walk among us again'.
The implication is that the people of the Wood of Voclut were those among
whom he spent his captivity.  Since he wrote his confession in Ireland, the
Western Sea must have been the Atlantic Ocean.  It is recorded elsewhere
that the Wood of Voclut was near Kilalla, Co. Mayo. This is about 200 miles
from Wicklow/Wexford, from where boats travelled regularly to Britain.

Thus, it is probable that Patrick spent his captivity near Kilalla, Co.
Mayo, where many landmarks bear his name.

When did he start his ministry in Ireland?

All the Annals agree that he came in 432.  However, it is recorded in Rome
that Pope Cellestine sent Palladius as the first Bishop 'to the Irish who
believe in Christ' in 431.  This indicates that there were already
Christians in Ireland at the time.  It is quite possible that, by the time
the Annals were written, oral tradition and legend had confused the
activities of Patrick and Palladius.

For example, many writings refer to Patrick having spent many years in Gaul
and Rome.  If this was the case, his Latin would not have been as poor as it
was - it was a foreign language to him.  Palladius, on the other hand, is
known to have spent time in Gaul and Rome and it seems that the early
careers of Patrick ans Palladius are irretrievably blended.

It is unlikely that the exact date of Patrick's arrival in Ireland will ever
be known with certainty.  Since he was not sent there by Rome, there is no
record of the date of his mission.  However, the assumption that he was born
about 390, combined with the fact that he was old enough to be a bishop when
he arrived, would indicate that he probably came about 430.
432 is as good a date as any.

When did he die?

Various dates are recorded in the Annals, e.g., 461, 489 and 496.  If as
seems likely, he was born in 390, and he lived for 'three score and ten'
years, then he probably died about 460.

Was Patrick his real name?

Some of the Annals relate that he was baptised 'Succat'.  'Patricius' was an
indication of rank in the Roman Empire, and was probably applied to
Palladius as well.

Did he banish the snakes from Ireland?

Paeleontological evidence shows that there were never snakes in Ireland.

And the Paschall fire?

This was obviously a reference to the feast of Bealtaine.  Later scribes
'moved' the date of the incident (if it ever happened) to coincide with Easter.


The following dates are approximate.

390 CE  Succat was born on the west or southwest coast of Britain.

406 CE  He was captured by raiders from Ireland  and sold as a slave.

406 -
  412 CE        Swine herd near Kilalla, Co. Mayo

412 -
   432?CE       Studied for the Church and was elevated to Bishop

432 -
  460?CE        Evangelised, as Patrick, in Ireland and, having gathered a
following, converted a large proportion of the population to

460?CE          Died - burial place unknown but traditionally placed at
Downpatrick, Co. Down.
----- Original Message -----
From: [log in to unmask] href="mailto:[log in to unmask]">[log in to unmask]
To: [log in to unmask] href="mailto:[log in to unmask]">[log in to unmask]
Sent: Thursday, March 17, 2005 7:56 PM
Subject: Re: Patrick - where was he from?

Generally speaking, it's thought that Patrick came from somewhere around the Carlisle area (though this has never been definitively proven).  He most definitely was an Romano-Briton, so he could probably speak Old Welsh which isn't too terribly far from the modern variety.  So if you want to raise a glass to him in Welsh, you'll be just fine...



David W. Fortin
Assistant Professor
History Department
Millersville University
Millersville, PA  17551

On 17 Márta 2005, at 7:53 am, Steffan Ellis wrote:

> Here we are again. Saint Patrick's Day. I'm in Cardiff, I'm Welsh and
> I'm
> drinking Guinness and already talk has turned to Patrick being Welsh. A
> search on the internet doesn't help much. Some say Scotland, some
> Wales,
> some the North of England and another Cornwall.
> Any thoughts?
> Steffan