St. Patrick: The Man, The Myth, The Legend


Detail of St. Patrick stained glass window at St. Benin’s Church, Kilbennan, County Galway, Ireland.  Photo by Andreas F. Borchert.and used here under the Creative Common Attribution-Share Alike license. 

St. Patrick is a figure shrouded in mystery.  While much is known and accepted about the patron saint of Ireland, there is a lot of finscéal out there as well.

As for the truth… believe it or not, Patrick was actually Scottish.  Born in AD 387 to Roman parents.  As a teenager, he was abducted and enslaved in Ireland.  There he found God and several years later escaped and returned home to Britain.  He studied to become a priest.

On 25 March 433, now Bishop Patrick returned to the land of his enslavement to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Irish people.  He used the three-leafed shamrock to describe the Holy Trinity to the people (hence the Irish affinity for the tri-lobed plant).  After spending many years in humble service to God and the Irish people, living a life of trust in the Lord, Patrick died on 17 March 461 – the date we celebrate as St. Patrick’s Day.

These details we accept.  However, over the centuries, St. Patrick – like many ancient historic figures – has had more than his fair share of myth and malarkey tagged onto his story.  His biography has more unwanted riders attached than a bill being passed by Congress.

Here are a few of the lesser-known, absolutely baseless and outrageous luíonn about St. Patrick.  If you hear any of these at your celebrations tonight, do not believe them:

1. St. Patrick created a sandwich made from soda bread, with corned beef, cabbage and cheese, toasted over a fire until the cheese was melted – hence the world’s first Patty Melt.

2. St. Patrick supported John F. Kennedy for president in 1960.  Indeed, Patrick was a Kennedy supporter from his earliest junior Congressional days.

3. St. Patrick’s favorite movie: The Bells of St. Mary’s.  Least favorite: Snakes on a Plane.

4. St. Patrick once owned a Volvo dealership in Galway.

5. St. Patrick drove the unicorns out of Ireland.

6. In Guangzhou, China, people swim across the Pearl River – not because Chairman Mao did it, but because St. Patrick did.

7. St. Patrick was the Grand Marshall at New York City’s first St. Patrick’s Day parade.

8. St. Patrick claimed to be the writer of the song “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”, but opted not to file a multimillion euro lawsuit, preferring forgiveness.

9. St. Patrick owned and operated a chain of Pizza Huts across Ireland.

10. As a youngster, Patrick’s friends nicknamed him “Spanky”.

11. It was St. Patrick’s idea to dye the Chicago River green.

12.  Before they were famous, St. Patrick played keyboards with U2.  He left the band over “artistic differences” with lead singer Bono and Bono’s Japanese girlfriend at the time, Yoko.

13. St. Patrick was a renowned clog dancer, taking home the first place trophy in the County Cork Waterdance Invitational a record seven years in a row.

14. St. Patrick once slept here.

15. St. Patrick was once banned from a well-known Las Vegas casino.  Details are murky.

16. St. Patrick was originally cast to play Joey on the sitcom Friends, but was replaced at the last minute by Matt LeBlanc, who the producers felt was more “Jersey”.

17. St. Patrick invented green beer (a claim that will probably be boisterously / foolishly made at many a pub tonight).

18. St. Patrick just happened to be in the audience at Ford’s Theatre the night Lincoln was shot.  He also just happened to be passing through Gettysburg when the president made his famous address.

19.  If you look at the album cover of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, that’s St. Patrick at the top, between W.C. Fields and Edgar Allen Poe.

20. There are only six degrees of separation between St. Patrick and any Irishman.

Hope this put a smile on your face.  Have a blessed and wonderful St. Patrick’s Day!  And remember the good the man actually did in the name of Christ.

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