Everything You Want to Know about St. Patrick

St. Patrick is more than just a holiday where we celebrate being Irish and drink and have fun. In fact, St. Patrick was a real person and he had a huge impact on the history of Ireland as well as one of everyone’s favorite holidays!

St. Patrick is known as a patron saint of Ireland and is one of the most recognized figures in the Christian religion. Although he is widely celebrated, we do not actually know a lot about how he lived his life whenever he was alive. There are tons of stories that you can locate that are going to be associated with St. Patrick which include things such as him banishing snakes from Ireland, but sadly, most of these are nothing more than fairy tales that have been made up by expert storytellers.

St. Patrick was born in Britain sometime around the fourth century to a set of wealthy parents. His death is rumored to have occurred sometime on March 17th in 460 AD.

Patrick’s father was a Christian deacon but people believe that this role was taken because of all of the incentives that he got on his taxes due to the fact that there are no signs that point to the fact that Patrick’s family was one of religion.

St. Patrick Captured by the Irish

Whenever Patrick was sixteen, a group of Irish raiders attacked his family’s estate and took him prisoner, sending Patrick to Ireland where he would be held in captivity for around six years. It is hard to say exactly where Patrick was held during this captivity, there are some people who believe that he was in Mount Slemish while others believe it was County Mayo.

Nevertheless, while Patrick was being held in captivity, he worked outdoors as a shepherd and was not allowed to be near people most likely for fear of him telling someone what had happened. It was during this time period when Patrick was alone and afraid of what his future held that Patrick finally turned to the religion in which he had known as a child which then lead him to become a devout Christian.

There is another rumor that states that Patrick actually dreams of converting people in Ireland to the Christian religion while he was being held in captivity, but there is no evidence of this that has been found.

St. Patrick’s Visions

Sometime during his captivity Patrick finally managed to escape. In what has been found of St. Patrick’s writing, he states that a voice told him that it was time for him to leave Ireland and that Patrick believed that it was God telling him this.

However, in order to escape, Patrick had to walk around two hundred miles from where he was being held to the coast. Once he made it to the coast, Patrick found his way back to Britain. After he had made it back to his homeland, another vision came to Patrick that to him that he needed to return to Ireland, but as a missionary this time.

It was after this vision that Patrick took up religion training for about fifteen years where he earned his ordination as a priest. Once he was ordained, Patrick now returned to Ireland with two things in mind. One was to minister to the Christians that were already residing in Ireland. The other was to try and convert the Irish that did not believe in Christianity. Strangely enough, what Patrick was sent to do is different than what many believe and that St. Patrick is actually the one who introduced Christianity to Ireland in the first place.

Crosses and bonfires

Being that Patrick was already familiar with the culture and the language in Ireland, Patrick used this to his advantage and started to incorporate the rituals that the Irish did into the lessons that he taught on Christianity. This was his way of trying not to get rid of the beliefs of those who lived in Ireland completely.

One example of how he did this was that he had bonfires lit on Easter being that the Irish honored many of their gods with a fire. A sun was also placed onto the Christian cross so that it became a new kind of cross, one of which we know as the Celtic cross. This was done so that it seemed more natural for the Irish to be okay with such a Christian symbol thus making their worship and transition to Christianity as painless as possible.

This was not to say that there were not already Christians that lived in Ireland whenever Patrick first arrived as a priest, but a great majority of the island was more nature-based pagans.

Since the Irish culture is very rich on telling their myths and legends, it is easy to see how St. Patrick’s life became grander than it actually was.

The Many Legends of St. Patrick

There are plenty of legends that surround Saint Patrick, and here are just a few of the ones that are passed down amongst those in Ireland.

St. Patrick and The Shamrock

It is said that Saint Patrick taught the Irish about the Christian ideal of God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost forming a holy trinity by using a shamrock as a way to show that God was three people in one God. You can first locate this story being told in 1726 although it is very possible that it is older than that. Ever since this story, the shamrock has been the single biggest icon of St. Patrick’s Day.

Back in the days when Ireland was still primarily pagan, there were a lot of them that believed in triple deities which may have helped Patrick in trying to teach them the Christian views he had been sent to preach.

Researchers say that little to no evidence exists that the Pagans help the shamrock as some sort of spiritual object. But, another researcher states that it may have been used to represent the powers of nature that were regenerative and when Patrick used it to describe the holy trinity is, it became a Christian icon.

Many pictures show Patrick with a shamrock in one of his hands and a cross being held in his other. Roger Homan wrote:

“We can perhaps see St Patrick Drawing upon the visual concepts of the triskele when he uses the shamrock to explain the trinity.”

St. Patrick Banishing The Snakes

Due to the fact that there are no snakes in Ireland, many people believe that Patrick banished them all from the island, casting them off into the waters after attacking him during one of his prolonged fasts. The inspiration behind this legend comes from the story of Moses that can be found in the Bible when Moses and his brother Aaron used their staffs to fight against the sorcerers that worked with Pharaoh their staffs morphing into snakes and consuming all the other snakes that were in the area.

But as is explained in a later section, there have never been any snakes in Ireland. As a result, there wasn’t anything for Patrick to rid the island of, in the first place.

Patricks’ Walking Stick

A few of the legends that you find in Ireland involve the Copog Phadraig, the Caoranach, and the Oillipheist. While Patrick was spreading the word of God in Ireland, it is said that he carried a staff that was made of ash wood. This stick would be thrust into the ground when he was preaching.

Today, it is said that at Aspatria (Ash of Patrick) the message that he was preaching took so long that by the time he was done, his stick had grown roots and had begun to sprout into a tree.

The Ancient Ancestors and Patrick Speak

A work from the 1100s called Acallam na Senorach gives the reader the story of how Patrick met with two of Ireland’s ancient warriors while he was on his mission to convert the pagans. It is unsure of how these two warriors survived to make it to the time that Patrick was there, nevertheless, Patrick took the time to try and convert the warriors to his religion all the while they defended their religion of paganism.

Saint Patrick’s Cross

Patrick has two crosses that are commonly associated with him. One is the cross pattee while the other is the saltire. The pattee is the cross that you will find associated with Patrick. The saltire can be dated back to 1783 and is often associated with the order of St. Patrick.

There is no real reason that can be found as to why the cross pattee is associated with Patrick. One theory is that the bishops are oftentimes shown associated with them. Patrick is one of the founding bishops of the Church in Ireland, so this is how this symbol may have become associated with Patrick. Many pictures that show St. Patrick show him with in a bishop’s clothing, all of which decorated with the cross pattée.

Even today the cross pattee can be associated with Patrick because it appears on the arms of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Armagh along with the Church of Ireland Archdiocese of Armagh. This is often believed to be done because Patrick was the first diocese in Armagh. The Down District Council also uses it on their headquarters in Downpatrick which is considered to be the place where Patrick was buried.

The Saltire of Patrick is red on a white field and is normally used to represent the order of St. Patrick which was founded in 1783.  The Acts of Union that happened in 1800 caused the Saltire to be combined with the Cross of England, the cross of Scotland, and thus the union flag was formed.  This is the flag that is commonly associated with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. However, the saltire has no references to St. Patrick.

Saint Patrick’s Bell

In the national museum of Ireland sits a bell that is known as St Patrick’s bell. The first mention of this bell dates all the way back to 552.

The bell is considered to be a relic that was removed from Patrick’s tomb about sixty years after he died. The bell is said to be the Bell of the Testament which is one of the most precious relics that Ireland has.

St. Patrick’s Day

Everyone knows about St. Patrick’s Day. Going also by the name “the Feast of Saint Patrick”, the day is known as a religious and cultural celebration that is traditionally held on the seventeenth of March when it is said that St. Patrick died.

It was not until the early seventeenth century that the Christians and Catholic’s began to observe the holiday. It is considered to be the day that Christianity was brought over to Ireland by St. Patrick; it also celebrates the culture and heritage of the Irish.

Those who celebrate St. Patrick’s day in a more religious manner as it was intended to be, it is they spend the day for spiritual renewal and prayers often offered up for the missionaries that are spreading the gospel worldwide.

Snakes in Ireland

This is a myth that came around about St. Patrick is that he drove all of the snakes out of Ireland. There are no snakes that actually live in Ireland because of the waters being too frigid around the island, therefore, it makes it to where it is too cold for any snake to actually live on the island. However, it is common that this may just be a metaphor for getting rid of the pagan ways of those who called Ireland home.

Partying On St. Patricks Day

Up until 1970, St. Patrick’s Day did not involve a lot of partying. Instead, it was mainly focused on the religious aspects of the holiday. However, when the 70’s came around, the restrictions on people eating meat, dancing, and drinking were lifted for the day.

When the Irish came to America, that was when the party started. It is uncertain when the first parade actually took place, but the earliest that we can trace back the celebrations is to Boston in 1737 as well as New York 1762. Each year that passed and more Irish immigrants came to the US.

Some of the major parties that everyone around the world knows about is the parade that happens in New York and Chicago always dying their river green in celebration.

Ireland and The Color Green

Many people believe that if you do not wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, you are going to get pinched. However, why is this? A lot of the connection to the color green comes from the fact that there is a lot of green in Ireland when spring comes around, plus there is green in

the Irish flag. Oh, and let’s not forget that the island of Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle. One more thing that brings about the wearing of green is the fact that if you do not wear green, then a leprechaun is going to see you and pinch you.

Shamrocks It is said that Patrick used a shamrock as a way to explain the holy trinity when he was spreading Christianity. But, the shamrocks did not become a thing until the seventeenth century.


Leprechauns are not real, but they do come from popular Irish folklore. These small people were the shoemakers who took what they made from making shoes and put them in a pot at the end of a rainbow. People often times look for leprechauns to try and get them to give away a piece of gold, but also because leprechauns are supposed to be good luck!

Corned beef and cabbage

This is a meal that is traditionally served on St. Patrick’s day. Corned beef was chosen because cows were not usually slaughtered for meat in Ireland but were used for milk as well as the strength they provided. But, once again, corned beef and cabbage came from America going back to the Irish immigrants that were living in New York. These immigrants were buying their meat from butchers that were kosher as to not let go of their roots.

The corned beef and cabbage are more of a Jewish tradition where the corned beef and cabbage is put into a pot with potatoes and carrots. In Ireland, the corned beef is typically lamb or bacon.

Irish Lucky Charms – Why and How

Irish Lucky Charms

There are many lucky charms and symbols that are related to the Irish and are considered lucky. Many of these have historical significance, and many are simply based on myth, legend, or folk tales. Here’s a good way to get an idea of the mythical and cultural history of the Irish and their luck (and also have a good laugh): If you have never seen the movie ‘Darby O Gill and The Little People’ – you need to sit down and watch it to get sucked in to the magic and tales of Irish folklore and fairies.. and of course the luckiest battle of wit you will ever see!

Any true believer in Irish Folklore will inform you that catching a leprechaun fairy (leprechauns are members of the Fairy Folk) will bring good luck. If you can hold on to him tight enough, and technically hold him hostage for long enough, the leprechaun will grant you three wishes in exchange for his freedom. The mischievous little green man is also well known to hide his pot of gold at the end of rainbows, so if you’re lucky enough to get to the end of the rainbow, finders keepers.. eh?.

History of Irish Good Luck Charms

According to the book “The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures,” by John and Caitlin Matthews, the legend of the leprachaun can be traced back to eighth-century tales of water spirits called “luchorpán,” meaning small body, according to John and Caitlin Matthews book the legend eventually evolved into a mischievous household fairy said to appear in cellars, play tricks on people, and drink heavily. Like any good Irish man or woman, right? Although a mascot of Ireland and supposed bringer of luck in the form of gold and wishes, the leprechaun is not the only symbol or charm in Irish tradition.

Four Leafed clover

Four-leaf clovers are a rare find, and were used as magical charms by Celtic priests who believed the little gem would protect them against evil spirits. The Celts believed that four-leaf clovers would allow them to be able to see mischievous fairies, and dodge their shenanigans, which were viewed as unlucky. And you would understand why if you had experienced the little menaces as many an Irish man has – just ask Darby O’Gill! They are to this day still believed to have magical powers including luck, hope, love, and faith. Four-leaf clovers are incredibly rare, which is one of the things that leads to them being seen as so lucky.

A Lucky Penny

As long as you have a penny in your pocket you are never broke! The idea of a lucky penny is “a small sum given back ‘for luck’ to the purchaser or payer by the person who receives money in a bargain or other transaction,”. In It is still a tradition to some Irish people to give a luck penny in some instances like buying a new home, or your granny will always pop a lucky penny in the new purse she buys you for Christmas. Not so nice when she puts one in the mix of her yummy fudge and forgets to tell you! Giving a Luck Penny originates back to an old Irish tradition originally associated with the buying and selling of farm animals. After buyer and seller agree their deal, it is sealed by each spitting into the palm of their hands, and closed with a lovely firm handshake.

Irish Lucky Penny
An Irish Lucky Penny is an Example of Traditional Irish Lucky Charms

Now, the seller must immediately give back the buyer a gift of a sum of money for “Good Luck”. This is an important ritual because failure to give back a Luck Penny could bring ill fortune to them both. Traditionally, (and you couldn’t break tradition now, could you?) both buyer and seller then head to the local pub where the “Lucky Penny” is used to buy the first round of celebratory drinks for them both.

In the days when a penny had a lot more value, the “Luck Penny” was just that, a penny. These days the “Luck Penny” gift is more of a token than of any real monetary value. Nevertheless, the tradition of referring to this gift of cash as a “Luck Penny” remains.


Horseshoe charms are one of the hugely popular good luck charms popular throughout Ireland. Again, there’s a fairy link here – horseshoes were made of iron, which fairies cannot stand, so it was important for warding off their mischief. There’s another legend about Saint Dunstan, a blacksmith who was ordered by the devil to shoe his horse. Instead, he nailed the shoe to the devil’s foot only removing it after the devil promised to stay away from any home with a horseshoe. Hence, displaying a horseshoe in the house is considered to be lucky for warding off evil.

Irish Good Luck Charm Horse Shoe
Irish Lucky Horseshoe Lucky Charm

Luck of the Irish

‘Irish luck’ might seem like a strangely pervasive term in light of a nation that has experienced a devastating potato famine, generations of English oppression, and a history of relentless rain. Nonetheless, Ireland is imagined by many as a nation brimming with lucky gold coins and shamrock charms.

The phrase, ‘luck of the Irish’ is commonly thought to mean “extreme good fortune.” However, according to Edward T. O’Donnell, an Associate Professor of History at Holy Cross College and author of “1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Irish American History”, the term has not an Irish origin but in fact an American one.

During the gold and silver rush ears in the 19th century, some of the Irish miners (or of Irish American descent) made great fortunes. Over time this association of the Irish with mining fortunes led to the development of the expression ‘luck of the Irish’. Of course, it carried with it a certain tone of sarcasm, with an undertone of the idea that, only by sheer luck, and not brain power, could these eejits succeed.

Many suggest the phrase stuck around in part because of the note of irony attached to it, considering how actually, the Irish have actually been pretty unlucky throughout history – from the ruthless pillaging of the Vikings, to families pulled apart by emigration, death and famine, and today’s prevailing discrimination against redheads. But despite this, and partially fueled by the fact that thee Irish have suffered their fair share of ill fate, they have developed a dark sense of humour.

Needless to say, Ireland’s folklore is embellished with luck, even if its factual history is not. Ireland is a luscious and welcoming country full of cosy pubs, friendly faces, beautifully haunting music and gorgeous moors of emerald green.

Irish Lucky Charms

With an incredible heritage of which to be proud, and a global significance of which to be proud – it seems that the Irish are a little lucky after all. And that is most definitely worth a toast and a singsong over a pint of Guinness on St Patrick’s Day!

So in the words of the Fairy King according to Darby O Gill himself;

 ‘Tis more than your wish was. Nayther you nor anyone who sits at your table, through all your life, will ever want a bite to ate or a sup to drink, nor yet a silver shilling to cheer him on his way. Good luck to all here and goodbye!”

Leprechaun Good Luck Charm

Some Irish people still see the leprechaun as a good luck charm. Leprechauns are not real, but they do come from popular Irish folklore. These small people were the shoemakers who took what they made from making shoes and put them in a pot at the end of a rainbow.

People often times look for leprechauns to try and get them to give away a piece of gold, but also because leprechauns are supposed to be good luck!

Valene Kane

Best-known for playing kidnap victim Rose Stagg in The Fall, Newry-born actress Valene Kane holds all the power in her latest role as an ‘alpha female’ barrister in legal drama Counsel. This drew her back to Northern Ireland for the pilot project and she has hopes of it being made into a series.

Valene Kane Actress
Newry actor Valene Kane plays barrister Olivia Harley in BBC One drama Counsel

YOU could say Valene Kane is an actress prone to perilous situations – being kidnapped by a crazed Jamie Dornan in The Fall is only one of them – but in her latest role, the Newry-born star of Thirteen and Rogue One: A Star Wars Stor’, faces danger of a different kind.

Valene Kane in BBC drama Counsel
Valene Kane in BBC Drama Counsel

In new BBC one-off drama Counsel, Kane steps into the killer heels of “alpha female” Olivia, a barrister who complicates her professional and personal life when persuaded to take on the case of a schoolboy client played by newcomer, Adam Gillian.

“On the surface, Olivia has it all: a powerful career and a husband [Declan Conlon] who is in the running for Lord Chief Justice – but she is growing tired of playing second fiddle…” teases the actress, speaking down the line from London where she lives with husband and fellow actor, Ed Cooper Clarke.

“When we meet Olivia, she’s sort of at a crossroads and doesn’t realise she is a little bit dead inside, so, when she meets this young boy, he ignites this free spirit inside her; a free spirit she didn’t realise existed.”

Valene Kane Is a Rising Star

The actress, who is currently filming HBO crime series Gangs of London and recently walked the red carpet at the Sundance Film Festival in the US – for the premiere of her latest movie, Sonja: The White Swan – was delighted to be back in Northern Ireland for the project, commissioned through the BBC’s New Perspectives initiative.

Penned by newcomer David Allen and directed by Declan Recks (The Truth Commissioner), Counsel showcases the emerging talent of Gillian as 18-year-old Gareth Fleming, a motherless young student whose educational future hangs in the balance after his father suffers a stroke and is unable to pay mounting school fees.

“It was so good to be back home again and involved in this project,” Kane enthuses. “Everyone working on the drama wants to see more work like this – we were so excited because we all grew up here and felt very connected, whether we come from Northern Ireland, or from the south.

“I’ve read a lot of scripts recently with good female leads, but not female-centric stories. Why I loved Olivia’s character in Counsel is essentially because it’s her story… it’s the confusion that a woman of a certain age faces when she hits a certain point in her life – her career’s going really well, but does she want kids? What’s next? Those questions relate to everyone, I think, and that’s what drew me to it.”

Describing herself as “a bit Type A personality, a bit of an alpha female” herself, the London Central School of Drama-trained daughter of former Down county Gaelic footballer and coach Val Kane says she understood that part of Olivia – even though she is “more disorganised, messy and bohemian” in real life.

But, understanding the role from the inside out is something the actress, who also starred in recent BBC drama Death and Nightingales – again with Jamie Dornan – takes completely to heart.

She makes ‘mood boards’, puts together Spotify playlists and keeps a scrapbook to help identify with her character long before the cameras start rolling.

“I use artistic mood boards for every character and I’ll keep a scrapbook with pictures and textures to help me feel what they feel,” Kane explains. “For the role of Olivia, I also worked very closely with the costume designer because I had a clear idea of how I thought she would dress and want she would want to wear.

“My father-in-law is a High Court judge and so I asked him lots of questions too… it’s a world I’m fascinated in anyway, the legal world. I think Counsel has great legs; it definitely has the potential to be made into a series.”

But even with such fastidious preparation, born out of love for the craft she has pursued since teenage years with the National Youth Theatre, the now 32-year-old is still reluctant to watch herself on screen.

“I find it very difficult, especially the stuff in which I have the lead in,” Kane reflects. “I find it hard not to critique myself and then I lose the enjoyment of just watching it. I usually get my husband to watch if first and then he tells me what he thinks…

“He’s more of a writer [than an actor] now, which is better for us, as he’s the person in one place, writing, and I’m the one who travels. It helps, I think, that we’re in the same profession, as he understands how I have to drop everything sometimes when an acting job comes up.”

Kane, who suddenly found herself reading for high profile roles following her compelling portrayal of Rose Stagg, the ex-girlfriend of serial killer Paul Spector (Dornan) in Allan Cubitt’s The Fall, is delighted that now her dream career – in defiance of the initial wishes of her parents who wanted her to attend university and study law for real – is taking off.

As well as Sonja: The White Swan – a film about Sonja Henie, Olympic figure skater and later Hollywood actress – Kane is also awaiting the general release on another movie, Profile, in which she plays a British journalist who dons a hijab to investigate the phenomenon of young women being radicalised online.

Based on the 2015 non-fiction bestseller, In The Skin of Jidhadist, by a French journalist who now has round-the-clock police protection, Profile won the Panorama Audience Award at the 68th Berlin International Film Festival and has been her “biggest highlight” thus far.

“It’s based on a true story about a journalist who had a fatwa out on her head after her story broke so, initially, my agents were kind of wary,” Kane tells me. “But, I trusted the director, the producer and in the whole process.

“We ended up writing a lot of the script together and it was a very involved process in the editing suite afterwards. It felt very much like a producer’s role – and that’s something I think I’m heading towards in the future.

“There was a long period when I was really struggling, so it’s great to be living in London and able to work there as well now on Gangs of London. It’s the first time in my 10 years of acting that I get to stay in my own house and go to my own bed. That makes me happy.”

The Second Coming – W.B. Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

It’s apposite to our present age – though previous, and probably future generations thought the same. Surely Britain and Ireland, and more so, America are currently in a political and cultural turmoil, where those who screamed loudest for a return of ‘control’ have demonstrated their inability to exercise even self-control: the falcon cannot hear the falconer; the falconer has an agenda of his own, which bears little relationship to the needs of the masses.

No government has a concrete agenda to control global warming and no means to enforce one, were they to turn their minds to it.

What is the nature of that ‘rough beast’ slouching to Bethlehem to be born?

Who knows? But cataclysm is at hand.

The Quest… by Robert Service


I sought Him on the purple seas,
I sought Him on the peaks aflame:
Amid the gloom of giant trees
And canyons lone I called His name;
The wasted ways of earth I trod;
In vain; in vain! I found not God.

I sought Him in the hives of men,
The cities grand, the hamlets grey,
The temples old beyond my ken,
The tabernacles of today;
All life that is, from cloud to cloud
I sought … Alas!  I found not God.

Then after roamings far and wide,
In streets and seas and deserts wild,
I came at last to stand beside
The death-bed of my little child,
Lo! As I bent beneath the rod
I raised my eyes … and there was God.

The photo above is of His Holiness the Pope, with Dr John McAreavey, then Bishop of Dromore – a man destroyed by Steven Nolan, may God forgive him.

‘Grandad’ by Robert Service

Marty Bogroll

Heaven’s right ‘n sweet, I guess

In no rush to get there

Been a sinner, more or less

Maybe won’t fit in there.

Wicked still, gotta confess

Might just pine a bit there!

Heaven’s swell, preacher says

But got so used to earth here

Had such good times all the way

Frolic, fun and mirth here.

Eighty springs ago today

Since I had my birth here.

Quite a spell of happy years

Wish I could begin it

Cloud and sunshine, laughter, tears

Living every minute

Women too, the pretty dears

Plenty of ‘em in it.

Heaven! That’s another tale

Mightn’t let me chew there

Gotta have me pint of ale

Would I like the brew there?

Maybe I’d grow slack and stale

No more chores to do there.

Here I weed the garden plot

Scare the birds from pillage

Simmer in the sun a lot

Talk about the tillage.

Yarns of battles I have fought

Greybeard of the village.

Heaven’s mighty fine, I know

Still, it ain’t so bad here

See them maples all aglow

Starlings seem so glad here.

I’ll be mighty peeved to go

Scrumptious times I’ve had here.

Lord, I know You’ll understand

With Your Light You’ll lead me

Though I’m not the pious brand

I’m here when’er You need me

Gee! I know that heaven’s grand

But darn it! God, don’t speed me.

Blinne’s Stream


Blinne’s Stream

St Moninna of Killeavy was also known by the pet name Blinne (spelling variations: for ‘baby’).  The following poem is sung to the same air as The Bell of Bronagh –  a favourite of Matthew McGrath of Star of the Sea Church Rostrevor – words by Siobhan O Duibhainn. It is likely that the air is ancient, predating by centuries the words printed below.  The mix of Gaelic with Sassanagh implies to me that the original was entirely in the native tongue.

If I can persuade Matthew to record Bell of Bronagh to Youtube, I will create a link.

The moon in splendour shone one night on valley, glen and hill

A thousand stars looked down from heaven and all the world was still

As I walked the road to the holy shrine that oft I longed to see

And a stainless child walked by my side to Blinne’s stream with me.

With merry jest and happy laugh unheeded passed the hours

No thorn lay in my path that night ‘Twas strewn a stor with flowers

And I forgot my own sad lot A chara oig mo chroi

You banished grief the night you came to Blinne’s stream with me.

And now is hushed the merry laugh while the Rosary we said

For kith and kin, for friend and foe the living and the dead

And all whom God afflicteth with pain and agony

Was it angel bright that walked that night to Blinne’s stream with me.

And when we reached the hallowed shrine we knelt in silence there

Again I prayed for those who find life’s burden hard to bear

And I begged God’s holy mother to preserve the purity

Of the spotless youth who came that night to Blinne’s stream with me.

Had I my wish thy path would be for ever bright and fair

No sorrow, no deep anguish should ever be thy share

Thy crosses I would gladly bear a mhile gradh for thee

Who came one happy moonlit night to Blinne’s stream with me.

Submitted poems : reflections


Of these three submitted poems, two (namely ‘McParland’s Elder’ and ‘McGinn’) are character based poetic fictionalisations of various characters in and around the town (McParland and McGinn being two distinctly local surnames). ‘McParland’s Elder’ is an ode to the elderly of the city whilst ‘McGinn’ is the story of a man observing his own wake and funeral (not very cheery, granted, but very Irish in it’s outlook nonetheless).

The other poem ‘Going to my Hometown’, is a sonnet written in dedication to the city and was inspired by many of the landmarks dotted around the place (namely, the old red-brick of the Hibernian Club on the Mall and the medieval church up on High St.)

Going to my Hometown

Parading a musty clop along the mall;

Redbrick and granite should glimmer in their boast.

Razing a glint in bier-garten toast,

I’m jealous – their sip, lip-locked – I’m enthralled.

The chivalrous sweat in musical droves,

Saluting the weather with world-weary wink.

The steeples, serene, without rain to drink:

A clan wry, a-flowing – a city of mauve.

Borderline bubble I love you so well.

I source you for boredom, ‘tis true, ‘tis true,

For dryness can seem here the hottest of hells

But I would be dead if ‘twas not for you –

A cynic. A liar. A lover. A son –

A soul wracked to bone mass from valley-sought glue.


Thespian legion of repute and rogue
Wherefore to season my home with your lease?
Cast without shadow and latent in vogue
Celestial yearnings burn without cease.

For human endeavour seems that of beast
When repertoire years are draping the squelch;
No requiem breast nor angel nor priest
In scant distillation can prove what I felt.

And though there were eve’nings in spite of myself,
Where lingered my spoils ‘pon high in the din,
I sired the void, alive and in health,
To slump down, a coward, and die with my sins.

“What friends, indeed, can be said of McGinn?”
Seized up from the swell then through shuffling slits.
‘twas one from my past, though not of my kin,
Who’d shamble my bygones in idler twist.

“Well, let my retort reveal to you this”
Responded my sibling, eye on my corpse,
“He was my brother and though he be missed,
They’ll ravage his ghost with sulphur and scorch;

They’ll send for his passions, singed like a torch,
Drink them to blackness and pluck him from thought.
Heathen of helix and harlequin sport,
Hath thou no inkling, the havoc you wrought?

A bold moment-muse of what we all sought?
Wanting our brother, or what for the word
Could heal you of stealing the years we had brought.
For all that was owed us: a man of the world.”

Only ‘twas then that time, stuck, unfurled
And eve’ning careered t’ward morning, t’ward fate.
When bones hold to dust by death, that old churl, 
My years be reduced to scripture and slate.

For I have been poisoned by seasons in wait –
Weights worth the farthings they stuck to my eyes;
Sliding through epochs that harboured the great
And mock the mere mortals of meaning deprived.

‘tis that, as I laboured ‘mong mirrors they hide,
Residing in pine with beads in their coil,
That creased up and burned my thoughts ‘fore the guide
Of sinner McGinn to a patch in the soil.

My screed reads no softer after such toil,
No smoother a tale to be taught at your teat.
That my soul had not descended to boil,
Nor had I with saints or skivvies to speak.

‘twas in my cortege ‘midst eyes without weep
And great sweeping haloes of droves in their drear
Where I’d come to shamble in rambling grief;
My infinite seal – a death without peer.

The chapel then, ceding in vaulted veneer,
Seemed placid, indiff’rent; a tomb without taste,
And I, of the asinine angular weird,
Sat nursing my years in debt and disgrace;

Though steadfast my legion not to make haste –
Not for the glibness nor gallons nor grime;
Nor e’en for wallowing Whitsuns of waste
Which, woven, made whimsical dust of my time.

No, friends! My kin were not even inclined
To whisper a shudder in lieu of myself;
Their benches, distended in line upon line
Had last term to conjuring sobs where they knelt.

And I, a poor reckoner, dumbfound and welt,
Who picked at his scars with bottle and beak,
Have culled from my friv’lous happ’nings health
And smile that my bygones weren’t utterly bleak.

The service, now ended, spilled out to the street;
The heat of the noon scald shapes and disrobe.
Of courage without, I slunk in the speak
And pictured my corpse garrulous and in globe.

With words said and skies pulled the hollow was lowed,
And dignified drops of a soil were dispensed,
And after the shapes had shuffled their shoad,
I stood for awhile to invite forth the hence.

I stood for a decade in sin recompense,
And pleaded with weathering debris and silt;
I stood for my penance, for death to commence,
Though condemned am I to be held by the hilt.

I cornered my prayers then, my flowers in wilt;
I threatened the heavens with nothing to stake –
But, reader, my anguish is always my guilt.
Is this script appendage enough for my sake?

Julie Fowlis Concert

Julie Fowlis with beads

Yesterday evening my wife and I attended Julie’s superb concert in Rosemary St First Presbyterian Church, which featured also her husband Eamon Doorley AND John McIntyre and Zoe Conway – who are also husband and wife.

I’d highly recommend you buy their new CD ‘Alt.’

Julie is my favourite singer in all the world!

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