As the 17th March approaches we prepare ourselves for the annual carnival of Hiberniana. There will be mass parades of emerald green in the big cities: Boston, New York, Chicago, Dublin and even London. It will be a celebration of all things Irish and people will be encouraged to wear ‘the Green’ and sup the famous Irish stout.
Well, it may surprise some to discover that St Patrick was not even Irish. He was from England. In his diaries he describes how he was brought up in the North of England until the age of 16. He was then kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland. With the advancing and receding shoreline there is no archaeological evidence to identify St Patrick’s home and the place names used then are no longer recognised. However, some historical texts place St Patrick’s home between The Mersey and The Ribble. In my book that puts him in Southport.
Of course, the Welsh claim him but then they claim everyone. Last I heard, they were claiming that King Arthur and even Robin Hood were Welsh.
So what of the young lad sold into slavery? Eventually he escaped, came home and joined the church. He decided to go back to Ireland to spread Christian culture to the war-like tribes of Ireland and the rest is history.
Did St Patrick drink The Black Stuff? There is little doubt that St Patrick would have drunk dark ales. That was the staple drink in monasteries at the time. The malts would have been darker and smokier because of the traditional methods used, resulting in a darker ale. St Patrick would not have drunk anything like the nitrogenised, pasteurised, super-cooled commercial products associated with St Patrick’s Day but would have enjoyed a cask ale much more like our local brews: Parker’s Dark Spartan, Red Star’s Havana Moon or Southport’s Dark Night.
What about all this green? For over a thousand years St Patrick was depicted in blue. In fact he had a shade of blue named after him. St Patrick’s blue is a pale blue. The green has come in over the last hundred years or so to make St Patrick seem more Irish.
On the same day, the Guest House in Union Street, Southport, is hosting 'St. Patricks shenanigans with ukulele rebels', aka Uke-Rhythmix.
Wishing you 'Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona daoibh' – Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.
This is a guest post by Andrew Frith of the Grasshopper pub.