"I used to stay out in the forests and on the mountain and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow, in icy coldness, in rain, and I used to feel neither ill nor any slothfulness, because, as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at that time." Saint Patrick, Confessio, translated from Latin
Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland although he is not actually Irish. Born in England around AD390 to an aristocratic family, Patrick was a teenager when he was captured and brought to Ireland as a slave.
He was sold to an Antrim landowner who put him to work as a shepherd on Slemish Mountain. For six years, Patrick lived alone on the mountain where conditions were bleak and lonely. But in these extreme conditions, Patrick found faith in God and one night he heard a voice calling to him, telling him that the time had come to escape. It told him, “See your ship is ready.”
Patrick fled his master and travelled 200 miles to Wexford, where, sure enough, a boat heading for Britain was waiting.
After reuniting with his family, Patrick had many adventures before another vision called him back to Ireland. He trained in France and returned to Ireland as a priest, spending many years converting the Irish to Christianity – reportedly including his old master. This was no easy task, and he faced a lot of opposition from local pagan chiefs and fellow clergy. However he baptised many people and succeeded in establishing many churches.
St Patrick’s legacy lives on to this day - Some of his writings survive, including the Confessio and the Letter to Coroticus. On March 17th – St Patrick’s Day – celebrations take place around the world. In Mid and East Antrim, large numbers of people climb Slemish mountain in pilgrammage to the former shepherd and patron saint of Ireland.
Slemish mountain is on Carnstroan Lane, Broughshane