To most of us, St. Patrick’s Day means green beer, funny hats and a chance to let loose as winter gives way to spring. But Ireland’s saint has been celebrated with a feast for about 300 years and still, few know his story. John Kernaghan and Pam Martin went looking for it, paddling in his wake and following his paths in a hulking RV. We also found remarkable vistas of sea, sky and land as well as a welcoming, engaging people. Here’s our final post plus a link to the whole story of our paddling pilgrimage.
Even as we were saying au revoir to Ireland, the story of St. Patrick was revealing a new chapter. We stayed in Skerries, just north of Dublin and sure enough, a Patrick legend presented itself.
The Skerries Historical Society details the yarn of how St. Patrick came to leave his footprint on a rock at Red Island during his brief stay on St. Patrick’s Island.
“When St. Patrick was expelled from Wicklow by the pagan natives he sailed northwards and landed on a small island off Skerries, which is now known as St. Patrick’s Island in his honour. When the saint arrived on this island he had with him a goat, which was his companion and source of milk.
“From this island St. Patrick came to the mainland to convert the local people. While St. Patrick was ashore on one of these visits some people from Skerries went out to the island and stole his goat. They killed the goat, cooked it and feasted on it. When St. Patrick went to the island he found his goat missing.
“This made him very angry and in two giant strides he reached the mainland. The first step took him to the back of Colt Island and the second to Red Island, where he confronted the people of Skerries.
“When they tried to deny interfering with his goat they found they could only bleat. When they were prepared to tell the saint the truth their voices returned.
“Where St. Patrick stepped onto Red island his footprint is to be seen in the rock to this day. Since then the nickname Skerries Goats is given to the people of the town to remind them of this deed.
“St. Patrick’s footprint can be seen on the rocks near the Springboards, the tidal bathing place on Red Island.”
So there it is, a paddle out to Red Island has to top the agenda for the next trip.
COVER PHOTO: Pam enjoys the sunset in Skerries as we bid Ireland adieu. Somewhere out there is Red Island and the legend of St. Patrick’s footprint and the goat people of Skerries. Photo by John Kernaghan
And here’s the full story from Irish America magazine: