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  • Writer's pictureLee Elliott

Saint Patrick, Reptiles and Trout

Updated: Mar 18, 2021

This is the day dedicated to my favorite saint. Why my favorite? Saint Patrick was a man of many gifts and his life story is full of drama. He was born in Britain to a wealthy Christian family towards the end of the fourth century and died on March 17, 460, if tradition is correct. When he was sixteen, he was captured by Irish raiders and taken to Ireland, probably County Mayo, where he was held for six years and worked as a shepherd. This was a solitary and lonely existence but gave Patrick the time to evolve into a dedicated Christian and conceive the idea of converting Ireland to his faith.

He escaped and walked across Ireland – almost 200 miles – and returned to Britain where he had an angelic vision that confirmed his intention to convert all of Ireland. But first, he spent fifteen years in religious study and became a priest. Then he returned to Ireland to fulfill his mission. There were already a few Christians there, but it was Patrick's genius to fuse Irish culture and Christian tradition to bring the Irish people into the fold. He was certainly a unique and brilliant man, and I am impressed by his determination and courage. He had the option to stay in Britain and have a comfortable life but returned to what must have seemed to him a much more primitive society.

I’ve not read any biographies of St. Patrick, but I just ordered St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography, by Philip Freeman. I will report back.

There is a tradition that St. Patrick drove all the serpents out of Ireland. This is a comforting thought when one is making one’s way through tall grass and brush while trout fishing there. Here in Virginia, we don’t feel that secure, and snake boots are often indicated.

A kind reviewer of Light and Shadow at Pemberley informs me that turtles are unknown or vanishingly rare in England, even as far south as Kent. I am always grateful to have my mistakes corrected by the careful reader, so that I may do better next time. Perhaps St. Patrick went on an anti-turtle rampage as well. I suppose we’ll never know…

Bill and I have been trout and salmon fishing in Ireland many times. I am a lousy fly-fisherman and these exquisite aquatic beings are quite safe when I am on the riverbank or in the fishing boat. For me fishing is primarily an excuse to loaf about in a beautiful place.

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