It’s the 17th of March again. Feast day of our national saint, Maewyn Succat, a Welsh kidnap victim forced to tend sheep on the side of a cold, wet Irish mountain for six years, where he went mad, living on a diet of magic mushrooms and snake-meat, which he came to detest.
He began to hear voices and eventually ran away from the mountain where he had been enslaved. He walked two hundred miles, appropriately enough for a man who would later become a Proclaimer, until eventually he found a ship and persuaded the sailors to take him with them, but the Lord wasn’t finished with him yet. And so they ended up in France, or Gaul as it might have been at that time, a land full of people called Vercingetorix, Ambiorix and of course, Obelix and Asterix.
The starving sailors taunted him. How come your prayers aren’t working now, young Christian?
Why don’t you go pray yourself? retorted Maewyn, or something very similar. And when they did, look what happened. A herd of pigs appeared on the road, which they immediately slaughtered and ate. Maewyn put this down to prayer, thus falling victim to two logical fallacies: that correlation equals causation, and confirmation bias, but you could hardly expect much more from an untutored, paranoid-schizophrenic sheep-herd.
Eventually, thanks to a belly-full of pig meat, Maewyn made it home to his father, Calpurnius, in Wales but the paranoid delusions continued, not helped by his study of theology. One night he imagined a man called Victoricus giving him a letter from the Irish people and then he heard voices begging him to come back. These days, of course, Maewyn would be sectioned for his own safety, but back then, the pseudoscience of psychiatry hadn’t even been dreamed of, and so he decided to return to Ireland, even when his family pleaded with him to stay.
I’ll pay for stronger meds, his father said.
I know a faith-healer, his mother told him.
You’re one mad bastard, his brother Emlyn said. Pint before you head off?
Why not? replied Maewyn, so the two brothers headed for the local tavern for an old chin-wag before he boarded his ship for Ireland.
Have you got your ticket? Emlyn said.
It’s here in the secret pocket sewn into the seat of my hempen drawers.
They’re not invented yet.
Are you buying or what? Mine’s a tankard of mead.
And so it was that Maewyn embarked for Ireland with a massive hangover, a hatred of reptiles and a belief that Ireland was the edge of the Earth, since his God, though all-powerful, wasn’t great at geography.
At some point in his ramblings around Ireland, Maewyn morphed into Patricius, perhaps because the local dignitaries would be more impressed by a posh Roman than some unshaven, unwashed Welsh git. He gave up the drink and the psychoactive drugs, though the damage was already done, since Patricius retained the delusion of grandeur that made him think of the Irish as barbarians because they didn’t share his insane religious beliefs. But like any madmen, from Ian Paisley to David Koresh, it wasn’t long before he built up a following, much as the various wandering magicians on the shores of Galilee had done four hundred years previously. In a time of superstition, when people would happily believe any old nonsense, Patricius’s message seemed slightly less mad than the rest of the rubbish people were expected to swallow.
These days, Saint Maewyn is mainly known for destroying the Irish eco-system by wiping out a vital component, but he has many other achievements to his credit.
Maewyn / Patricius predicted many things, including the formation of the New York Police Department, the New York Fire Department and the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
He founded the Iona Institute, the GAA, Youth Defence, Human Life International and the Knights of Columbanus.
He correctly predicted the births of David Quinn, Sting, Breda O’Brien, Diana Ross, Eamon deValera, Kanye West, Strongbow and the Queen of Sheba.
He named many winners at Chepstow, invented General Relativity and found a way to adjust the gears of a ten-speed bicycle without going insane.
He wrote the Book of Love.
He built the world’s first practical mousetrap.
He designed the astronomical telescope, the sextant and the theodolite.
He invented LSD.
He played in goal for Algiers.
His Shamrock Soup recipe, a favourite in Irish households for a thousand years, was the only thing that kept us alive during the Famine.
Love him or loathe him, Maewyn was a man of many parts.
No wonder the New York parade’s slogan is Succat and See.