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The Coming of Saint Patrick

by Ber Weyde

It was the time that Saint Patrick was coming on horseback to Mann, over the sea from Ireland. When he drew near to the land, Manannan Mac y Leirr, that great wizard that was ruler of Mann, put a charm out of him that made the air round the island thick with mist, so that neither sun nor sky nor sea nor land could be seen. Patrick rode into the thick of the mist, but try as he would he could find no way out of it, and behind him there was a great sea-beast waiting to swallow him up. He didn’t know in his seven senses where he was – east or west – and was for turning back, when there came to his ears the cry of a curlew, calling:

‘Come you, come you, come you!’

Then he said to himself:

‘The curlew will be down feeding among the rocks; she will, be calling to her young.’

After that he heard the bleat of a goat: ‘Beware, beware, beware!’

And he said to himself:

‘The goat bleats for the fall of her kid there will be a steep bit of a hill.’

Last of all he heard the crow of a cock:

‘Come to us – come, come!’

Then said Patrick:

‘I believe on me sowl I’m back of Peel Hill.’

And with that he took one leap on to the little island and put his horse up the sheer rock. Soon he stood, sure enough, at the top of Peel Hill. As he stood there he cried out:

‘Me blessing on the curlew. No man afther this is to find her nest!’

‘Me blessing on the goat, an’ no man is to see her bring forth her young!’

‘Me blessing on the cock, an’ he shall crow at dawn ever afther at this same hour.’

He cursed the sea beast and turned him into a solid rock and there he lies now with his great fin on his back.

Where the horse’s hoofs struck the top of the hill there sprang a well of pure water, of which man and horse drank, and it is called the Holy Well of Saint Patrick to this day. If you go down to the ledges of the rock, which were made by the horse’s hoofs as he clambered up, you may see the footprints still.

When Patrick looked about him the mist was lifting and he saw a great host of warriors round Manannan’s Faery Mound, with the first rays of the rising sun shining on their spears. But the saint knew that they were phantoms raised by Manannan’s magic power and he bade them to be gone.

And, behold, they and their master, in the shape of three-legged men, whirled round and round like wheels before the swift wind, which could not overtake them, till they came to Spanish Head. There they whirled over the houghs so quickly and lightly that the gulls on the ledges below were not disturbed, then on over the rough, grey Irish Sea till they came to the enchanted island, fifteen miles southwest of the Calf. Once there Manannan dropped the isle to the bottom of the sea, and he and his company were seen no more.

Saint Patrick on his snow-white horse stood still on Peel Hill and blessed the island where he had touched land, and blessed it has been to this day. Then he leapt on to the little islet that he saw below him. Ever since it has been called Saint Patrick’s Isle, and from the rocks on its northern side he watched the fierce storm which Manannan’s going had made. Just then a brave ship, with foresail and mainsail gone, was driving straight for the terrible rocks. Saint Patrick raised his mailed hand and the tempest was calmed. The good ship righted herself again, and those on board were saved. They looked up with awe and thankfulness at the rider in his shining armour on the snow-white steed, standing bright against the blackness of the rocks. And ever since that day the fisherman, as he sails past the Horse Rock, has doffed with his cap and put up this bit of a prayer to good Saint Patrick :

“Saint Patrick who blessed our Island, bless us and our boat.
Going out well, coming in better.
With living and dead in the boat.”

(‘dead in the boat being’ the herring)

(source: Manx Fairy Tales by Sophia Morrison (1911); artwork http://bit.ly/1e773Pf)

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