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Significant Scots
Saint Patrick

PATRICK, SAINT, the celebrated Apostle of Ireland, was born near the town of Dumbarton, in the west of Scotland, about the year 372 of the Christian era. His father, whose name was Calpurnius, was in a respectable station in life, being municipal magistrate in the town in which he lived. What town this was, however, is not certainly known, whether Kilpatrick, a small village on the Clyde, five miles east of Dumbarton, Duntochar, another small village about a mile north of Kilpatrick, or Dumbarton itself. One of the three, however, it is presumed, it must have been, as it is described as being situated in the northwest part of the Roman province; but though various biographers of the saint have assigned each of these towns by turns as his birthplace, conjecture has decided in favour of Kilpatrick. His father is supposed, (for nearly all that is recorded of the holy man is conjectural, or at best but inferential,) to have come to Scotland in a civil capacity with the Roman troops, under Theodosius. His mother, whose name was Cenevessa, was sister or niece of St Martin, bishop of Tours; and from this circumstance, it is presumed that his family were Christians.

The original name of St Patrick was Succat or Succach, supposed to have some relation to Succoth, the name at this day of an estate not far distant from his birthplace, the property of the late Sir Ilay Campbell. The name of Patricius, or Patrick, was not assumed by the saint until he became invested with the clerical character.

In his sixteenth year, up to which time he had remained with his father, he was taken prisoner, along with his two sisters, on the occasion of an incursion of the Irish, and carried over a captive to Ireland. Here he was reduced to a state of slavery, in which he remained for six or seven years with Milcho, a petty king in the northern part of that country. The particular locality is said to be Skerry, in the county of Antrim. At the end of this period, he effected his escape; on which occasion, it is recorded, he had warning that a ship was ready for him, although she lay at a distance of 200 miles, and in a part of the country where he never had been, and where he was unacquainted with anyone. On making his escape, he proceeded with the vessel to France, and repaired to his uncle at Tours, who made him a canon regular of his church. St Patrick had already entertained the idea of converting the Irish, a design which first occurred to him during his slavery, and he now seriously and assiduously prepared himself for this important duty. But so impressed was he with the difficulty and importance of the undertaking, and the extent of the qualifications necessary to fit him for its accomplishment, that be did not adventure on it, until he had attained his sixtieth year, employing the whole of this long interval in travelling from place to place, in quest of religious instruction and information. During this period he studied, also, for some time, under St Germanus, bishop of Gaul. By this ecclesiastic he was sent to Rome with recommendations to pope Celestine, who conferred upon him ordination as a bishop, and furnished him with instructions and authority to proceed to Ireland to convert its natives. On this mission he set out in the year 432, about the time that a similar attempt by Palladius had been made, and abandoned as hopeless. St Patrick was, on this occasion, accompanied by a train of upwards of twenty persons, among whom was Germanus. He sailed for Ireland from Wales, having come first to Britain from France, and attempted to land at Wicklow, but being here opposed by the natives, he proceeded along the coast, till he came to Ulster, where, meeting with a more favourable reception, he and his followers disembarked. He soon afterwards obtained a gift of some land, and founded a monastery and a church at Downe, or Downpatrick. From this establishment, he gradually extended his ministry to other parts of Ireland, devoting an equal portion of time to its three provinces, Ulster, Munster, and Connaught, in each of which he is said to have resided seven years, making altogether a period of one and twenty. During this time, he paid frequent visits to the Western Isles, with the view of disseminating there the doctrines which he taught. Being now far advanced in years, he resigned his ecclesiastical duties in Ireland, and returned to his native country, where he died. The place, however, at which this event occurred, the year in which it occurred, the age which he attained, and the original place of his interment, have all been disputed, and differently stated by different authors. The most probable account is, that he died and was buried at Kilpatrick—this, indeed, appears all but certain from many circumstances, not the least remarkably corroborative of which is, the name of the place itself, which signifies, the word being a Gaelic compound, the burial place of Patrick—that he died about the year 458; and that he was about eighty-six years of age when this event took place.

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