We’re lucky enough to live with a view of the beautiful Hill of Slane right in front of our house. It has remained uplit since last year , a year on from our first lockdown when we really didn’t realise what lay ahead of us. St.Patrick’s Day was always special in our family as my mother was born on St.Patrick’s day in 1925. We would get up early and pin on our gaudy paper harps or shamrock made from gold paper onto our green tops or coats. I would pity my poor parents who didn’t get to wear a badge like us but had to pin a huge clump of live shamrock to their lapel. We felt so important heading off to mass on our Saints day and being part of the choir we would sing hymns like ” Hail Glorious St.Patrick” or ” Be thou my vision ”
Some years we would drive to Dublin to attend the big St.Patrick’s day parade. My memories of this are of noise, laughter and music but frustration at not being able to view the floats and see all the marching bands from America because I was too small. While my father would lift me on his shoulders for a while it never lasted long enough. Tea time was always the highlight of the day with a huge birthday cake for my Mum which she made herself complete with lurid green buttercream icing.
As my father was very interested in history we often made the 20 mile trip to Slane to walk up to the Hill and admire the view and make ourselves dizzy staring up at the huge tower. Little did I know back then I would end up living in the shadow of the Hill with the Abbey the first thing I see in the morning and the uplit ruins the last thing I see at night as I close the curtains.
Legend has it that St.Patrick arrived to the Hill of Slane the night before Easter which that year coincided with the Spring Equinox. The High King of nearby Tara had ruled that no fire should be lit before he lit the fire to welcome the Equinox and to celebrate Bealtine, a Druid’s feast of Spring. Patrick however lit the Paschal fire on the Hill of Slane, the fire of the true faith of Christianity . King Laoghaire was so incensed when he saw the fire he sent his soldiers to arrest whoever it was that had dared light a fire before his on the Hill of Tara. Meanwhile Patrick had set out to Tara to convert all there to Christianity. When he saw the soldiers he turned into a deer and passed safely by them and arrived at Tara to continue his missionary work. It is said that while the King was impressed by Patrick he refused to be converted but allowed him to continue his work in Ireland. Patrick then appointed a Bishop of Slane to continue his work ,Saint Erc.
This was the story told to me by my father and one year we had an overseas visitor who was hanging on his every word as he told the tale on a visit to Slane. Just when he got to the bit about the Paschal fire he paused at the remains of a campfire when our visitor breathlessly asked ” and was this the fire ? ” My father tilted his head , snorted with laughter and moved on leaving me to explain that all this had happened in the year 433AD.
Happy St.Patrick’s Day
Above are a few photos taken at the Hill of Slane including the standing stones bottom left which are said to mark the grave of St.Erc.