- the story
St Patrick was born a Briton under Roman rule - the exact location of his birthplace isn't known but it was either the north of England or southern Scotland.
In his teens he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave by Niall of the Nine Hostages, a famous king of Ireland whose son Laoghaire was later to play a large part in Patrick's mission to convert Ireland to Christianity.
Patrick was taken to Antrim where he was sold to a local landowner, Meliuc, who put him to work as a shepherd.
For six long years Patrick lived upon the Slemish mountain with only his sheep for company. The land was bleak and the conditions harsh but Patrick found solace in the faith that his people had abandoned under Roman rule. He prayed day and night to the Christian God who brought him comfort during this time.
One night he heard a voice calling to him, telling him that the time had come to escape. It told him, "See, your ship is ready." Patrick knew that he had to travel south to seek the ship God had told him of. He travelled for 200 miles until he came to Wexford where, sure enough, a boat heading for Britain was waiting.
Patrick approached the captain, who at first denied him passage. He turned away, praying for God's guidance. Before he finished the prayer he heard a member of the crew calling to him to come with them - they had changed their mind and could provide him with safe passage home.
Patrick did not seem destined to have an easy life - when travelling home through Britain he was captured by a band of brigands, who returned him to slavery. Desperate, Patrick heard God's voice reassuring him that, "Two months will you be with them."
Sure enough, after sixty days in their company, God delivered him from their hands. Patrick then spent seven years travelling throughout Europe trying to determine what his purpose on earth was. Eventually he came to the conclusion that he should study to become a true servant of God, taking his message throughout the world.
He first studied at the Lerin Monastery, situated on an island off the Cote d' Azur. On completing his studies he returned to Britain as a priest. He remained in Britain until a voice came to him in a dream. He recognised it as the voice of the Irish, which begged him, "We beseech thee, holy youth, to come and walk once more amongst us." At this point, Patrick's purpose in life was revealed to him - he would convert the Irish to Christianity.