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St. Patrick - Patron Saint of Ireland -Postal History

St. Patrick, also called the Apostle of Ireland, is -- along with St. Nicholas and St. Valentine -- one of the world's most popular saints. His traditional feast day is March 17. There are many legends and stories about him, but this is said to be the true one.  He was born around 385 in Scotland, probably in Kilpatrick. His parents were Calpurnius and Conchessa, who were Romans living in Britain in charge of the colonies. His British name was Succat. 

As a boy of fourteen or so, he was captured by Irish marauders and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. Ireland at this time was a land of Druids and pagans. He learned the language and practices of the people who held him. 

The young herdsman saw visions in which he was urged to escape, and after six years of slavery he did so. He went to the coast where he was found by sailors who took him back to Britain, where he reunited with his family.

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Painting of St. Patrick by anonymous artist. 

Once back in Britain, he had another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him 

"We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more".  

  • Ireland 1937.  
    St. Patrick and Paschal Fire.

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He travelled to the northern coast of Gaul (now France), where he began his studies for priesthood under St. Germanius, the Bishop of Auxerre, who ordained him as priest.  

  • France 1996.  "Imaginary Ireland".  Beautiful postally used copy of a stamp issued in the honour of St. Patrick.

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Later Patrick, when ordained bishop, was sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. He arrived in Ireland March 25, 433, and began preaching the Gospel throughout the island converting thousands, and began also building churches all over the country. Through 40 years Patrick converted most of the inhabitants, and is also said to have worked many miracles. After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering he died March 17, 461.  He died at Saul, where he had built the first church. 

17th March is his traditional feast day, celebrated by Irish communities world wide.

  • Ireland 1961. 
    St. Patrick, commemorating 
    his 1500th death anniversary. 

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On 12 September 1997, a new 32p stamp marking the 150th Anniversary of San Patricio (St. Patrick's Battalion) Mexican Army, was issued simultaneously by the Irish and Mexican Post Offices.  The stamp was designed by Lorenzo Rafael, and features a Celtic High Cross, with the crest of the battalion.  The Mexican stamp has a face value of 3.40 Dollars.  The cancel shows a shamrock, always used by St. Patrick to explain the Trinity, and this plant has therefore been associated with him and the Irish people ever since. 

The San Patricio followed in a long tradition, dating back to the 16th century, when young men left Ireland and joined in the armies of their adopted countries. In the case of the San Patricio, many of its members were persuaded to join following capture in the Mexican-American War 1845-47.

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Although it was made up of a number of nationalities the majority were Irish, serving under a green flag bearing the harp, shamrock and the figure of St. Patrick.  

They fought with distinction at the Battle of Buena Vista and in the defence of the convent of Churubusco in Mexico City before being overwhelmed. 

Following the battle, fifty members of the battalion were executed, while the surviving members disbanded after the war. A plaque in the town of San Angel, where some of the hangings took place bears the inscription: 

"The Irish soldiers of the heroic San Patricio Battalion, martyrs, who gave their lives for the cause of Mexico".

  • Ireland and Mexico 1997.  Joint Issue, commemorating the 150th anniversary of St. Patrick's Battalion. 

On 28th February 2003 the Irish Post Office has honoured Saint Patrick with a set of three stamps, the classical portrait of the saint himself, and two views of the Saint Patrick's Day parade in New York City in front of the cathedral named for him. 

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  • Eire 2003.  St. Patrick.

    • The Classical Figure.

    • St. Patricks Day in New York.

    • St. Patrick's Parade in New York in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral. 

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  • Every year on March 17, Irish Americans celebrate Saint Patrick's Day with parades and pageantry. The holiday honours the man who brought Christianity to Ireland in the 5th century.  According to legend, Saint Patrick used the three leaves of the shamrock to explain the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.  Leprachauns, a mythical race of elves who bestow their hidden treasure on anyone who can catch them, symbolize the famous "luck of the Irish". 

  • These bagpipers march past Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York City on March 17, during the annual Saint Patrick's Day Parade.  Saint Patrick's Day, traditionally celebrated in honour of the patron saint of Ireland, has become largely a non-religious holiday in the United States.

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day has been a tradition in the United States since 1737, when the Charitable Irish Society of Boston organized the first St. Patrick's Day parade. New York City's parade began in 1762. 

St. Patrick's Day was even acknowledged by General George Washington during the American Revolution. In 1780, during the Continental Army's bitter winter encampment in Morristown, New Jersey, Washington permitted his troops, many of whom were of Irish descent, a holiday on March 17. This event is now known as the St. Patrick's Day Encampment of 1780. 


  • Eire 2004.  St. Patrick. 

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Today, more than 100 U.S. cities hold St. Patrick's Day parades. The parade up Fifth Avenue in New York City is the largest and most famous. The parade traditionally stops at St. Patrick's Cathedral for a blessing of the marchers by the cardinal of New York. The St. Patrick's Day parade in Savannah, Georgia, first held in 1824, is one of the largest and oldest in the United States. In Canada, Montreal's St. Patrick's Day parade, first held in 1824, is the oldest in the country. Toronto has held a large parade since 1988.Popular St. Patrick's Day customs in the United States and Canada include drinking beer that has been coloured green, eating corned beef and cabbage, wearing shamrock pins and green clothing, and generally celebrating all things Irish. In Chicago, the Chicago River is dyed green, a tradition started in 1962.   

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