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A Rare Welsh Bit

March 19, 1995

Thanks to Richard Eder for his review of Thomas Cahill's excellent "How The Irish Saved Civilization" (March 12). But why was the good Irish St. Patrick identified opaquely as a "Celt from Britain," instead of what he was--a Welshman, a native son of Cymru (Wales)?

The fact of St. Patrick's birth in Wales (Cymru) is so-well established that Superior Court Judge John Leahy, an Irish Celt himself, recently took "judicial notice" that St. Patrick was a Welshman in the case of Welsh-American/Twm Sion Cati Legal Defense BC075927. "I've learned a lot about the Welsh in this case," said Judge Leahy, "not the least of which is that St. Patrick, himself, was in fact Welsh, not Irish."

Indeed, St. Patrick, born "Maewyn" in the village of Llantwit Major in South Wales, was captured by an Irish raiding party in 389 AD, and carried off to Ireland as a slave as a youth of 16. He escaped six years later, and returned to Cymru (Wales). But the spiritual call he experienced as slave in Ireland continued to grow, and he entered a monastery. Some 43 years after his escape from Ireland, Patrick returned as a Christian missionary in 432 AD, and the rest is history. (See, e.g., "Dictionary of Saints," Penguin Reference; "St. Patrick Was a Welshman," Dr. Islyn Thomas, O.B.E., Our Welsh Heritage.)

However, many of our Celtic cousins, the Irish, are unaware that St. Patrick was Welsh, just as many Americans are unaware that Thomas Jefferson, half the signers of the Declaration of Independence, five of the first six presidents (Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and John Quincy Adams) and such other revered Americans as Abraham Lincoln were all Welsh.

So, as our Celtic kin join with the Welsh in recognizing St. David's Day on March 1, in honor of the Patron Saint of Wales, so the Welsh join the Irish on March 17 to celebrate the life of the former slave, the Welshman Maewyn, who became St. Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland.

REES LLOYD, GEN. COUNSEL, WELSH-AMERICAN/TWM SION CATI LEGAL DEFENSE, EDUCATION & DEVELOPMENT FUND

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