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It was a case of being in the right place at the right time.
LEFT: Tomas Guinan and his son Elijah always wear some green for St Patrick’s Day. RIGHT: Tomas Guinan looks at a piece of Ireland. The Celtic cross his parents brought back from Ireland is made of turf cut from Irish bog lands.
BIBLE HILL, N.S. – Tomas Guinan has a special connection with St. Patrick; he’s a descendant of Niall of the Nine Hostages, the High King of Ireland who had Patrick abducted and taken to the island.
Patrick was a teenager when he was captured during a raid. After a few years tending sheep he escaped, but he later returned to spread the message of Christianity.
“I heard stories about Ireland all the time I was growing up and it’s cool to be descended from an Irish king,” said Tomas. “We always celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by wearing green and eating green food. My parents would give us green pancakes or scrambled eggs and green milk for breakfast, and we’d have other green foods during the day.”
Tomas was even given the middle name of Patraic, an older form of Patrick.
As a child he and his brother had Irish tin whistles and his sisters took part in Irish dance.
His parents had often expressed a desire to visit Ireland so a couple of years ago Tomas and his siblings got together and gave them a trip for Christmas. Instead of putting the tickets inside an envelope or box, they were hidden inside a bag of potatoes before going under the tree.
“Now Elijah (his son) is hearing all of the Irish stories and getting green food,” said Tomas. “It’s nice to know so much family history and make things fun, too.”
One of the things he learned was the connection between St. Patrick and the shamrock. Patrick used the plant to explain the trinity – with the three leaves representing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as part of one being. He travelled across the Emerald Isle spreading the message of Christianity and establishing churches and schools.
For many years, St Patrick’s Day was considered a religious day in Ireland. Until the 1970s pubs were closed on that day and the only place a drink could be purchased was at The Royal Dublin Dog Show.
Origins: Was not Irish, but was living in a village called Banavem, in Taberniae, when he was captured as a teenager in the early 400s. The location of the village is not known, but it was a Celtic area.
Snakes: It’s believed that the myths about St. Patrick driving snakes out of Ireland were created because snakes were often connected with paganism. There have never been any snakes in Ireland.
Green beer: This is much more likely to be found in North America than in Ireland. Until the 1970s pubs in Ireland were closed on St Patrick’s Day.
Nigeria: St. Patrick is the patron saint of both Ireland and Nigeria.
Writings: The only pieces known to have been written by St. Patrick are St. Patrick’s Confession and St. Patrick’s Epistle to Coroticus. A British chieftan, Coroticus claimed to be a Christian but abducted and sold some of the people Patrick had baptized. Patrick wrote the epistle to warn the Irish about him.
Alan Guinan, Tomas' brother, dances an Irish jig while dressed for St Patrick's Day.