Gaelic Word of the Week – St Patrick’s Day


Each week we publish the text of our Gaelic Word of the Week podcast here with added facts, figures and photos for Gaelic learners who want to learn a little about the language and about the Scottish Parliament – Pàrlamaid na h-Alba. This week we are looking at St Patrick’s Day.

Next Wednesday, the 17th of March, St Patrick’s day – Latha Fhèill Phàdraig will be celebrated all over the world.

St Patrick – Pàdraig – is the patron saint of Ireland – Èirinn. But did you know he had some links to Scotland – Alba – as well?

St Patrick – Naomh Pàdraig

Patrick lived in the 5th century and it is believed that the saint may have grown up in Scotland – Alba. According to legend, his birthplace was Old Kilpatrick – which in Gaelic is “Cille Phàdraig”, Patrick’s cell or church – which was then part of the British kingdom of Strathclyde. Old Kilpatrick is today part of the Scottish Parliament Clydebank and Milngavie constituency in the West Scotland region.

Old Kilpatrick – Seann Chille Phàdraig – Was St Patrick Born here? From Wikimedia Commons. By Dave Souza

There are other theories that he may have been born in Wales – a’ Chuimrigh, or in England – Sasainn.

According to his own writings, Pàdraig was captured by pirates and taken as a slave to Ireland. While in captivity, he turned to Christianity and became a missionary. After travelling, he returned to Ireland – Èirinn.

St Patrick is buried in Downpatrick in Northern Ireland –  Dún Pádraig,– which means Patrick’s Fort.

Àrd-eaglais an Dùin, Dùn Pàdraig

It is likely that Patrick’s first language was a Brittonic Celtic language, similar to Welsh, but he will also have spoken Gaelic from his time in Ireland. I say Gaelic rather than Irish as at this time, Scottish and Irish Gaelic were more similar than they are today.

There are many placenames all over Scotland – Alba – and Èirinn – commemorating St Patrick including Port Patrick – Port Phàdraig – in Galloway. There are also many schools and churches in Scotland – Alba – named after Pàdraig – St Patrick.

If you will be celebrating St Patrick’s day – Latha Fhèill Phàdraig, don’t forget his possible Scottish connection!

Let’s practice:

Latha fhèill Phàdraig

This week’s Gaelic word of the week has been read by Alasdair MacCaluim, Gaelic Development Officer who was lucky enough to visit St Patrick’s grave in Dùn Pàdraig two years ago!

Alasdair MacCaluim

alasdair.maccaluim@parliament.scot