During the Comstock mining days, many of the miners who came here to work the mines were Irish, Welsh, Scotch and Cornish. There were countless lively squabbles and skirmishes among the different groups after hours in the local saloons.
If I had lived here in those days and made the assertion that Saint Patrick was Italian, I am sure I would have had a fight on my hands. The fact is, though, the statement has more truth than most people realize. I still don’t encourage anyone to enter an Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day and proclaim that the Patron Saint of Ireland was Italian. You likely would get your mouth washed out with green beer and acquire some knuckle bumps on your head.
Contrary to popular belief, Patrick was not born in Ireland. According to the Catholic Church, he was born in Scotland or England about the year 389. His mother and father, Calpurnius and Conchessa, were Romans living in Britain assigned to watch over Roman Colonies in the British Isles. At age 14, Patrick was captured during a raid and brought to Ireland. Six years later, he escaped to Britain and reunited with his family.
Patrick’s travels took him to Gaul (Roman France) and eventually to Rome (441-443). After having a prophetic dream, he was ordained a priest in the Roman Catholic Church and later became a bishop. He then set out to take the Gospel to Ireland , which at that time was a land of Druids and pagans. Patrick succeeded in converting chieftains and entire kingdoms to the Catholic Faith, acquiring a large following of disciples. For 40 years he roamed Ireland converting people wherever he went and building churches along the way. He died in the year 461 in Saul, where he had gone to retire.
There is some speculation that Patrick took his name from the Roman word “Patrician,” which was what members of the Roman hierarchy, or ruling class, called themselves.
Many details of Patrick’s life and travels are ambiguous and shrouded in mystery. It is well-known, however, that he was of Roman descent. Though not born in Rome, he was born in a Roman territory to Roman parents. If a child is born to American parents in an American territory, the child is an American citizen. Similarly, Patrick was a Roman by birth.
The last time I checked, Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire, was located in Italy. Therefore, anyone born a Roman citizen also is an Italian. For years, I have told people that Saint Patrick was Italian. Most of them think I am just joking to get them riled up on St. Patrick’s Day. Some think this is the most absurd thing they ever heard of. All I can say is that what I have told you here can be found in many history books about dear old Saint Paddy.
I have heard it said that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. I am of Italian descent, but I enjoy corned beef and cabbage with a tall glass of green beer as much as any Irishman. If you think we Italians don’t enjoy celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, just ask Joe Pastrami, columnist for Virginia City’s Comstock Chronicle.