Saint Patrick and Saint Toothless

Just south of County Dublin in Ireland lies County Wicklow, often referred to as the Garden of Ireland because of its stunning landscape and coastline. In keeping with the natural beauty of the area, the name Wicklow is thought to come from the old Norse Víkingalág, anglicized to Wykynlo and meaning Viking meadow, which conjures up images of burly men in scary hats romping across wildflower-strewn fields.  However, the name for Wicklow in Irish, Cill Mhantáin, bears no relation whatsoever to its Viking name. It translates as Church of the Toothless One and its origin dates back to St. Patrick’s arrival in Ireland. I was intrigued, so this St. Patrick’s Day weekend I travelled down to Wicklow town to find out more.

Just south east of the town centre, I followed Castle Street towards the coast and after a short distance found a wide open stretch of land leading to the ruins of Black Castle, perched ominously on a rocky promontory overlooking the sea.

wicklow, county wicklow, ireland, black castle, travailahawk beach, st patrick, st manntain, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

Clambering up the stony steps gave a dramatic view of the surrounding water and countryside for miles in all directions; it was an ideal spot for fortification against attack.

wicklow, county wicklow, ireland, black castle, travailahawk beach, st patrick, st manntain, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

wicklow, county wicklow, ireland, black castle, travailahawk beach, st patrick, st manntain, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

The castle was built after the Norman invasion of 1169 and suffered repeated attacks from local clans until it was finally razed in 1580. Its ruins still stand guard over the Wicklow coast today, but if you look south from the castle, you’ll spot a small beach that played a large a part in giving Wicklow its Irish name.

wicklow, county wicklow, ireland, black castle, travailahawk beach, st patrick, st manntain, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

Inver-dea at the mouth of today’s Vartry river was a much used port in early Ireland, and this beach, Travailahawk beach, is where many an early visitor to Ireland would disembark.

wicklow, county wicklow, ireland, black castle, travailahawk beach, st patrick, st manntain, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

When St Patrick was a boy, he was taken to Ireland as a slave. He escaped his captors and fled the country – some believe he departed from this very beach. When he returned to Ireland years later, on a mission to spread Christianity throughout the land, he chose Travailahawk beach as the place to begin his journey.

wicklow, county wicklow, ireland, black castle, travailahawk beach, st patrick, st manntain, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

However, St. Patrick and his followers were met with a stony welcome – and I mean that literally. The local pagans picked up stones and started winging them at the would-be missionaries and in the debacle, one of Patrick’s followers had all his front teeth knocked out. Patrick bid a hasty retreat, sailing north and electing instead to begin his missionary work in Antrim in Northern Ireland.

wicklow, county wicklow, ireland, black castle, travailahawk beach, st patrick, st manntain, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

The poor old monk who had lost his teeth was given the nickname Manntain (toothless one), and despite all odds, he returned to Wicklow and set up a church. The church and the toothless saint live on today in Wicklow’s Irish name.

wicklow, county wicklow, ireland, black castle, travailahawk beach, st patrick, st manntain, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

Now that’s what I call dedication. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

About these ads

About ailsapm

Hi there! I’m Ailsa. I’ve lived in many places, and travelled to many more. I had a lot of fun getting there and being there, wherever there happened to be at the time. I climbed a castle wall in Czesky Krumlov, abseiled down cliffs to go caving in the west of Ireland, slept on the beach in Paros, got chased by a swarm of bees in Vourvourou (ok that wasn’t fun, but it was exciting), learned flower arranging in Tokyo, found myself in the middle of a riot in Seoul, learned to snowboard in Salzburg, got lost in a labyrinth in Budapest and had my ice cream stolen by a gull in Cornwall. And I’m just getting started. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far, I’d love you to follow my travelogue wheresmybackpack.com Remember, anyone who tries to tell you it’s a small world hasn’t tried to see it all.
This entry was posted in Europe, Ireland, Photography, Travel and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

49 Responses to Saint Patrick and Saint Toothless

  1. joanfrankham says:

    lovely story, and very fitting for today.

    • ailsapm says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, Joan, I can’t help but flinch thinking about how painful it must be to get your teeth knocked out. Yikes!

  2. Perseverance! Great shots. Thanks for the info.

  3. Great post! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

  4. Great story. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

  5. Great –Co Wicklow gets a mention! To many, Ireland is just Dublin and Galway. (1/2 of con jamón spain is from Wicklow).

  6. Those steps – fascinating and beautiful. Nice photos – the last 2 nicely done.
    Loved the story, thanks for sharing

  7. viveka says:

    So beautiful … I’m so blessed that I was able to live and work in Ireland for nearly 11 years in total.
    I have always said that Ireland is the place we want to come back to .. before we have left. *smile

  8. Heyjude says:

    What a lovely story! And great photos to go with it :)

  9. Rusha Sams says:

    Thanks so much for all this info. Had no idea!

  10. restlessjo says:

    Those are the cutest little black castle ruins I ever saw, Ailsa. :) Your photos in these subtle shades are exceptional. Happy St. Paddy’s!

  11. Trish says:

    This was so interesting. I wondered if you’d do some kind of green blog post, but this is far better. (Though I see that Irish grass is green green green.) Amazing coastline photos.

    • ailsapm says:

      I decided to shake it up a little, Trish. There are only so many parades and crowds a person can take, sometimes it’s nice to go in a completely different direction. :)

  12. Francesca says:

    I really enjoyed reading this story. The rocks and coastal images help to envisage the plight of St Pat.

    • ailsapm says:

      I know what you mean, Francesca – walking across that stony beach I couldn’t help imagining how much it must have hurt to have your teeth knocked out by a hurtling stone. Yikes!

  13. Kongo says:

    Great story! I’ve spent some time exploring Cashel and reading about the start of the journey was very interesting and entertaining! Thanks so much.

  14. LavendarLadi says:

    Thank you … I love hearing the bits of history. I often wonder what happened all those years ago when I find old pathways. =)

  15. smkelly8 says:

    Reblogged this on No Fixed Plans and commented:
    I’d love to retrace her steps around County Wicklow.

  16. An intriguing piece of history, teeth and all….:-)

  17. freebutfun says:

    Great story, beutiful area!

  18. tgeriatrix says:

    Thank you for the story and the pictures!

  19. Toothless but impressive! (Actually, for anyone who knew the story – and I’ll bet everyone who lived in the area in St. Patrick’s time did know it – that monk would be toothless and impressive. Or toothless therefore impressive.)

  20. Oh, I miss Ireland. It’s so beautiful!!

  21. I’d never heard that story before- funny how history changes depending on who’s telling it!

  22. Beautiful shots to go with the story :)

  23. wildsherkin says:

    Ailsa, I am just catching up with your posts. Lovely to hear that you were in Wicklow. Next time, you must come south and squeeze in a visit to Sherkin Island!

  24. What a gem of a story – I can actually picture the Toothless One. Thanks for sharing :-)

  25. lumar1298 says:

    Great story… Thanks for sharing… Lor

Comments are closed.