The famous patron saint of Ireland, Patrick was a missionary in the fifth century. Celebrated around the world, Saint Patrick's Day falls on the 17th of March, which is thought to be the date of his death. There are two other official patron saints; Saint Brigid (whose day is celebrated on 1st February) and Saint Columba (also known as Saint Colmcille).
Saint Patrick features in many stories and legends here in Ireland. The well known legend "The Children of Lir" tells of four royal children. They were transformed into swans by their stepmother, Aoife, but they retained the ability to speak and sing so beautifully that anyone who heard them would stop and listen in wonder. Their transformation into swans lasted for nine centuries and was only broken when a bell rang out to tell of Saint Patrick arriving in Ireland. He baptised them and they then died peacefully in their human form.
In a similar vein, Saint Patrick has been linked to the legend of Oisin, Niamh and Embarr, the Fairy Horse. Embarr was the magnificent, magical horse of Manannan Mac Lir, the Celtic god of the sea. Embarr could travel between worlds and carried Niamh across the sea from Tir Nan Og, the Land of Youth, where she met Oisin, son of Fionn mac Cumhaill.
Oisin and Niamh fell in love and married. They returned to Tir Nan Og where they had a family together and for a long time they were happy.
As the years passed, however, Oisin began to think of his father and his friends and felt that he had to see them once more. Niamh was reluctant, but agreed to loan her horse to Oisin on condition that he did not put his foot upon the soil of Ireland.
So it happened, and Oisin rode ashore at the claddagh at Galway and went in search of the Fianna. His excitement was great as he approached the camp at Dun Aileen, but no-one was there, and the ground was covered in oak, ash and thorn. He realised that, while he had been at his ease in Tir Nan Og, many years had passed by in Ireland. His only choice was to return to Niamh.
He rode slowly now, his heart so heavy that it seemed an extra burden on the horse. Distracted though he was, he saw two men trying to lift a heavy stone. Mindful of Niamh’s warning, he did not dismount, but reached down from the saddle to help. As he took the strain, the girth broke, and Oisin fell to the ground. The two labourers were horrified to see a warrior in the pride of his strength turned instantly to dust. The fairy horse reared and galloped into the breaking waves. In some versions of this legend it has been said that just before he died, Oisin spoke with a Christian priest, and that this priest was in fact Saint Patrick.
The legend of Embarr is the inspiration for our bronze sculpture, limited edition prints and story cards.