One of the biggest myths surrounding St Patrick is that he banished all snakes from Ireland. Although we’ve never had snakes native to Ireland there are many tales of how St Patrick got rid of them. These folklore stories have survived hundreds of years and mostly passed by word of mouth, from generation to generation.
The snake that killed livestock
Farmers in County Tipperary thought they were cursed because of a snake that was killing their livestock. Cattle and sheep would turn up dead with each one having a snake bite. The more livestock that was killed the more the farmers feared they would become poor and no longer be able to provide for their families. The farmers took to the hills looking for the killer snake but they had no luck finding him and the killing of livestock continued.
St Patrick arrives in Tipperary
When St Patrick made his way through the province of Munster along with his followers he was greeted by the concerned farmers. They explained to St Patrick how a snake was on the Galtee Mountains killing their valuable livestock and how they tired in vain to find it. They told St Patrick of how important it was for the snake to be found and removed from the area for good.
When the farmers finished telling St Patrick of the snake on the mountain range he asked them for a bucket. With his crosier in one hand and the bucket in the other he left the group and made his way to the Galtee Mountains.
With the Galtees being Ireland’s highest inland mountain range it took some time for St Patrick to reach the area where the farmers suspected the snake would be. St Patrick found the killer snake and using his the hook of his crosier he was able to lift it and place it inside the bucker.
St Patrick made his way to Lough Muskry, one of four loughs on top of the Galtee Mountains, with the snake in the bucket. The Saint removed the snake and threw him into the lake. Raising his crosier into the air he shouted to the snake to stay in the lake for 7 years and he would be released on Easter Monday.
After St Patrick banished the snake he made his way back to the farmers and informed them of the snakes fate. To their relief he told them to go and look after their livestock which will be vast in quantity for years to come.
After 7 long years later the snake appeared at the edge of the lake and asked St Patrick “is it time for me be released yet?” to which St Patrick replied “no” and the snake sank back into the lake.
Ever since the snake was banished from the area the Galtee Mountains became famous for its dairy farming and its where Ireland’s largest food companies, Galtee, was founded.
This article was first published on 13-03-2017 and last modified on 17-06-2017.