Patrick was only 16 years old when he saw a fleet of 50 longboats heading for the shore. As the Roman Legions had long since departed Britain, Patrick’s home town was vulnerable to attack. As the Irish raiders leapt from their boats onto the pebbled beach, sounding their war-horns, the population fled in terror. The attackers looted and burned the village and carried away captives, including young Patrick.
The year was AD 405. Patrick’s name in Latin was Patricius, meaning “Noble”. He was the son of a Civil Magistrate, but now he had become a slave in Ireland. Patrick was sold to a cruel warrior chief whose stockade in Northern Ireland was surrounded by sharp poles with the heads of his opponents impaled on them. Patrick was put to work as shepherd to care for his master’s pigs and sheep. He lived a lonely existence in the nearby hills, enduring long bouts of hunger and thirst, isolated from human company for months at a time. Patrick witnessed the superstitions of the druid priests who sacrificed prisoners of war to their war gods and newborns to the harvest gods. Skulls were used as drinking bowls; heads of decapitated enemies were used as footballs.