Church of Ireland Primate: People need another St Patrick (March 1982)

The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh said in March 1982 that Ireland needed another Saint Patrick to counter the hatred which stalked the country.

Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 12:00 pm
The Dean of Down, the Very Reverend J H R Good lays a wreath on St Patrick's Grave at Downpatrick, Co Down, with Canon Mervyn Kingston, left, and Stranmillis College chaplain Peter Cook on St Patrick's Day in March 1982. Pictures: Trevor Dickson/News Letter archives

The Most Reverend John Armstrong said that there was a need to deal with “the master’s clear injunction of love for our neighbours”.

He was speaking at Saul where St Patrick built his first church more than 1,500 years ago.

The Archbishop said he wondered if “this old island home of ours” had become any more Christian than the old pagan stronghold of the druids to which Patrick came in 432AD, in spite of having “churched in every corner of some denomination or another”.

Mr Eddie McGraddy, chairman of Down District Council unveils a cross at Roughal Park, Downpatrick, Co Down, on St Patrick's Day in March 1982.. The £2,000 monument was sculptured by Belfast artist Bob Sloan and commissioned by the council of the Arts Council. It was based on an ancient Irish high cross. Pictures: Trevor Dickson/News Letter archives

He said: “Some of the things happening in our country today force me to a very different conclusion.

“When I read or hear of the brutal atrocities committed in the name of societies which yearn for a new Ireland, I am firmly of the opinion that we need another St Patrick.”

He described such a second saint as “a strong son of God to tell again in clear and ringing tones the words and wonder of the unsearching riches of Christ”.

Dr Armstrong added that it would be “a gospel unhardened by hatred or sectarian bigotry, but concerned only with the master’s clear injunction of love of our neighbours”.

Mrs J N Lefroy, wife of the commanding officer, got a cheer, below, after she presented shamrock sprigs to Royal Irish Rangers officers at their Ballymena depot in March 1982. Above, the regiment's deputy colonel, Col R C Rothery, took at the salute from ex-servicemen at the depot. Pictures: Trevor Dickson/News Letter archives

Later at Downpatrick Cathedral the Primate said that pilgrims travel with hope, otherwise they would never arrive.

He added: “Many have come here today in hope that their faith may be encouraged and deepened by this experience.

“They all expressed their hopes that going to that Holy place they may have the experience that may settle their problems and iron out their difficulties.

“They must never lose sight of the end of their pilgrimage for there is the end of all their hopes, the entry into the final rest.”

Church Missionary Society member Karen Agnew of Derriaghy was at the celebration in Down Cathedral on St Patrick's Day in March 1982. Pictures: Trevor Dickson/News Letter archives

Dr Armstrong told pilgrims to Dowpatrick that they should be encouraged by the patron saint’s life.

He said St Patrick’s life should be related to the community through proclaiming faith in prayer, Bible study and love of neighbours.

“I cannot offer you anything colourful, but I can suggest to you that St Patrick can help us at this time in our society.

“He can confirm the faith that is in us, for sometimes we lose heart,” he added.

Dr Robin Eames, Bishop of Down and Dromore, arrives at the St Patrick's Memorial Church at Saul, Co Down, in March 1982. Pictures: Trevor Dickson/News Letter archives

The celebrant at Saul church was the Bishop of Down and Connor Dr Robin Eames, who dedicated a new frontal of blue and Irish tweed.

In Downpatrick the traditional wreath was laid at St Patrick’s grave.

In the afternoon there was an hour of worship, music and drama for youth, involving Corrymeela, thye Fellowship of Vocation, CMS, the Church of Ireland Youth Council and the Church Army.

A shamrock parade and drumhead service was also held at the Royal Irish Rangers depot at St Patrick’s Barracks in Ballymena.

Roman Catholic Primate Cardinal Tomas O’Fiach distributed the traditional sprigs of shamrock to members of Catholic youth organisations and the Order of Malta who paraded to a St Patrick’s Day Mass in Armagh.

About 500 Boy Scouts, Girl Guides with their junior counterparts together with members of the nursing order and a number of bands paraded through the city centre to St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral. They were joined by companies from Portadown and Bessbrook.

The Most Reverend John Armstrong, Archbishop of Armagh and All-Ireland Primate preaches at Saul, Co Down on St Patrick's Day in March 1982. Pictures: Trevor Dickson/News Letter archives

Because of St Patrick’s Day falling on the mid-week break most premises in the main shopping thoroughfares were shut and the streets virtually deserted.

The turnout was reviewed by the Scout’s divisional commissioner Tony Randall, accompanied by assistant commissioner Gerald McArdle.

And in the Cathedral Church of St Patrick, Armagh, the Church of Ireland Dean of Kildare, the Reverend John Patterson was the preacher at Festal Evensong.

Methodists reflect on the ‘vision’ of great saint (March 1932)

In March 1932 the Methodists of Belfast, in the Grosvenor Hall last night, celebrated the 1,500th anniversary of the landing of St Patrick in Ireland, “and they are to be congratulated on the magnificent success of their efforts honour of Erin’s patron saint”, declared the News Letter.

A performance was given of ‘The Vision of St Patrick’, which described in poetic form the life of the saint in his wanderings through the country.

The News Letter correspondent who attended the evening reported: “It is beautifully portrayed, vivid picture being painted of his trials and his final triumph in planting the Cross in Ireland.”

It had been specially written for the occasion by Mr Wilfred Laing, “who has captured the mood of that long-gone age”, noted the News Letter, and it had been set with orchestral accompaniment for solos and chorus by Mr E A A Stoneley, Mus Bac.

The correspondent wrote: “The music was refreshing and scholarly as was to be expected from musician of Mr Stoneley’s gifts, and in speech and song the whole production moved from start to finish with rhythmic grace and deeply moving religious feeling.

“There were many dramatic movements, as story was unfolded.”

The characters in the ” Vision were: Prologue, John Fleming; Patrick, Ronald Marshall; Erc, R L Morris; Dubhthach, T H Holloway; epilogue, George Watson. The soloists were: Faith, May Turtle; Truth, Sheila Bennett; Wisdom, Muriel Childe, and Purity, Eileen Mason.

The Methodist College Ladies Choir and the College Orchestra, under the direction of Mr Stoneley, made a harmonious ensemble in the concerted music.

The programme was opened with long procession historical personages portraying the history of religion in Ireland, from the time of St Patrick to the present day.

The costumes of the various periods were worn, and the names of the characters were announced by Mr F J Cole as they passed slowly across the platform, to a subdued instrumental accompaniment. an interesting display of customs and times, reflecting the highest credit on Meta Alexander by whom it had been arranged.


A short address dealing with ‘Ulster and St Patrick” was then given the Reverend F E Harte, MA, president of the Methodist Church in Ireland.

He told the audience attending that: “There is nothing to commemorate about St Patrick save bis piety and zeal. The religious interest had greater vitality than any other.

“The saint’s piety has survived fifteen centuries, and the Irish people refuse to allow his name to be buried in religious history. His was name that stirred their emotions – the emotions which they feel impelled to express, if only by wearing a sprig of shamrock on his day.”

It was not to their credit, continued Mr Harte, that there should be any controversy over the Irish saint.

He continued: “You cannot erect a partition around a true Christian. One can do no more place a sectional label on St Patrick than you can on St Paul. He is just a great Christian who found an experience which he longed to impart to others.”

He continued his address: “There are special reasons why the name of that great man will be held in reverence by the people of Ulster. They had the first of him and the last of him.

“On their soil his holy feet were first planted in Ireland, and it was amidst the charming scenery of Strangford Lough that his soul was delivered earnest appeal, and it was their green fields that his remains are laid to rest.”

What was wanted in Ireland today, said Mr Harte, was more of the spirit of “its Apostle”.

Mr Harte proclaimed: “No one can lay to the charge of St Patrick any responsibility for the divisions of Christendom which we deplore.

“St Patrick made no appeal whatever to any human authority. He felt God calling him to Ireland, and he responded to the call.”


St Patrick was a great lover the Bible, said Mr Harte, and his epistle to Coroticus called every family to read it.

Mr Harte explained: “St Patrick was man of deep piety, living above wealth or honour. He devoted himself to the Irish, and lived so long in Ireland that he nearly forgot his mother tongue. His name is worthy of all the lofty sentiment in the ‘Vision’.”

Mr Harte concluded by saying that evening at the Grosvenor Hall was a solemn religious pageant of thanksgiving and as he asked that there should be no applause.

St Patrick's Church of Ireland at Saul was erected to commemorate the 1,500th anniversary of the landing of Patrick in 432. But was that really the date and did he really land there? Picture: News Letter archives
Mrs Yvonne Telford, wife of B Company's commander, presents shamrocks to officers and warrant officers during the Royal Irish Rangers “shamrock parade” at Girdwood Park Barrack in Belfast in March 1982. The Rangers marched on a parade led by the pipes and drums of Campbell College, pictured below. They were addressed by Councillor Alfred Ferguson, the High Sheriff of Belfast. Pictures: Trevor Dickson/News Letter archives
Mrs J N Lefroy, wife of the commanding officer, got a cheer, below, after she presented shamrock sprigs to Royal Irish Rangers officers at their Ballymena depot in March 1982. Above, the regiment's deputy colonel, Col R C Rothery, took at the salute from ex-servicemen at the depot. Pictures: Trevor Dickson/News Letter archives