by Ashley Crane, Library Information Specialist

“I’ll seek a four leaf shamrock in all the fairy dells,
And if I find its charmed leaves, oh, how I’ll weave my spells!”
- Traditional Irish Ditty

This Saint Patrick’s Day, Baylor Libraries invite you to seek out your own four leaf shamrock in our own fairy dell - the Meroney Celtic Collection. This scholar's collection of Irish and Celtic Philology was owned and built by Dr. Howard Maxwell Meroney, a 1926 Baylor graduate and former Baylor Scholar-in-Residence.

Who was Saint Patrick? Why is he connected with shamrocks? In honor of this special day, we sent in Ashley Crane to the stacks to investigate. Here is what she found.

The Meroney Celtic Collection has over 1,200 titles - way too many to showcase here! Instead, I’ve chosen my two favorite titles to highlight.

The Life of St. Patrick and His Place in History (call # Meroney BX 4700 .P3 B8) - In this 1905 publication, the author, J.B. Bury, strives to give the reader a clear picture of Saint Patrick, the man, and his works. Bury doesn’t cut out the legends though, he takes us through the facts, as best as he has been able to confirm, then tells the stories that made Saint Patrick larger than life.

11th century Hymn (Bury's Life of St. Patrick)
11th century Hymn (Bury's Life of St. Patrick)
So what did I learn? Saint Patrick is heralded as the patron saint of Ireland, but he wasn’t Irish - he was a Roman citizen born in Britain (though where exactly is unclear). He was captured at 16 and forced to live as a slave in Ireland for 7 years. It was during this time that “the Lord opened the sense of [his] unbelief.” Following his escape, he underwent spiritual training and was ordained. In a dream, Saint Patrick heard the “Voice of the Irish” urging him to return and convert the pagans.

Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland: A Folklore Sketch (call # Meroney GR 147 .W6 v.1 & 2) - This 2 volume set, published in 1902, contains not only information about Saint Patrick, his life, death, and works, but how faith and religion existed before and evolved after. What made this set of books so interesting? W.G. Wood-Martin, went out of his way to include poems, hymns (including a stanza that has been struck from the official version sung in St. Patrick’s Cathedral), and a photograph of the memorial over Saint Patrick’s reputed grave.

St. Patrick's memorial (Wood-Martin)
St. Patrick's memorial (Wood-Martin)
The volumes also contain discussions on little known controversies surrounding Saint Patrick, including what his actual feast day is and what really qualifies as a shamrock. While no historical evidence exists, legend tells of St. Patrick teaching Irish pagans about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity by using the three leaves of the shamrock. The lucky fourth leaf? This addition is not attributed to St. Patrick and is simply a modern superstition in finding something unusual. Volume 2 also includes a short entry on another of St. Patrick’s Day’s symbols - The Leprechaun.

Sound interesting? For more information, please visit our webpage www.baylor.edu/lib/centrallib/index.php?id=97560

Have a wonderful St. Patrick's Day!

Go n-eírí an bóthar leat.
May the road rise with you.

Many thanks to Ashley for her help in this special collection 'dig'. Ashley Crane works for the Baylor Central Libraries as a Library Information Specialist IV in Liaison Services. She graduated from Tarleton State University in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science in Education and is currently working on a Master of Library and Information Science through the University of Washington. Having studied in Carmarthen, Wales (the birthplace of Merlin), Ashley is continually fascinated by stories and legends of the British Isles including the Saint Patrick, King Arthur, and the Dragons of Wales.