St Patrick was a Slave.

Greetings from The Slave Detective

So today the 17th March 2021 we celebrate St Patrick’s day. The patron saint of Ireland.

In around 400AD he was living, it is said, in Banwen, South Wales, when a band of Irish Pirates raided the village and took him and many others as captives. He was taken to Ireland and forced to work as a Shepherd for 6 years. He escaped, walking 200 miles and returned to the mainland UK. There he took up orders and eventually returned to Ireland as a Bishop.

To Celebrate St Patricks Day, the place where it is said he was born, Banwen (a small village near Neath, South Wales) hold meetings to toast to their famous ‘Son’. This year I was invited to the celebration to talk about Modern day Slavery.

This event was patronised by Wales First Minister, Mark Drakeford, The local member of Parliaments for Neath Christina Rees, Roy Nobel a distinguished Welsh broadcaster and many others from the local community.

Hosted by Richard Parry, from Landscapes of Faith and Councillor Dean Cawsey the festivities included a short address by Christina and Mark Drakeford followed by a poem by Menna Elfyn , Welsh Children’s Poet Laureate in 2002.

This community is now looking at focusing on Human Trafficking in Wales. As we discussed during the evening it is still happening right on your door step!

The publication, The National, have written a piece covering the events of the day in Banwen.

Happy St Patricks Day

First Minister drops in on zoom to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in Banwen

He may be running the country during the worst pandemic in living memory but Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford took time out of his demanding schedule yesterday to join the village of Banwen in south Wales on a community zoom event to mark St Patrick’s Day and to congratulate 95-year-old George Brinley Evans, a former Banwen miner, who has spent his life uncovering the story of how Patrick the patron saint of Ireland started his extraordinary life journey in Wales.  First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford made a surprise visit on zoom last night at 6.30pm to a community celebration for St Patrick’s day to congratulate 95 year old George Brinley Evans, a former miner who lives in the South Wales Village of Banwen, for his lifelong work to bring the story of St Patrick and his Welsh origins to public attention. 

Patrick was a real historical figure and his autobiography (Confessio) tells of how he was captured by raiders in the 5th century and taken to Ireland as a slave from his birthplace, a boggy area of western Britain called Taburnaie Bannavem. George Evans has led the claim that Tafarn y Banwen, in Glamorgan, is the place of Patrick’s birth and kidnapping. 
Earlier in the day George had walked down to the Welsh St Patrick memorial in the village and laid a wreath, made in the village, and decorated with local flowers, to mark the kidnapping of Patrick and his sister Darerca, and all the victims of human trafficking and modern slavery today. The village has marked the occasion by the installation of new sculptures made in willow of figures representing Patrick’s sister Darerca who was kidnapped by pirates along with Patrick, and thier mother Conchessa. The village is remembering all victims of human trafficking and slavery.

The event was marked by a reading of a new poem about St Patrick, his family and the tragedy of slavery, specially commissioned by the village for this year’s commemoration from leading Welsh writer Menna Elfyn.

The icing on the cake for the small village was when First Minister Mark Drakeford appeared on the community zoom event to thank George and wish the community well for their St Patrick’s Day celebrations.  

The First Minister said: ‘It’s great to see so many people celebrating together virtually. There can’t be a more fitting tribute to the day and your own celebrations than to have the most wonderful poem from Menna Elfyn, written especially for today.’  

Mark Drakeford went on to praise George Brinley Evans for his work, saying the former miner and established author was himself a legend in the area and had given a lifetime of service to his community. 

Banwen’s celebrations are not confined to March 17th. Working with the Visit Wales tourism project Landscapes of Faith the village is offering a weekend of St Patrick fun this June which will include Roman soldiers and cavalry camping by the side of the Roman road in the village and a re-enactment of the kidnapping of St Patrick – all, of course, subject to Covid-19 restrictions being eased. 

Richard Parry who leads the Landscapes of Faith project said: ‘Small communities in Wales can sometimes feel remote but the Sarn Helen Roman road goes through the village and reminds us that this place was once on an international highway. The village is delighted to be able to share its heritage with the world this coming June’.  

The village online event was hosted by local councillor Dean Cawsey and retired Scotland Yard Detective, Roddy Llewellyn, gave a talk about people trafficking today in Britain and how children are still brought to Britain as slaves and to undertake forced labour. The radio broadcaster Roy Noble who has worked with George Evans for many years on celebrating Patrick also took part in the online event.  

As for George Evans himself, he said: ‘It was a wonderful surprise and a bit of a shock to see Mark Drakeford on the zoom talking to me. I wasn’t expecting anything like that. Not only is he the First Minister but he’s a good man and a fine scholar, and I’m so pleased that Banwen is being recognised as Patrick’s home.’ 

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