In the far west of Ireland, where the green fields of Mayo meet the North Atlantic, a 2500 foot mountain dominates the landscape. It is known as Croagh Patrick (Cruach Phádraig in Irish, meaning St Patrick’s Stack). At one time, in the far distant past, it was a volcano, but today is long dead, and its quartz and quartzite core has been ground down by glaciers. This land is a small portion of the North Atlantic tectonic plate that was separated when the continents divided millions of years ago. Land north of a diagonal line from Galway to north of Loch Ness. Scotland is highly mineralized as opposed to the mostly sedimentary rock of the rest of Ireland. This feature is shown on a geological map of Ireland shown on the 1995 issue commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Geological Survey of Ireland. (Figure 1); Today’s mountain is one of the best known features in the west due to its beauty and the association with Ireland’s national saint, Patrick. (Figure 2A). The view of the Connemara National Park show Croagh Patrick in the distance with the rest of the mountain range; Figure 2B shows a more traditional view with te distinctive conical shape.
Primitive man associated this unusual cone shaped mountain with religion from before the 8th Century BC. In 441 of the Christian period, St Patrick supposedly spent 40 days fasting and praying for the conversion of the Irish to Christianity, thus the name change to Croagh Patrick. But what is the interest to the philatelist?
The Irish airmail stamps show the angel Victor, who was a messenger to St Patrick, flying over various well-known sites. The 6d has the angel Victor above Croagh Patrick. (Figure 3). His banner reads Vox Hibernia, the “Voice of Ireland”.
Croagh Patrick’s core of quartz contains veins of elemental gold and silver! Frost initially freed the gold and silver where it was collected from creeks and beaten into jewelry. Early artifacts like the hammered gold armlets from the 12 century BC from Derrinboy, Co. Offlay are made from Croagh Patrick’s gold and shown on the10p definitive of the7th definitive set. (Figure 4). A bit more sophisticated are the gold collars on the 34p, 37p, 38p and 40p definitives. (Figure 5). As man’s metallurgical skills increased with time, intricate silver broaches appeared such as the one seen on the 1p and 2p stamps (Figure 6). from Co, Kilkenny. 11th century AD, and a silver brooch on the £2 from Co. Meath. (Figure 7) and the associated booklet. (Figure 8). The entire series shows artifacts on display in the National Museum in Dublin - all made with metals from Croagh Patrick.
While the site is economically viable, mining is not ongoing due to Croagh Patrick’s position just north of the Connemara National Park. This park is on the Northwest European Flyway, a path used by birds from the Arctic to their nesting locations in Spain and North Africa. Large birds as the Greenland geese, shown on the £1 value of the 10th definitive set, (Figure 9). and the £5 Shelduck are good examples.(Figure 10). Smaller birds, like the Kingfisher and the Robin shown on the 10p and 32p respectively. are also travelers.(Figure 11).
Furthermore, modern religious activities includes pilgrims who climb the mountain, sometimes barefoot to atone for sins in July yearly. Over 20,000 were recorded recently on the last Sunday in July. A small chapel has been at the top since the 5th century.
Croagh Patrick is part of Irish history, life and tradition as evidenced by the many philatelic productions.
Wikipedia, Croagh Patrick.
D.K. Eyewitness Travel Ireland, Ferdie McDonald, Ed., Dorling Kindersley Ltd, London.2015.