The beginnings of a name ?
When St Patrick was a boy he lived in Dumbarton. He was presumed son of a Roman, but we can't say this for certain,( the word the Romans used for a local lord was "Patrician") his father seemingly owning lands north of Loch Lomond. In this day, the king of Ireland was called Niall of the Hostages. Niall had gathered all the demi-kings and chiefs of Ireland to a grand counsil in Tara. He'd planned an expedition to Alba (Scotland). Among the host he sent over on a plunder raid was one Malcheon of Ballycastle, Northern Ireland. Malcheon and his warband came up the Clyde, landing their open boat at Dumbarton, near Dumbarton Rock. On the day of the attack, Patrick had been in the settlement of Dumbarton and had hurried into the fort built on Dumbarton Rock.. Dumbarton was sacked, most of the inhabitants being killed or taken off as slaves. The year was 419 AD. The young Patrick was among the slaves. In true overlord tradition, the high king, Niall, got most of the booty. Malcheon, of course, kept his slaves. Generally slaves weren't mistreated as such, more told at the beginning that it would be easier if they submitted because if they tried to leave they would die. Generally slaves got on with it, accepting their lot or dying. Malcheon did not like Patrick from the beginning and made every effort to find criticism even giving him the lowest job as a swineherd. He made him live among the pigs. He did not like the "fire" in the young boy's eyes. It seemed the boy had something about him, unlike any other slave he had met. Patrick had a charisma, which attracted people to him, despite the difficulties of a language barrier. He learned the language and spent his time knowing the people he was forced to live amongst. He spent several years in captivity in Ireland. All the while he was captive, Malcheon persecuted him, until his eventual escape. Patrick is known to have gone to Gaul (France) to study theology under St Bernard of Auxerre and St Martin of Tours. This period of study took many years and when he eventually returned to Dumbarton, he was about 50ish. The story goes that whilst in Gaul, Patrick had a dream ( the spirit of the lord came to him in the night and told him he must save the savage pagans, go to Ireland and spread my word ). This Patrick did.Patrick and a few followers landed on Ireland's shores. The first thing he did was head for Tara (the capital) to ask the high king permission to wander his land. He got the high king's attention by setting fire to a beacon which had been specially prepared for the king to instigate the fire festival of Lughnasadh ( ancient Celtic festival ) . The whole country were aghast at this old man taking on a royal prerogative but it did the job.
The high king , Leary ,met with Patrick and saw he meant no harm or discord, and gave his permission. First place Patrick headed for was the place of his captivity and as he approached Malcheon's hill fort, the old chief , who by this time, was aged and a bit mad, was expecting him because word had spread. He was so full of fear and suspiyion and thought Patrick was coming for revenge presuming he had an army
and that he would want all Malcheon's loot. So he locked himself in his fort in a chamber with all his treasure. Meanwhile, all the surrounding villages turned out to see the expected conquering hero. They were faced with Patrick - an old guy in sandals, followed by a few other sandalled men, all chanting, ( Imagine their surprise!) They were so surprised, in fact, that they threw open the gates of the fort. Malcheon's reaction, however, was to set fire to the chamber he was in and burn to death with all his treasure, when life would have been better if he had just spoken with Patrick. However, the surrounding village folk took to Patrick and got into his teachings (his ministry of the lord's word ) and were persuaded by Patrick to build a church ( or cela ) on the ruins of Malcheon's chamber (inside the ring fort), the place of his captivity.
Origins of Kirkpatrick
In the Gaelic tongue, the name "Cearc" means circle, the name "Paidrich" means say your prayers. Put together, "Cearc paidrich" could mean the circle where you say your prayers. Perhaps this is a reference to Patrick's first church, or ministry (circle of his teachings), which was built inside a ring fort giving us "cearc paidrich" or "Kirk patrick". Some writers have written the origins of the name Kirkpatrick as taken from a chapel in the parish of Closeburn. It is far more likely that members of the Alsanni changed their name to Cela Patricii (teachings of Patrick) as opposed to physical church building of Patrick and henceforth the site of their major settlement Cela Patricii or Kirkpatrick.
interestingly enough, the place name Kirkintilloch doesn't refer to a "kirk" at all - in fact the name comes from caer-pen-talloch or fort on the head of the ridge. The word "caer" meaning fort in the Welsh (Brythonic) language. Perhaps it could be reasoned by this that Kirkpatrick could mean fort where we say our prayers. Perhaps a statement that Patrick's first church (ministry) was not only a church but a spiritual centre ( the circle of his teachings ).