Saturday, 30 November 2013

Two stories for St Andrew’s Day

And they came to the teacher and said: “Master, why is the Patron Saint of Scotland Saint Andrew?” And he replied: “Listen carefully and you will learn.”

The First Story

Once upon a time there was a man called Regulus. He lived in the very centre of the civilised world, at a place called Patras in Greece. Patras was one of the busiest places in the Roman Empire, on the Gulf of Corinth. In 2006 Patras was European Capital of Culture.

Regulus one night had a dream. He dreamed that he was to dig up the bones of Saint Andrew, Jesus’ friend and companion, who had been buried in Patras, and take the bones to the end of the world.

Stealing some of the bones was the easy part. He got three fingers, an arm bone, one kneecap and one tooth. But where was the end of the world? He set off west through the Mediterranean. Then he left his ship and set off north across the Alps. But the world did not end. He was still in the Roman Empire. So he took another ship and let the wind blow him north and west some more. One night a great storm arose and dashed the ship against a hostile coast. Regulus staggered ashore, all wet, with his precious box of bones under his arm. He looked around him at the rocks and the sand and the grey mist. He saw strange folk with blue tattoos coming to greet him. They were friendly enough, and their king, Angus, let him have a cave to live in.

“Well”, he thought, “if this is not the end of the world it is close to it.” So he left Saint Andrew’s bones there and, long after Regulus died, the town became known as Saint Andrew’s.

The Second Story.

Once upon a time there was a tough warrior king in Scotland. He fought the Vikings in the north and beat them. He fought the Angles to the south and beat them too. All his enemies were slaughtered.

But this king was not happy. He felt that no one loved him. He felt that something was missing. So he called his chief spin-doctor, a learned monk, and asked his advice.

“Well,” said the monk. “What your country needs is a patron saint. Then you can have a flag that everyone will recognise, a direct link with the Bible, and an excuse for parties. Tourists will come in droves and help you spend your way out of the recession. And I can give you a bigger and better patron saint than the English have got. This will give you and your country what we call “the feel-good factor.”

“Go on,” said the king. “Tell me more.”

 “Well,” said the monk. “In my monastery we’ve got a box containing three fingers, and arm bone, one kneecap and a tooth. The legend is that they used to be bits of Saint Andrew. Why don’t I get some of the monks to write up this legend, embroider it a bit, make it into a beautifully illuminated manuscript, and you can give us money to build a really grand church to keep the bones in.”

The king was a great warrior, a decisive man. “Right!” he said. “Do it at once.” And so Saint Andrew became Patron Saint of Scotland and, of course, because he was one of Jesus’ disciples, he is a much bigger and more important saint than George or Patrick or David. So on Saint Andrew’s Day we have the biggest parties.


Then they said: “Master, you have muddled us. Which of these stories is true?” And he replied: “I shouldn’t worry about truth. Just do your best like Regulus did and enjoy the parties as the great king would have wished.”

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