Was St Patrick of the tall tales a tax exile and a spin doctor?

Not only did he introduce Christianity to Ireland in AD 432. If a new study is correct, St Patrick also pioneered another tradition, by becoming the first British celebrity to move here as a tax exile.

Where he differed from writers and rock stars, the Cambridge University research suggests, is that it wasn’t payment of tax he needed to avoid ”“ not primarily. His problem, as a Roman patrician, was being expected to serve as a tax collector, or ”œdecurion”. The role had been prestigious. But by the fifth century, with Roman Britain in decline, it was a thing to be avoided. According to Dr Roy Flechner, of Cambridge’s department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic, Patrick’s father only escaped it by becoming a clergyman, exploiting a ”œbailout” clause of Roman law.

Unfortunately for the future saint, the position was hereditary. And in Patrick’s ”œtroubled era”, writes Flechner, ”œdischarging the obligations of a decurion, especially tax collecting, would not only have been difficult but also very risky”.

But you don’t have to believe it…

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