Everyone knows of St Patrick, but what do we know about him? Simply that it was he who `converted the Irish to Christianity'. The strange fact is that for two hundred years or so after his death, although his name was remembered with respect, everything else about him was forgotten. E.A. Thompson pieces together the story of his life, drawing his evidence from the only real clues that exist, Patrick's own writings, not from the later Lives. He reveals him as coming from a well-to-do nominally Christian family in Britain, being captured by Irish raiders and forced into slavery in Co Mayo, converting to a most earnest Christianity, and eventually escaping from Ireland to the fulfillment of his calling. As a bishop, he is shown to have been a man of profound originality, and his writings - his Confession and his Letter to Coroticus - further display his character. It is no surprise that a host of legends became attached to his name, and the biography is completed with a look at some of those early legends. Preface to paperback edition by COLMAN ETCHINGHAM, Maynooth.E.A. THOMPSON was Professor of Classics at Nottingham University.