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An Eire of mystery as missing Welsh dragon surfaces at a pub in Ireland; Mascot will be flown back to rightful home.

Byline: Steffan Rhys

HIS story has shades of legend.

Kidnapped from his homeland by invading Irish hordes, a young Welsh native is taken across the Irish Sea to the Emerald Isle where he is held until his escape.

But the modern-day version doesn't surround the figurehead of Irish national identity, St Patrick, but a 3ft Welsh dragon mascot.

For 18 years, the dragon had been a permanent fixture at the Holiday Inn hotel opposite Cardiff Castle, brought up from his basement "den" to welcome visiting fans for every Six Nations game at the Millennium Stadium.

But he was last seen on the hotel's CCTV being led from the lobby and out into a thronged Cardiff city centre by well-oiled rugby fans an hour before Wales kicked off against Ireland in last month's championship decider.

Now, a fortnight after his disappearance, the dragon has been found 260 miles away in the highest pub in Ireland.

His unlikely journey has led his owners to debate whether to christen him Maewyn Succat - St Patrick's name at birth - or Crwydryn, Welsh for wanderer.

Hotel staff are said to be thrilled at the dragon's discovery, though there are concerns for his health after reports his fiery red face was now sporting a ginger beard.

He is also said to have ditched his once-favoured pint of Brains in favour of Guinness, and developed a love of Riverdance.

How the dragon ended up at Johnnie Fox's Pub in Glencullen, south of Dublin, remains a mystery.

Frantic calls to Cardiff Airport and ferry ports immediately after his disappearance turned up no leads.

But reports in Wales of his disappearance have spread across the Irish Sea and Holiday Inn manager Dermot Keegan is set to collect him on Tuesday and bring him home, after his flight was arranged by Aer Arran and Cardiff & Co.

"We have a hotline here at the hotel and the last sighting had him doing the Riverdance in a pub high in the Wicklow Mountains," said Mr Keegan.

"We're delighted to have him back but we're going to have to give him a full physical check-up.

Before he left, he was more than happy drinking Brains but I've heard he might have got some Guinness into his system.

"I've got him a Welsh passport to get him back into the country. It has been a very worrying period for all of us.

"We even brought in motivational specialist counsellors to keep our morale and hope high in order that we could continue to provide a warm Welsh welcome to our guests despite the harrowing circumstances." Legend has it that St Patrick was born to an Anglo-Roman family in Wales in 415 AD. He was kidnapped aged 16 by an Irish pagan warlord, Niall of the Nine Hostages, and spent six miserable years in Ireland until he escaped to France.

Fred Rainert, manager at Johnnie Fox's, said: "My understanding is that some very happy Irish people were over in Cardiff watching something called rugby.

"Somehow, the dragon just made his way over here, but whether it was with the help of

Wa l e s Online.co.uk /video To watch CCTV footage of the dragon leaving the Holiday Inn, visit: WATCH THIS VIDEO CLICK ON locals or on his own I'm not sure.

"We're famed as the highest pub in Ireland up here in the mountains and it's my understanding that dragons like mountains.

"He's been here with us a while now and I think he's going a bit Irish - he's still red but he's got a bit of a ginger beard now.

"He's safe with us and we're going to be reuniting him with his owners but until then we're going to let him run up his Guinness tab."

CAPTION(S):

DRAGONDISCOVERY: Crwydryn, the Welsh dragon, makes himself at home outside Johnnie Fox's Pub in Glencullen, south of Dublin OFF HE GOES: A CCTV image of the dragon leaving the Holiday Inn
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Apr 4, 2009
Words:658
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