TODAY - April 23 - is St George's Day, when every red-blooded Englishman and woman should be celebrating our patron saint. The other saints of the British Isles are given great prominence - particularly Ireland's St Patrick - but St George has always been in the background.

But at long last there is a move to commemorate England's patron saint with a bank holiday.

So much mythology has grown over the years about St George and the story of him slaying a dragon.

The man the legend is based on was a Roman soldier, born to an important Christian family in Turkey around the year 270.

While serving in the near east, he protested to the governor about the treatment and killing of Christians by the Romans, only to be arrested himself and beheaded at Lydda, in Palestine.

George's head was later taken to Rome, where it was interred in a church dedicated to him. Stories of his strength and courage soon spread throughout Europe.

The legend of St George and the dragon was first recorded in the sixth century, and was probably around orally for many years before then.

In the best-known tale, a pagan town is beset by a troublesome dragon and the townsfolk offer the beast two sheep a day to appease it. But they run out of sheep and offer a young woman instead, the unfortunate victim to be drawn by lottery.

On one occasion, the king's daughter is selected and taken out to be given to the dragon. St George, a brave knight, rides by and asks the princess why she is chained up.

He is disgusted at the dreadful story. The dragon arrives to claim its meal, and the angry St George goes into battle and kills it. He then goes on to convert the pagan town to Christianity.

St George is associated with the emblem of a red cross on a white background, which was worn by Christian soldiers as a mark of identification in the Crusades against Muslims in the Middle East during medieval times. The cross was later adopted as the national flag of England.

Our greatest-ever playwright, William Shakespeare, was born on St George's Day in 1564 - and who can ever forget the ringing call in his historical epic, Henry V - especially in the film version, in which Sir Lawrence Olivier says: "Cry God for Harry, England and St George."

In 1222, the Council of Oxford declared that St George would be England's patron saint and that he would be commemorated on April 23 each year.

St George replaced Edward the Confessor, who had been regarded as the patron saint of England until that time.

England shares St George as patron saint with many other European countries. On a visit to Cyprus a few years ago, I was struck that each of the Orthodox churches that I visited depicted St George and the dragon prominently in stained glass or portraits.

In the early days of the Scout Movement, its founder, Lord Baden Powell, decreed that St George should be the patron saint of the scouts. He is also the patron saint of soldiers.

A number of churches have adopted the national saint as their patron. They are mainly garrison churches, but our own local Anglican church at Hanworth is also dedicated to St George.

For some years now, Whitton Business Group has celebrated the saint's day with a parade in Whitton High Street. The shops are decorated with the cross of St George and charity stalls line the shopping centre.

This year's event is tomorrow (Saturday), when the road will be closed to traffic.

The nearby Twickenham Rugby Stadium is holding a St George's Day charity match, which should bring even more crowds to High Street.

In central London, there is to be a St George's Day celebration in Trafalgar Square, and special celebrations at the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre at Bankside to mark the occasion.

I note that a number of shops are selling St George's Day greetings cards and other mementos.

So let's all celebrate St George with a flag or two and - as William Blake wrote in his iconic hymn, Jerusalem - let's enjoy England's green and pleasant land.