Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Saint Connich Mic Luachain, September 23

September 23 is the feast of one of the most learned and gifted saints Ireland ever produced, Adamnan of Iona. He shares his feastday on the Irish calendars with two lesser-known male saints, one of whom is a Saint Connich or Conaing Mic Luachain. As Canon O'Hanlon's entry for this saint will make clear, his precise identity has not been established. The earliest of the calendars, the Martyrology of Tallaght, simply gives the name Connich and adds the patronymic 'mic Luachain', son of Luachan, without any further specifics. The great 17th-century hagiologist, Father John Colgan, suggested that our saint may be the same individual as a Saint Conaing who features in the hagiography of Saint Mochoemoc. It was also suggested that he may have been a saint of this name who is mentioned in the Life of Saint Molagga. Canon O'Hanlon himself plumps for the notion that he is the Conaing Ua Daint, successor to Saint Ailbhe of Emly, whose repose is recorded in various Irish annals between 657 and 660. None of these sources, however, seem to include the use of the saint's distinguishing patronymic, and although Canon O'Hanlon does not come out and say so, it seems that we do not  know who exactly the Connich or Conaing commemorated on September 23 actually was.

St. Conaing, or Connich Mic Luachain.

The manuscript and published Martyrologies of Tallagh register a festival, at the 23rd of September, in honour of Connich, son of Luachain. He is also entered at this date in the Martyrology of Marianus O'Gorman, whose commentator calls him Mac Lucunain, or the Son of Lucunain. In Colgan's opinion, the present holy man appears to be identical with a certain Conagius, who is mentioned in the Acts of St. Mochoemoc, Abbot of Liathmor. He is also thought to have been the Conangius O'Daithil, who is mentioned in the Life of St. Molagga. At the year 660, we meet the death of Conaing Ua Daint, Abbot of Imleach Ibhair, or Emly, recorded. The Irish accords with the foregoing spelling of the name. St. Alveus was first Abbot and Bishop of Emly, as would appear from his Life. The successor of St. Alveus, the present Conangius, appears to be the Saint bearing such name, whose Natalis was observed on the 23rd of September, and who is called son to Luachan, by the Martyrology of Tallagh, by Marianus O'Gorman, and by the commentator on St. Aengus. There was a chapelry of a St. Cunning, in the parish of Carncastle, County of Antrim, supposed to have been Tulach or Killchonadhain, mentioned in the Tripartite Life of St. Patrick. The present Saint's festival is found in the Martyrology of Donegal, at this day.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Saint Colmán of Midhe-Iseal, September 22

September 22 is the feast day of one of the many saints named Colman to be found in the Irish calendars. This particular Saint Colmán is identified by both his patronym and his locality but Canon O'Hanlon was unable to bring any further details:
St. Colman, Son of Cathbhadh, of Midhe-iseal. 
At the 22nd of September, the Martyrology of Tallagh records a festival to honour Colman, son of Cathbhadh, of Midisiul. The O'Clerys state, that Aighlenn, daughter of Lenin, was his mother. That his parents had well fulfilled their duties towards their son seems to admit of little doubt. With the other saints venerated on this day, Marianus O'Gorman calls on godly, pure-coloured Colman, son of Cathbad, to help us. The commentator adds, that he belonged to Midhisiul, interpreted Lower Meath. At the same date, the Martyrology of Donegal has an entry of Colman, son of Cathbhadh, from Mide isiul.
Modern scholarship, however, has more to say of this saint. Professor Pádraig Ó Riain's 2011 Dictionary of Irish Saints identifies a Columban association for Saint Colmán and says that he features in the Life of Saint Colum Cille by Saint Adamnan. Midhe-Iseal, modern Myshall, County Carlow is not his only associated locality, for he is also linked to Slanore, County Cavan and to Ros Glanna, County Tyrone.  Nor is September 22 his only feast day for he is credited with another commemoration on September 6. If that weren't enough he is described in the calendars at September 6 as the son of Eochaidh rather than Cathbhadh. Thus, what initially appeared to be a case of just another obscure saint about whom Canon O'Hanlon struggled to write more than a few lines, is actually more complex. I propose therefore to follow up on the Columban references and bring a fresh account of the saint on his other feast day of September 6 next year. In the meantime I can only echo the call of Marianus O'Gorman: godly, pure-coloured Colman, son of Cathbad, to help us!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Saint Saran of Lesan, September 21

September 21 is the feast of Saint Saran of Lesan. There are 12 saints of this name listed in the Martyrology of Donegal, our saint is distinguished by the use of his patronymic, son of Tighernach. He is associated in that calendar with the placename Lesan in Sliabh Callan, which a note appended to one of the manuscript copies of the Martyrology of Donegal identifies as Lessan, County Derry. He is also associated with a second locality, Cluainda-acra in Cechair. In a chapter dealing with the parish of Clooney, County Clare in his book The History and Topography of the County of Clare, James Frost writes of this place:

In the Martyrology of Donegal, under the date of the 21st of September, is found the following entry:—“Saran, son of Tighernach, son of Maenach of Lesan, in Sliabh Callann, and of Cluain-da-acra, in Cehair.” O’Curry was of opinion that this Cluain-da-acra might be the Clooney of Corcomroe.[44] The church is much ruined by time. At a little distance is a holy well dedicated to St. Flannan, where rounds are yet made. In a townland of the parish, called Killeighnagh is a small burial-ground, and in another place named Mooghna, is noticed a little grave-yard and well styled Tobar Mooghna, used by persons suffering from sore eyes.

[44] See his Letter in the Ordnance Survey Papers relating to Clare, in Royal Irish Academy Library, Vol. xiv., B. 23, p. 314.


Professor Ó Riain, however, in his Dictionary Of Irish Saints locates the Cheachair on the Longford and Leitrim border.  Canon O'Hanlon has this short account of our saint:

St. Saran mac Tiagharnaigh of Lesan, on Mount Callan, and of Cluain da-acra in Cheachair.

The name, Saran mac Trenaich, is found in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 19th of September; and this entry seems referable to the present date. The O'Clerys state, that the present holy man was the son of Tighernach, son of Maenach. At the end of those saints he commemorates at the 21st of September, Marianus O'Gorman celebrates with eulogy this holy man, invoking his intercession and that of others in the following manner: "Saran, the goodley gem, Tigernach's son, whom I choose: may they fly with me past tribulation to starry heaven as I ask!" The Irish comment on the text runs: Saran mac Tigernaigh meic Maenaigh ó Lesan i Sliabh Callann ocus o Cluain dá acra isin Cechair. Thus rendered into English: Saran, son of Tigernach, son of Maenach, from Lessan in Sliab Callann and Cluain da Acra in the Cechair.

At this date, we read in the Martyrology of Donegal, that Saran was of Lesan—said to be identical with Lessan, Londonderry County —in the Sliabh Callann, and of Cluainda-acra, in Cechair. There is a repetition, at this date, of his name, paternity and places, in the Irish Ordnance Survey Copy of the O'Clerys' Irish Calendar. A corresponding account is to be found in a manuscript copy of that Calendar, once in Mr. O'Curry's possession. The foregoing entry in the Martyrology has been extracted to furnish it.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Saint Doroma, September 20

On September 20 we have a notice of another enigmatic female saints, Doroma or Daroma. The Martyrology of Oengus describes her as a 'queen':

D. xii. cal. Octobris.
Attecham na hóga
doairset ar nhdala,
ind rígain Daroma
cona slóg ron-snáda!


20. Let us beseech the virgins,
may they visit our assemblies!
may the queen Daroma
with her host protect us!

although the notes added by a later anonymous commentator describe her rather more prosaically as a 'virgin' and reduce her 'host' to 'five companions':

20. Doroma .i. uirgo. L. cum .u. socis suis.

20. Doroma, i.e. a virgin with her five companions.

I find this notice intriguing and would love to have some further details of this holy lady, but alas, that was a task which defeated Canon O'Hanlon, as he admits below:

Festival of Doroma.

The Feilire of St. Aengus has a festival at the 20th of September, for a queen named Doroma and a commentator in the Leabhar Breac copy has notes, which hardly give any additional intelligence regarding her. Nowhere can I find what might serve to throw light on her name, period or place.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Saint Comgell, September 19

September 19 is the commemoration of an elusive Irish female saint, Comgell. Her name is recorded on the earliest surviving Irish calendar, the Martyrology of Tallaght, as Comgell, virgin, and her feast is also noted on the later Martyrologies of Marianus O'Gorman and of Donegal. Like so many of our holy women, however, we have no details of when and where she flourished, so Canon O'Hanlon can only bring us the details from the calendars:

St. Comgell or Caomhgheall, Virgin.

A festival in honour of Comgell or Caomhgheall, Virgin, is found registered in the published Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 19th of September, although the 16th of October Kalends—corresponding with the 16th of September—is substituted. A similar error occurs in the Book of Leinster entry of her name. At this same date, Marianus O'Gorman commemorates Comgell, noticed by his commentator as having been a virgin. In the Martyrology of Donegal, she is commemorated at the 19th of September.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Saint Richardis of Swabia, September 18

Among the saints listed for September 18, Canon O'Hanlon includes an entry for a European Empress, Richardis of Swabia. Hers is a rather startling story, the wife of Emperor Charles the Fat, she was accused of adultery with her husband's chancellor and subjected to the trial of ordeal by fire. Needless to say, she survived and retired to a monastery. It seems that there was some tradition of her having been born in Scotia and thus some of the later hagiologists claim her for Ireland. In the early middle ages it was common for Ireland to be known in Latin as Scotia and only later for the term to be applied to what we now know as Scotland.  Canon O'Hanlon rarely has any difficulty in going along with the claims of sixteenth/seventeenth-century hagiologists that the offspring of alleged 'Scottish' kings can be listed among the Irish saints, although whether there actually was any link to this country is another question.

Feast of St. Richarde or Richardis, Empress and Virgin.

This saintly and noble lady is referred to, at the 18th of September, by Platius, Henry Fitzsimon, and the anonymous list of Irish Saints, published by O'Sullivan Beare, a have her classed among the Irish Saints. The Bollandists have inserted such accounts as could be collected regarding this holy woman, at this date, in a historic sylloge. They tell us, that by some recent writers, St. Richardis is said to have been born in Scotia, and to have been the daughter of a Scottish king. However, this account has been rejected and refuted by Matthew Rader. Other writers think she was born in Alsace, and that she was daughter to the Count Erchangier, of Nordgau. She was renowned for her virtues, and married the Emperor Charles le Gros. With him she was crowned and consecrated, A.D. 881, by the Sovereign Pontiff John VIII. Notwithstanding that she lived with her husband in a state of virginity, she was accused of incontinency; but, by a public trial her innocence was fully proved. With consent of the Emperor she quitted the Court and retired to Andlau on the Lower Rhine, where they had founded and endowed a monastery. There she lived for many years. After death various miracles attested her sanctity. When Pope St. Leo IX. passed through Alsace A.D. 1049, he had the body of St. Richardis raised and placed in a grand monument behind the high altar. The parish church of Etival, in the diocese of St. Die, still preserves some relics of St. Richardis, but the rich shrine which once contained them perished during the excesses of the French Revolution. It seems to have been Colgan's desire to publish her Acts, at this same date, as we find Richardis Imperatricis mentioned on the posthumous list of his MSS.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Saint Grellan of Hy-Many, September 17

September 17 is one of the feastdays of Saint Grellan, patron of the district of Hy-Many. An account of his life forms the lead article for this day in Volume 9 of Canon O'Hanlon's Lives of the Irish Saints. Most of the account is taken up with a long discourse on the legendary founder of the tribes of Hy-Many and of battles with the Firbolgs etc. I have omitted all of this and also the closing account of the O'Kelly family who claim Saint Grellan as a particular patron. If you would like to read this material however, you can view Canon O'Hanlon's The Life of Saint Grellan, Patron of the O'Kellys and of the Tribes of Hy-Maine as a separate booklet here or the complete entry from The Lives of the Irish Saints in a nicely-formatted pdf version here. It seems that there is a degree of confusion around the time when Saint Grellan flourished, some of his hagiographers have sought to place him in the time of Saint Patrick, which would place him in the fifth century, the 17th-century hagiologist Father John Colgan, however, believed him to have been a disciple of Saint Finian of Clonard and a participant at the Columban Synod of Easdra which would place him a century later. When time permits I shall try to see what more recent scholarship has to say. The picture of Saint Grellan on the left was taken by Andreas F. Borchert at Saint Michael's parish church at Ballinasloe, County Galway.


St. Grellan, Patron of Hy-Maine, Counties of Galway and Roscommon. [Fifth or Sixth Centuries.]

Besides the universal reverence and love, with which Ireland regards the memory of her great Apostle, St. Patrick, most of our provincial districts and their families of distinction have patron saints, for whom a special veneration is entertained. Among the latter, St. Grellan's name is connected with his favoured locality. The extensive territory of Hy-Many is fairly defined, by describing the northern line as running from Ballymoe, County of Galway, to Lanesborough, at the head of Lough Ree, on the River Shannon, and in the County of Roscommon. It extended nearly due east and west, taking in all the southern part of this last-named county. The eastern boundary ran along the River Shannon's course, from Lanesborough to Scariff, in Clare County, and west of Lough Derg. Thence, the southern and western boundaries proceeded by Feacle, on Lough Graney, County of Clare, and passed some distance west of Loughrea to Athenry; thence, they continued through Killererin parish, near Tuam, and on to Ballymoe. All of these last-mentioned localities are situated within the County of Galway.

OF this holy man Lives have been written; while one of them is to be found in a Manuscript of the Royal Irish Academy, and another among the Irish Manuscripts, in the Royal Library of Bruxelles. Extracts containing biographical memoranda relating to him are given by Colgan, and in a much fuller form by Dr. John O'Donovan, as taken from the Book of Lecan. There is also a notice of him, in the "Dictionary of Christian Biography." Colgan promised to present his Life in full, at the 10th of November; but he did not live to fulfil such promise.

It is to be regretted, that so few biographical particulars have been given in the only brief accounts we can find, regarding the Patron of Hy-Many. A very ancient copy of St. Grellan's Life is quoted by Duald Mac Firbis in his Genealogical Book, as a proof of the existence of the Firbolgs in the province of Connaught, after the period of the introduction of Christianity; and, also, it is cited, by Gratianus Lucius, in his "Cambrensis Eversus," as a proof of the fact, which he thinks it establishes, namely, that the ancient Irish paid tithes. No vellum copy of this Life is now in Dublin. There is an Irish Life of St. Grellan in paper, and transcribed by Brother Michael O'Clery. It is kept in a thick quarto volume, among the Manuscripts of the Burgundian Library, at Bruxelles. Besides this, there is a paper copy of his Life —probably containing similar matter — and preserved in the Royal Irish Academy, among its manuscripts. The Life of St. Grellan is in a quarto Miscellany of 352 written pages, copied by James Maguire, a good and faithful scribe, according to Eugene O'Curry. This transcript was finished in the year 1721, and in some place called Dubhbhaile (Black-Town). The pages are written in double columns, and chiefly Lives of Saints are to be found in it. The Life of St. Greallan is contained there, from page 235 to 240.

The usual name given to this holy man is Grellan, or Greallain, in Irish, and this has been Latinized into Grellanus. Dr. Lynch writes of him as Grillan, when alluding to the Patron of Hy-Many, in his celebrated work. According to the accounts we have of the saint, he was a contemporary with St. Patrick, and he must have flourished about the close of the fifth century. He is classed among the Irish Apostle's disciples, and this too is stated, in the tenth chapter of his own Life. He also obtained the episcopal rank, being renowned for his sanctity and miracles.

His father's name was Cuillin son of Cairbre Cluaisderg, of the Lagenians, while Eithne was the name of his mother. He was born in the time of St. Patrick, as the first chapter of his Irish Life states, and a legend is there introduced, as serving to illustrate the prognostications of his subsequent distinguished career, and especially accompanying the event of his birth.

In the time of Lugaidh Mac Laoighaire Mac Neill, a great thunderstorm was heard by all the men of Erinn, and they were astonished at its unusual loudness. They asked Patrick, the son of Alpin, what it portended. He answered, that Greallan was then born, and that he had been only six months in his mother's womb, at the time. Hence, we should infer, that he came into the world towards the close of the fifth century. Wars and commotions are said to have prevailed in Ireland, at the advent of our saint's birth. We are told, likewise, that Greallan had been fostered by one named Cairbre, probably a relation among his family connexions.

Among the many other cares of his mission, St. Patrick took charge of Greallan's education, and made him a companion. He enrolled this young disciple amongst his brethren, taking him to Ath-Cliath, Dublinne when he went there. This must have been after the middle of the fifth century. Then is quoted a poem, in which St. Patrick said, that a noble person should be in the land of Leinster. This promise was an allusion to our saint, whose purity and virtues are there praised.

A kinsman to the celebrated Colla da Chrioch chieftain in Ulster possessed great influence in Hy-Many, a territory of the Firbolgs, in the time of St. Patrick, when he is said to have visited Echin, the son of Brian, son of Eachach, King of Connaught. Eachin refused to be converted, but all his brothers embraced the faith. Eoghan, who was son to Duach Gallach, one of Eachin's brothers, was afterwards baptised by St. Grellan. On this occasion a great miracle was wrought, at a place called Achadh Fionnabhrach. When only a child, Eoghan had died, to the inexpressible grief of his parents. However, when St. Grellan beheld this afflicting state of affairs, he raised his staff, and then applied it to the body of their child. This touch caused him to be resuscitated, and it impressed a mark on their son, which was afterwards visible. As a consequence, he bore the name, by which he was best known, namely, Eoghan Scriabh, or "Owen the Striped." The miraculous crozier was thenceforward held in great veneration. It is said, that Duach Gallach was a Christian, having been baptised by St. Patrick, while the wife of Echin, called Fortrui, was aunt to St. Benignus, a favourite disciple of the Irish Apostle. The latter proclaimed that he should be a king, and that from his race kings should proceed. In fine, Eachin was baptised at Kilbennin, near Tuam.

At Achadh Fionnabhrach, Duach Gallach bestowed a tract of land, and he gave possession of it to St. Grellan. The name was even changed — owing to this peculiarity of circumstance — from Achadh Fionnabhrach to that of Craobh Greallain, which signifies, the "Branch of Grellan." This name is said in his Irish Life to have been owing to a branch, which Duach and St. Patrick gave our saint in token of possession. Here, east of Magh-Luirg, this saint is said to have built a Church, before the arrival of Maine-Mor in Connaught. When alluding to Craobh Ghreallain, Mr. O'Curry remarks, that he believed its precise situation was not known. As a token of the veneration for our saint, Duach required that every chieftain's wife should give seven garments as a tribute to Grellan and, for payment of this ecclesiastical assessment, the guarantee of St. Patrick had been asked and obtained afterwards by the local Patron.

...Afterwards, St. Grellan selected at Kilcloony the site for a church. There he built on a rising ground, or Eiscir, a little distance to the north-west of Ballinasloe town. Some ruins are yet remaining there, but it would be altogether hazardous to assert the walls date back to the fifth century. The Irish were accustomed to impose voluntary assessments of the nature, already indicated by the record we have quoted, to mark their consideration and respect for those distinguished by their ministerial works. It is stated, in the Irish Life of St. Grellan, that he received the first offspring of any brood animal; such as hog, and lamb, and foal, in Hy-Many. These tributes were regularly paid to the successors of the holy man in the church honoured by his presence and labours during life.

Notwithstanding the statements in his own Irish Life, that St. Grellan flourished in the time of St. Patrick, it seems most likely he was not then born, and, moreover, it has been stated, his father's name was Natfraich, that Grellan had been a disciple to St. Finian of Clonard, and that he assisted at the great Council at Easdra, held by St. Columkille before he returned to Scotland; wherefore, Colgan was justified in placing his career at A.D. 590. Whether or not he lived in the seventh century cannot be ascertained from any known record.

St. Grellan was honoured with particular devotion in the Church of Killcluian, diocese of Clonfert, on the 17th of September. On this day his feast occurs, according to Marianus O'Gorman, our traditions and Calendars, while he seems to have had a second festival, at the 10th of November. It seems strange, that at neither day he is mentioned in the Feilire of St. Aengus the Culdee, nor is the date for his death recorded in our Annals. However, we may fairly assume, that he lived on, until near the close of the sixth century.

St. Grellan is the principal patron of those portions of Galway and Roscommon counties, formerly known by the designation of Hy-Many; and, for many centuries, even to the present age, the crozier of St. Grellan had been preserved in the territory. Dr. Lynch declares also, that in his time this pastoral staff of St. Grellan was held in great veneration. A relic of this kind, when used as a standard, was usually called cathach, i.e., proeliator, such as the celebrated cathach of St. Columkille. This crozier of St. Grellan was preserved for ages, in the family of O'Cronghaile, or Cronelly, who were the ancient Comharbas of the saint. This term of Comharba had moreover an ecclesiastical meaning, and according to the usages which prevailed in early times, and in our country, generally it signified successor in a see, church, or monastery; but, in due course, it had a wider signification, and the Comhorba was regarded as the vicar — a legal representative of the Patron Saint, or founder of the Church. But, the word Comhorba is not exclusively ecclesiastical; for in the ancient laws of Erin, it meant the heir and conservator of the inheritance; and, in the latter sense, it is always used, in our ecclesiastical writings. The crozier of St. Grellan was in existence, so late as the year 1836, it being then in the possession of a poor man, named John Cronelly, the senior representative of the Comharbas of the saint, who lived near Ahascra, in the east of the county of Galway; but, it is not to be found at present, in that county. It was probably sold to some collector of antiquities, and it is not now known to be in the possession of any person; yet it seems incredible, that such an interesting relic could have been lost, as we have been enabled to ascertain the fact of its preservation to a comparatively recent period.