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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

GOING southward then through Tirerrill, Tirechan says that he founded four churches there—‘Tamnach, Echenagh, Cell Angle, and Cell Senchuae.’ All these still retain their ancient names, and three at least give titles to parochial churches in the diocese of Elphin.

We have seen before that when Patrick founded the church of Shankill, near Elphin, he left there Rodan, an arch-priest, and under his care he placed Mathona, Benen’s sister, ‘who received the veil from Patrick and from Rodan,’ and, as it would appear, remained there some time. Now, Patrick coming south from Sligo, founded the church of Tawnagh, near the northern extremity of Lough Arrow, and over it he placed Cairell, a native of the district, as bishop. It appears, too, that Patrick, Bron, and Bite, of Elphin, consecrated him on that occasion. Mathona, the nun of Shankill, had also, it seems, some connection with the place, for Patrick now placed her there with her nuns under the care of Bishop Cairell. But she did not forget her old church of Shankill. ‘She made friendship with Saint Rodan’s relics’—he had probably died in the meantime—his relics were the great treasure of his church, and Mathona visited them there frequently, so that the churches of Shankill and of Tawnagh were closely connected through the spiritual friendship of their founders, or, as the Tripartite quaintly puts it, ‘their successors feasted together in turns,’ that is, celebrated together the festivals of their respective founders. Tawnagh is a small parish, but it has a very large graveyard, and we believe traditions of the holy nun Mathona are still vivid in the memory of the people. There is also a holy well called after St. Patrick, in which, no doubt, he baptised his first converts, and a ‘patron’ was usually held there on St. Patrick’s Day, but, we believe, it is now discontinued.

It would appear that this Mathona, who is often described as the sister of Benignus, St. Patrick’s Coadjutor in Armagh, was in reality not his sister, but the sister of the second Benignus, to whom reference is made in the Tripartite, as we have elsewhere explained. This family connection would also serve to explain why she became a nun at Tawnagh, and was placed under the protection of Bishop Cairell, who was probably her near relation.

From Tawnagh, Patrick still going southward by the western shores of Lough Arrow, where the noble woods of Hollybrook demesne now beautify the scene, came to the green swelling meadow overlooking the south-western angle of the lake, and there, in a most picturesque site, founded the ancient church of Aghanagh—Horsefield—over which he placed the holy Bishop Maine, whom he had baptised at Doogary, when he had first crossed the Shannon some years before, and whom he now consecrated bishop of this young church, doubtless giving him jurisdiction over the other smaller churches around the lake. He left there also under his care a holy man, Gemtene by name, who seems to have succeeded him, and whose ashes also rest in Aghanagh. It was from this point that Patrick, instead of crossing the Curlew Hills directly, went westward beyond Kesh hill and founded the church of ‘Cell Angle,’ which appears to be identical with Killanly, west of Toomona. Tobberpatrick is there still, in the parish of Kilturra, and most likely marks a station on the road of the Apostle southwards to Moylurg.

This course, too, by Kesh and Gurteen, would be a more likely one than the direct route over the Curlew Mountains at Ballaghboy, which was then a rugged and almost impassable way.






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