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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

At this point Tirechan says Patrick came into Calrigi Tre Maige and founded a church there at Drumlease, and baptised many persons thereat. This Calry Tre Maige was also called Druim Daro, as we know from the Tripartite; and at present it is called Drumahaire, in Irish Druim da Ethiar, a beautiful ridge overlooking the famous valley, near O’Rorke’s castle, which Moore has for ever immortalized in his well known poem—‘The Valley lay smiling before me.’ It was smiling then, and it is smiling still, upon one of the fairest scenes in Ireland, where every charm that can lend beauty to a landscape—lake and river, plain and wood, and mountain—show themselves in marvellous richness and variety of perspective, to which neither poet nor painter can do full justice.

Patrick was not the man to pass heedless by so fair a scene. He not only built a church there; but, it seems, he remained a considerable time in the neighbourhood, and it was from Patrick’s stations and from the ‘sheds,’ liasa, which he erected there that the place took its name of Drumlease. It would appear he set his heart upon it, and had some intention of settling down there, for he left his foster son, Benignus, as the incumbent of Drumlease for eighteen or twenty years, until he himself had finally resolved to settle at Armagh; and it was only then, so far as we can judge, he resolved to sever finally his own connection with that radiant land of fairy hills and sunlit waters.

Nor did he even then give up all his rights. The “Additions to Tirechan” in the Book of Armagh go to great lengths in pointing out Patrick’s rights in Drumlease. The Annotations say that he baptised there Cairthen (the prince of the district), and Cairthen’s son, and Caichan; and they add that Caichan offered his fifth of the territory to God and to Patrick for ever, and that the ‘King (that is Cairthen) made this offering free of all rents and tributes to God and to Patrick for ever.’ Then the writer sets out most carefully the boundaries of this Patrician territory in Drumlease, and asserts that both lord and vassal immediately after their baptism offered all this to Patrick as a free and perpetual gift.

But Caichan gave both his land and his daughter to God. Lassar, daughter of Anfolmid, of the family of Caichan, took the veil from Patrick; and she abode there in Druim Dara after Benignus for ‘three score years.’ The holy nun was doubtless very young when she took the veil, and has probably given her name to the parish of Killarga, where she lived first under the guidance of St. Benignus, and afterwards of his comarbs in the same parish.

The succession in Drumlease to the rich glebe left by Caichan to Patrick was carefully regulated, and is set forth minutely in the Book of Armagh. The record is valuable to us, showing how the succession in such cases was usually regulated. There should not be a family right of inheritance to Drumlease (for it belonged to Patrick); but the race of Feth Fio—that is the head of the tribe—should inherit it, if there were any one of the clan who should be ‘so good, so devout,’ as to be worthy of the church’s inheritance. But if not, then it was to be seen if any one (even of another clan) of the community of Drumlease or its monks should be found worthy. But if not, then a member of Patrick’s community in Armagh was to be sought out for the vacant church.

Other offerings of land made to this church, the most celebrated in North Leitrim, are also given in the Annotations, one of which is particularly interesting because it shows that not only was there a flourishing community of nuns there from the beginning, but also that besides Benignus Patrick left there two of his own nephews, and they, like the native chiefs, afterwards became benefactors of the Church of Drumlease. ‘Nao and Nai, sons of Patrick’s brother, and Dall, son of Hencar, whom Patrick left there, offered three half indli or ploughlands of their own land to Patrick in perpetuity. And Conderc, son of Dall, offered his son as a cleric to Patrick.’

This points to a settlement of some members of Patrick’s family at Druim Dara, who were not clerics, and by marriage or otherwise got a share of the land. It appears, however, they made a good use of it; but of their history we have been unable to ascertain anything satisfactory.






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