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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

Patrick went from western Inishowen, that is, from Carndonagh, into eastern Inishowen, which is called Bretach in the Tripartite, but in later times was generally written Bredach, a name which is still preserved in that ‘of a glen and also of a small river flowing through the ancient territory into Lough Foyle at Moville.’ So says Colgan, and he ought to know, for he was, as we have seen, a native of the neighbouring territory. In the time of St. Patrick it was the patrimony of Oengus, son of Ailell, son of Eoghan; and O’Dugan says that his descendants were ‘the noblest sept of the race of Eoghan.’

No doubt on this occasion Patrick passed on the line of the present road leading from Carndonagh to Moville by the roots of the hills which buttress Slieve Snacht on its northern flanks. You get from time to time glimpses of the northern ocean beyond Culdaff, and further on, towards Inistrahull, which rises from the sea in solitary pride beyond the farthest cliffs of Malin Head. ‘There’—that is at Moville—we are told, ‘he found the three Dechnans, sister’s sons of Patrick, in the district of Ailell, son of Eoghan.’ Colgan suggests ‘deacons,’ instead of Dechnans, that is, three deacons, sons of Patrick’s sister, and intimates that they may have been the three Deacons commemorated in our martyrologies as Deacon Reat on the 3rd of March, Deacon Nenn on the 25th of April, and Deacon Aedh or Aidus of Cuilmaine on the 31st of August. He admits he cannot otherwise establish their identity; but he says that these names seem to be those of foreigners, which is true, and that there was a church called Cluain Maine in Inishowen in which three nephews of Patrick are said to have been established. This view is confirmed by the fact that Conis, husband of Darerca, Patrick’s sister, is said to have given his name to the church of Bothchonais in Inishowen. Colgan describes it as a ‘great and celebrated monastery in the diocese of Derry,’ and O’Donovan has located it at the old cemetery of Binnion in the parish of Clonmany, down near the wild waves which for ever break on the broad sands of Trawbreaga Bay. The text would seem to imply that the ‘deacons’ were already at Moville; it may be Patrick had sent them on before him, and that Conis and his sons had already established themselves as ‘pilgrims’ in that remotest corner of Ireland. Darerca certainly had many children, and was, doubtless, married more than once; so, in the absence of better evidence, we may accept both the etymology and the story which places Conis by the sea at Binnion, and his sons somewhere in Bredach by the swelling tides of the Foyle.

The Tripartite merely says with reference to Patrick’s stay in Bredach that he ordained there Oengus, son of Ailell—the prince of the district—and rested for one Sunday in that place; ‘Domnach Bili is its name.’ That is the Church of the Old Tree—perhaps some ancient tree sacred to the Druids’ worship; and the name is still retained in ‘Moville’—that is Magh Bili—the Plain of the Old Tree. The existing remains of the ancient monastery of Moville show that it must have been the religious seat of a wealthy and numerous community. It was beautifully situated on a low eminence gently sloping down to the Foyle, and commanding a fine view of the estuary itself, and a broad reach of the Atlantic Ocean, sparkling, when we saw it, under the cold blue of the northern sky. The town is now a place of considerable trade with Deny, and is a favourite watering-place in the summer season. Here in far Inishowen one cannot help admiring the indomitable zeal and energy of Patrick, who penetrated into the very remotest bounds of the wild promontory of Inishowen, to bear the blessed light of the Gospel to those sea-bound children of the Gael.






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