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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

The Saint also founded Domnach Cainri, in Cothraige, over which he placed the two Cennfindans. The whole barony is now called Cary (Cothraige), but the place here referred to is more accurately marked by the course of the river Carey, which is east of the Shesk. It had a number of small churches—the churchyards still remain in this district—but it is by no means easy to determine which was Domnach Cainri. Perhaps it was the place still called Killyphadrick.

Last of all, we are told he placed Bishop Fiachra in Cuil Echtrann. There is no doubt that this is the place now called Culfeightrin—for it is the same name—which gives a title to a large parish extending from Bunnamargy, all the way round to Torr Head. It is the north-eastern ‘corner’ of Antrim and of Ireland, wild and bare, but singularly picturesque. The Feast of St. Fiachra is assigned to the 28th of September, but of his personal history nothing else is known, and no successor of his is named in our annals, sacred or profane. ‘The ruins of Culfeightrin church stand on a gently rising ground, in the townland of Churchfield, which is merely a translation of its ancient name, Magheratemple.’ The graveyard is now devoted to tillage by the frugal tenant, who cares little for the sanctity of God’s acre. From the high grounds over the church the spectator has a noble view of Rathlin Island, with the wild and restless sea that laves its rocky shores, stretching far away to the bare hills of Kintyre, in the blue distance. The people of Culfeightrin, from time immemorial, were nearer to their Scottish cousins than to the Dal Araide around Belfast Lough. They were hardy mariners, too, and, in truth, it was easier for them to cross the sea than the wild mountains that bounded their native territory on the south. The Scottish hills were in their view on any clear day, but the ultramontane regions to the south, most of them had never beheld. This physical fact will help to explain much of the history of the Irish Dalriada, and especially its close connection with the south-western parts of Scotland. When St. Patrick stood on the eastern slopes of Knocklayd he could easily see the highlands of Ayrshire almost up to the place whence he was carried off a captive to the shores of Ireland, and the Dalriadans of Culfeightrin might hoist a signal on Benmore that would be visible to the keen eyes of their cousins on the Mull of Kintyre, for the deep but narrow sea is not more than twelve or fourteen miles wide from shore to shore.

We are also told by the Tripartite that ‘Patrick blessed Dun Sobairci, and Patrick’s Well is there, and he left a blessing thereon.’ It is not stated that he founded a church or left any priest or bishop in the place, but still the entry is a very interesting one. Dun Sobairci has been corrupted into the modern Dunseverick, a huge dismantled castle, situated on an insulated cliff, overhanging the boiling waves of that wild coast, so well known to every tourist who journeys coastwise from Ballycastle to the Giant’s Causeway. The primitive dun was erected shortly after the Milesian colonization of Ireland, for the Four Masters tell us that the hero from whom it is named, Sobhairce of the White Side, was a great grandson of Ir, and kept his court as King of Northern Ireland on the beetling cliff over that stormy sea. It was a well-chosen site, however, and was held in turn by every ruler of northern Antrim, from Sobhairce to Shane O’Neill. It was the strongest fortress of the Dalriads in the time of St. Patrick, and it is not improbable that it was the first place which Patrick went to visit after he had crossed the Bush and come into Dalriad territory. The oldest of the sons of Erc doubtless ruled in Dunseverick at the time, but as it does not appear that he was friendly to Patrick, the Saint founded no church at the grand old fort, nor did he even enter the stronghold itself, but sat on a rock quite near it, which has been called Patrick’s Rock ever since. We are also told that it was there he ordained Olcan, Bishop of Armoy. If so, it was at a later date, perhaps on his return from his mission in those districts. We are told that ‘Patrick’s Well’ is also there at Dunseverick, and ‘he left a blessing thereon,’ no doubt, when he blessed its water for the baptism of his converts.

After this visit to Dunseverick Tirechan expressly says, “that Patrick returned into Magh Elne, and founded many churches, which the ‘men of Connor’ now possess.” The Tripartite, too, says that Patrick, leaving Dunseverick, ‘went into Dalaradia,’ where he found Coelbad’s twelve sons before him. He asked to get the place, ‘where Kilglass now stands,’ but was rudely refused, most likely by Saran—‘yet he has it still,’ adds the writer, which seems to imply that although refused at first by Saran he afterwards got Kilglass from some other of the sons of Coelbad. Therein he left two of his household, namely, Glaisciu and Presbyter Libur. We are inclined to think Kilglass would be somewhere in the neighbourhood of Ballymoney, but it has not yet been identified. We next find Patrick seeking to get from the same sons of Coelbad ‘the place in which Lathrach Patraic is now. Therein he placed Daniel, called from his purity the Angel, but from his small size he was named Patrick’s Dwarf. ‘Close by is Patrick’s well—Slan the Healer is its name.’ In that place Patrick’s nua echuir, that is the ‘new key,’ was found. The wicked Saran, however, drove off Patrick from this place also, wherefore ‘Patrick deprived him of heaven and earth.’

Both Colgan and Reeves think this Lathrach Patraic, or Lann Abhaich, the Dwarf’s Church, is that afterwards called Glenavy on the eastern shore of Lough Neagh. We rather think it was at the place still called Slan or Slane, the Healer, in the parish of Skerry, north-east of Ballymena, for, so far as we can judge, Patrick was on his way from Magh Elne to visit the family of Milcho at the foot of Slemish; and by Slan, not by Glenavy, his route would lie. Besides Slan is a very peculiar word, meaning the ‘health-giver,’ which the Tripartite tells us was the name of Patrick’s Well at Lathrach Patraic.

Tirechan here tells us that Patrick ‘went up’ to the mountain of Slemish Boonrigi, because he had care in that place, when a slave, of Milcho’s son, Guasacht by name, and also of his two daughters. The Tripartite adds that he took them now into his own family, and brought them out of Dalaradia to place them, as we have seen elsewhere—the son as Bishop of Granard, and the sisters as nuns at Clonbroney in the Co. Longford. On this occasion also Tirechan tells us he visited the hill of Skerry (Skirte) ‘on which he saw the Angel standing, and where his footprints are still to be seen,’ when he told Patrick, long before, that his ship was ready to carry him home to his native land.

The Tripartite then gives a list of other churches which Patrick founded in Dalaradia, but it does not pretend to give the order of foundation or route of Patrick in founding them. Saran, as we have seen, repulsed the Apostle at Slan, but his brother Conlae received Patrick with honour, and offered him Domnach Combair, that is the place afterwards called by that name, as a site for his church; whereupon Patrick blessed him, and left him the promise of a race of kings and princes from his seed for ever.

Colgan states that this Domnach Combair—the Church of the Confluence—is identical with Magh-Combair, afterwards corrupted into Muckamore, and that the plain got its name from the junction of the Clady Water and the Six Mile Water at that place, or as others say, on account of the junction of the united streams with Lough Neagh. It was always a fertile and highly cultivated plain, but no doubt the labours of the good monks of Muckamore in later times contributed much to its fertility. We are not told whom our Saint placed there, but Jocelyn says that St. Patrick on one occasion, passing through a place in Dalaradia, called Mucoomuir addressed his companions in these words: ‘Know ye, my beloved sons, that in this spot, a certain child of life, called Colmanellus, will build a church, and will gather together therein many sons of light and many fellow-citizens of the Angels.’ This was St. Colman Elo, patron also of Lynally in the King’s County, who about the year 550 built a noble monastery at Muckamore in honour of the Virgin Mary, which flourished down to the time of the general suppression. In later times a Franciscan Friary was founded at Massarene in its immediate neighbourhood, but, of course, that also has disappeared.






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