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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

Whilst Patrick was present it would appear that King Echu was afraid to molest Mac Cartan; but after the departure of the dreaded master, Echu troubled Mac Cartan in many ways. He was still addicted to the worship of the Druids, and one of their sacred groves was only two miles from Clogher. No doubt they incited the king to drive away the new-comers, and so caused much trouble to God’s servants. Mac Cartan had a cow for the use of his family. The king would not allow the poor animal to graze near the monastery, but had her driven off and tied up so that the pitiful bellowings of the animal were heard, even in the royal court. “Drive them all off,” said the Druids, “or this place will be theirs.” The king sent his son to bid them go away, but the boy fell asleep and forgot to execute his father’s orders, and through the influence of the queen the wrath of the king was assuaged, and Mac Cartan was allowed to remain at Clogher.

Thereafter Patrick went (from Clogher) into Lemain. This is Magh Leamhna of the Book of Rights, which formed a part of the Clogher kingdom. It is the beautiful plain east of Clogher, extending from the slopes of Slieve Beagh at Altadaven down to Augher by Favor Royal, and beyond the Blackwater as far as Ballygawley. The North of Ireland presents no fairer prospect than this beautiful and fertile plain, with its embowering woods and fishful rivers fronting the south, well-sheltered, highly cultivated, and rather thickly peopled with a comfortable and industrious population.

‘Findabair is the name of the hill on which Patrick preached.’ This has been identified with Findermore by Hennessy. There can be no doubt that it is the hill over the beautiful dale of Altadaven, which is so closely connected with St. Patrick’s preaching in the local traditions of the people. It was two young unbroken oxen ‘from Findabair, that is from Clogher,’ that by direction of the Angel carried Patrick’s dead body from Saul to Downpatrick, where they stayed to mark the place of his burial; and, as damhan means in Irish a young ox, we may fairly suppose that the beautiful glen itself, that is Altadaven, takes its name from that circumstance. Then it would be impossible to find a more convenient place to address a large crowd than the rocky ridge that penetrated the glen from the higher ground above. Beneath it there is a green meadow, in the midst of which bubbles up Patrick’s Well, a full fountain of purest water. Seated or standing by his rocky chair, which is there still, Patrick could address the crowds below as conveniently as he could from the pulpit of a modern church. The huge rock-table on which he celebrated Mass is still in its position before the ‘chair,’ so that he could not only preach, but say Mass in presence of the vast congregation. The cliff-like walls on either side of the glen gave perfect shelter from the wind, and if they were clothed then, as they are now, with a thick growth of trees and evergreen shrubs of densest foliage, they would also afford shelter even from the pitiless storms of the north.

Those who have seen this singularly romantic glen will not then be much surprised to learn from the Tripartite that Patrick was preaching there for three days and three nights, and ‘it seemed to them no longer than one hour.’ Of course, what is meant is that Patrick remained there for three days and three nights preaching, baptising, and instructing the crowds who came to hear him, and who also remained with him all the time in the beautiful and well-sheltered glen. There would be no inconvenience at any time in summer weather in camping out there and holding a mission for three days, or a much longer time, if necessary. But, Patrick had a special object in view. There is strong reason to think that this sheltered glen, shaded with the dark foliage of its native oak and mountain ash, was sacred to druidism, and was, in fact, a chosen shrine for druidical rites. As usually happened, the Druids dwelt in the neighbourhood of the royal dun, for they were the counsellors as well as the priests of the king, and he rarely acted against their advice. Altadaven suited them exactly, and hence Patrick, having gained over the king at Clogher, was now anxious to root out druidism from its last retreat. It was for this purpose chiefly he went to the glen and blessed it, and erected his altar there, and baptised the people, and left a standing miracle there in the shape of a small basin in the dry rock which is ever full of water, to which we shall presently refer.






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