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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

When Patrick came to Rath Cule he blessed the Fir Cule—that is the men of Cule—a place which, we are told, was in Hy Segain. The modern parish of Siddan seems to retain the ancient name of the district, as the townland of Coole retains the sub-denomination; and doubtless the ancient rath might still be traced in the townland. He left them his blessing, and then proceeded to the place called Bile Tortain, the Old Tree of Tortan, which was in the kingdom called Hy Dortain in the Book of Rights, and, properly speaking, was a sub-kingdom, not of Meath, but of Oriel. It is said by Colgan to have been near Ardbraccan; but the Irish text only states that the church which Patrick founded there for Presbyter Justan ‘now belongs to Ardbraccan.’ It is probable that the church of Justan was somewhere in Lower Slane, for the mountains of Slieve Breagh formed the southern boundary of Hy Dortain. It was most likely near Julianstown.

Here, however, Tirechan notably differs from the Tripartite, for the former brings Patrick straight from Donaghmoyne to Tara, where he finished his ‘circle’ or missionary ‘round’ from Tara through the west and the north of Ireland. And it is from Tara he represents Patrick as ‘setting out’ to found a church for Presbyter Justan (Justano) at Bile Tortain, ‘which belongs to the family of Ardbraccan,’ and he founded another in eastern Tortan ‘in which the tribe of Tech Cirpain abides, but is always free’ (from servitude to the religious of Ardbraccan). Then, having founded there two churches, Patrick, according to Tirechan, directs his course to the territories of the men of Leinster—namely, to Druim Urchailli.

We know little of Patrick’s further progress through Bregia. He was there before; and now, doubtless, visited the old churches and founded new ones of which we know nothing but the names, as given in the Additions to Tirechan. The Tripartite merely states that he journeyed from Domnach Tortain into Leinster, and slept for one night at a place called Druim Urchailli, which Colgan places in the territory called from the King ‘Laeghaire’; but other authorities, with greater probability, identify it with Drummuragill in the north of Kildare, as Tirechan certainly does.

Here we find two significant paragraphs in the Lebar Brecc Homily regarding this journey. We are told that ‘he went afterwards to the men of Bregia and mightily preached the word of God to them, and baptised and blessed them.’ ‘And he visited the Ford of Hurdles (Dublin) and found great welcome there, and Patrick said there would be rank and primacy in that place, even as is still fulfilled.’

The last statement, on the face of it, is a suspicious-looking paragraph, and savours of a later interpolation; but the first seems to be quite true. The purpose of Patrick certainly was to go to Leinster, and, as usual, to go straight to the royal dun, which was at Naas; but he had to pass through parts of Bregia in a district where he certainly had founded churches, and no doubt he revisited many of them on this very journey.

Of these the most important was that of Dunshaughlin, over which he had placed his nephew, Sechnall or Secundinus, whose name it bears. It was in the direct route of the Saint through Bregia, southwards to Druim Urchailli, on his way to Naas. The Annals of Ulster state that Secundinus, Auxilius, and Iserninus, then bishops, were sent to Ireland to aid Patrick in A.D. 438 or 439. There is reason to think that they accompanied the Apostle on his missionary journey through the north-west and north of Ireland, and now returned with him to Meath. Secundinus was the oldest, for he is said to have died in 447 in the seventy-fifth year of his age; and was therefore as old as Patrick himself. It was only natural then that the Saint, setting out for Leinster and Munster, should have some one to look after the churches of Meath and Ulster during his absence. He made Secundinus Bishop of Dunshaughlin, and also appointed him as his coadjutor and representative through all the North during his absence. Hence it is that Sechnall is commonly described as comarb, or successor-designate of Patrick at Armagh; and that his tenure of that office is given as thirteen years—that is from the date of his appointment in 434 to his death in 447. It also fixes the date of Patrick’s setting out on his missionary journey through Leinster, which we may take to be either 444 or the early spring of 445. He had performed the circuit of Ulster in three years, and probably spent three more in Leinster; but he is said to have spent seven years in Connaught and seven in Munster.






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