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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

IT is well to have a clear idea of what is meant by Leinster, or Laigin, in the time of St. Patrick. Ancient Leinster did not comprise more than half the modern province. It included the territory still contained in the four dioceses of Glendaloch and Kildare on the north, and of Leighlin and Ferns on the south—that is all—and these dioceses still represent very accurately its most important ‘kingdoms.’ Ancient Leinster, then, was bounded on the north by the Liffey, from its mouth to Leixlip, thence due westward by the Rye water and other smaller streams as far as the Boyne. From this point the boundary ran south-west through King’s County as far as Slieve Bloom, then followed the line of the Nore to the south-east as far as Abbeyleix, and further south the line of the hills west of the Barrow to the sea.

It will be seen, therefore, that Leinster included the counties of Wexford, Wicklow, Carlow, and Kildare, with south Dublin, the eastern third of King’s County, and the greater part of Queen’s County—that is, all between the Nore and the Barrow. This wide, and for the most part, fertile territory, included some twelve or thirteen subkingoms, but in the time of St. Patrick two of them appear with special prominence—that is, the kingdom of North Leinster, represented by the diocese of Kildare, of which the royal dun was at Naas; and the kingdom of South Leinster, represented by the counties of Carlow and Wexford, whose chief fort was at Rathvilly, on the Slaney, in the Co. Carlow. The two sub-kings of Cualann, and of Inver on the coast of Wicklow, were cut off by the mountains from their neighbours; but, as we shall see, they did not escape the pastoral zeal and vigilance of St. Patrick.

Cathair Mor, who was not only king of Leinster, but monarch of Erin in the second century, was the great ancestor of most of the kinglets who ruled the province. It is said that he had three wives and thirty sons, ten of whom he mentions in his will, which was a very famous document. These sons became the ancestors of several of the ruling families, and gave their names to the subject tribes in the usual way. Many of them are referred to, as we shall presently see, in the missionary journeys of St. Patrick through the plains of Leinster. The late Father Shearman followed the footsteps of St. Patrick very carefully through this province; but his narrative is confused, and his speculations are sometimes very unfounded and misleading, especially in dealing with the question of the ‘Three Patricks,’ where his statements are wholly unreliable.






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