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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

Both Tirechan and the Tripartite state that Patrick went from Bile Tortain to Druim Urchailli in Leinster, where he spent at least one night according to the latter; but the former adds that he built there a relic-house, or Martarthech, as it is called in Irish, that is a house for the relics of the martyrs. But it really means that he left in the church of the place, and no doubt in a suitable shrine, some special relics of the martyrs, which gave it its name; and we are further told that this relic-church, or house, was situated over the high way through the valley, and that a Leac Patrick, or Stone of Patrick, is there also by the wayside.

It would be most interesting to identify with certainty this church of Druim Urchailli; but it has not yet been done. Shearman seems to think it was west of Kilcock, between that place and Cloncurry, at Drummurragill, but he gives no satisfactory proof, except the similarity of sound in the names. Our own opinion is that it is the old church of Donaghmore, about a mile east of Maynooth, and the churchyard may be seen from the railway on the slope of the ridge, which is crowned by the noteworthy obelisk called the ‘Folly.’

This site was certainly on the brow of a ridge. It was on the way from Bile Tortain to Naas, and the name itself implies that it was a Patrician church of considerable importance. But we have no certainty about it; and the point is open to further investigation. From Donaghmore, the road to Naas would lead by Straffan, where Shearman tells us there is a remarkable stone-roofed oratory ‘of dubious antiquity,’ but he admits that it is still called ‘St. Patrick’s Church;’ and very near it, on the eastern slope of a hill, to the north of the road, called Ardrass, is ‘St. Patrick’s Bed,’ situated in a grassy hollow, encircled by bushes. At its base, as might be expected, is St. Patrick’s Well, which has always been greatly frequented by pilgrims. These facts leave no doubt that St. Patrick visited Straffan, either then or on some other occasion; but, as it was clearly in the direct route to Naas, we think it highly probable that he must have passed that way on this occasion.

The reference to ‘St. Patrick’s Bed in the grassy hollow under the ridge,’ would go far to show that if Donaghmore was not Druim Urchailli, we might fairly seek it at Straffan, and perhaps the ‘stone-roofed oratory’ would be the identical ‘domus martirum’ to which Tirechan refers.

Patrick might cross the Liffey at Straffan and go direct to Naas, which was due south; or he might go up the left bank of the Liffey as far as Clane, and cross the Liffey there by the celebrated Ford of Clane. There is near the ford, on the left bank of the river, a very remarkable mound, and on its western side there is a well called Sunday Well, or in Irish Toburdonaigh, a name which is usually given only to those places, where the Saint, after a week’s instruction, baptised his catechumens on Sunday.

Crossing the river at this point, the Saint had only five miles to cover in order to reach Naas. The Tripartite is here an invaluable and accurate guide. ‘Thereafter Patrick went to Naas. The site of his tent is in the green of the dun, to the east of the road; and to the north of the dun is his well, wherein he baptised Dunling’s two sons, namely, Ailill and Illan, and also baptised Ailill’s two daughters, Mogain and Fedelm; and their father offered to God and to Patrick their consecrated virginity. And Patrick blessed the veil on their heads.’

We have gone over the ground; and, merely from this description, identified all the places referred to. The green of the fort, or dun, is still the fair-green of the town. Patrick’s tent was there very naturally, for it was then, as it is now, an open space. The ancient rath of the Kings of Naas has disappeared, but its site can be easily identified in an enclosed field to the ‘east of the road,’ just inside the fair-green. The holy well is to the ‘north of the fort,’ beyond the town itself, just inside the demesne wall, which now bounds the road by which Patrick came to Naas from Clane. The old dame at the gate-house will at once conduct the visitor to it, and tell him that it is St. Patrick’s Holy Well.

Dunling was dead at the time, and his two sons were joint kings of North Leinster. When the tribesmen saw their kings and the kings’ daughters baptised in that blessed well by the wayside, they were not likely to hesitate long themselves in embracing the faith. The maidens twain who thus consecrated their virginity to God afterwards retired to a little church near Dunlavin, to the east of Magh Liffé, where they lived and died in peace and holiness. It was called Cill na n’Inghean, and the festival of the Holy Daughters was celebrated ever afterwards on the 9th of December, which was probably the date of the death of the longest survivor.

Ailill, the father of the nuns, appears to have been the elder, and he seems to have died long before his brother Illan, who afterwards became a great friend of St, Brigid of Kildare, by whose blessing his life was prolonged, in spite of many foes and many battles, down to the year 506, when he is said to have reached the great age of 120, and to have been buried in Brigid’s church of Kildare.

But all the men of Naas were not so fervent. Fallen, the King’s steward, did not come to meet Patrick, and get instruction and baptism. Then Patrick sent to summon him; but he came not, pretending to be asleep when the messenger called. So the messenger returned to Patrick to make excuses for the reeve—telling Patrick that he was asleep—“By my troth,” said Patrick, “it would not be strange to me if it were his last sleep.” And so it proved to be. Fallen awoke no more—whence arose the proverb, Fallen’s sleep in the fort of Naas. It is not safe to mock God or His Apostles.

This narrative, too, shows how Patrick and his familia travelled. They were not welcomed into this fort of Naas, but they had their tents and pitched them in the public green before the fort. This green was an ancient and famous place of assembly for the tribes of North Leinster, even from the time of the Tuatha de Danaan. The word Nas itself means an assembly, and gave its name to the royal fort. It continued to be a royal residence down to the year 904, when King Cearbhall MacMuiregan was slain, ‘and Nas is without a king ever since.’ It is still a thriving town, finely situated in the midst of the fertile plain of the Liffey, which surrounds it in a wide semicircle. The roots of the Wicklow mountains rising from the eastern margin of the plain, are very conspicuous in the distance, and afford a fine background to the swelling uplands that stretch away to the base of the hills; their western flanks, looking towards Naas, varied in outline and well-wooded, when lit up by the morning sun, rising over the hills, afford many charming views of a landscape highly pleasing and picturesque. The old Irish kings were masters in their own land; and, to their credit be it said, invariably built their duns in the fairest sites which it afforded.






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