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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

In the second passage given above we are told that the place where the cross-tree of Patrick’s chariot broke, as he was ‘going to Munster’—not to Ossory—was at Druim Conchinn in Mairg, or Maircc, as it is written in the Tripartite, ‘Patrick’s hermitage (disert) is there, but it is (now) waste.’ Colgan thought, and such is our opinion also, that this Disert Patraic must be looked for in the west of Ossory, for it is expressly stated that he was then on his way (from Magh Raighne) to Munster. His route, therefore, would lie through the great plain of Raighne westward to Bealach Urlaidhe, which was the usual road from Ossory into Munster; that is, he went from Donaghmore westward through the valley of the King’s River. On this road, about four miles north of Callan, we find there was an ancient church called ‘Disert’ or the hermitage. It still gives its name to the ‘Desart Demesne,’ and a title to the Earl of Desart. The church has disappeared before the ‘improvements’ in the demesne; but ‘Church field’ still remains to mark the site, which being a ‘disert,’ or lonely place, chosen for retirement and prayer by the Saint, was, in all probability, some distance from the great highway to Munster. Shearman declares that there is no ridge there, and that the oak woods of Desart must have been too good at all times to merit the malediction of St. Patrick. There may be no ridge in the demesne of Desart itself, but there are many ridges a little to the south, and it was probably across one of these southern slopes that Patrick was passing when the crossbar broke. It is called the ridge of Conchinn, which Shearman says was the name of a ridge in Slieve Margy, and the Tripartite seems to state the same. But it is more likely that the ridge of Conchinn was somewhere on the boundary line between Ossory and Munster. Fer Conchenn, daughter of Fodb, ‘dwelt in the sidh or fairy-hill of the men of Femen’. Magh Femen was the plain around Slievenaman, and bordered the Ossorian territory near Mullinahone, from which a pass led by Callan into Ossory. We are safe, therefore, in assuming that the ridge of Conchinn was somewhere in this neighbourhood, and that it was there the cross-bar of Patrick’s chariot broke, ‘as he was going into Munster.’

We think also that ‘Maircc’ of the Tripartite does not designate Slieve Margy on the east of Ossory, but possibly the Slieve Ardagh range on its western extremity, which was the ancient boundary between Ossory and Munster, or, perhaps, the Dromderg ridge which unites with Slievenaman and may have been the Drum Conchinn referred to in the Tripartite, where the fairy lady dwelt in her enchanted palace.

If, however, Shearman’s view be adopted, then Patrick, having left the County Carlow, went, as we have already explained, to Morett, in the Queen’s County, where he founded a church close to the royal dun. Then, going southward, he came into Ossory by Slieve Margy, that is by the ancient road from Athy to Castlecomer. It was a little south of Castlecomer, at the place now called Dysart Bridge, that his chariot broke down, and it was there he built a hermitage, close to the impetuous Dineen, which has since nearly swept away the ancient cemetery. There, too, as tradition tells, he was going to curse the Hy Duach, but his disciples averted the curse by praying that it might fall not on the tribe-land but on the thatch of their stacks; and when he was again repeating the curse they made the tops of the rushes its object; and once more, when he essayed to curse, they said, ‘let it be the red Dineen’; so it came to pass. The thatch of their stacks is often blown away; the tops of their rushes are withered by the same fierce blasts; and the rushing river, red with mountain mud, carries away everything before it, when the rains sweep over Slieve Margy. This, of course, is all mere tradition, which fathers on St. Patrick the wrath of their rushing waters and angry storms. It is more likely that Dysart was founded by St. Brendan than by St. Patrick, and so the inhabitants say, as we were informed on the spot.

It would appear from some passages in the life of St. Ciaran that Patrick crossed into Munster somewhere between Callan and Killamery. The ancient pass through Windgap led into Magh Femen; still it was not Patrick’s purpose to go there but into the plain of Cashel; hence, he would cross on the line of the present road from Callan to Mullinahone, and thence proceed almost due west to Cashel. Mr. Hogan says that he must have crossed the borders near the place now called Harley Park, which is some three miles north of Mullinahone. It is, indeed, reasonable to believe that the Saint traversed all the western borders of Ossory, for we find Rath-Patrick and Cross-Patrick, which seem to be memorials of his presence, so far north as the barony of Galmoy. We find also a parish of Rathpatrick in the south-east of Ossory, and a Glun Padraic and Cnock Patrick in the parish of Kilcolum, but no details of the Saint’s labours therein are forthcoming.

It is stated in the Tripartite that Patrick when leaving Ossory foretold that ‘most distinguished laymen and clerics’ would in after ages spring from the men of that territory. Speaking only of its clerics, there is no part of Ireland has produced more distinguished ecclesiastics than Ossory—scholars, saints, and martyrs—and there is no other district of the same area which has produced them in greater numbers. We have been assured by the venerable prelate, the Most Rev. Dr. Brownrigg, who now rules in Ossory, that the single parish of Mooncoin, in the south of the diocese, has given more than 120 priests to the church, both at home and abroad, within the present generation. The Diocesan Seminary of Kilkenny, too, not only provides a supply of clerics for the diocese, but every year sends a considerable number of young priests, all natives of Ossory, to preach the Gospel in every English-speaking land. No part of Ireland has been more sorely tried in the past, yet no other district or diocese has shown at all times more unswerving loyalty to the Church, or furnished more conspicuous proofs of an enduring spiritual vitality. So the blessing of Patrick was surely an efficacious one for the Ossorians.






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