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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

But special reference is made in the Tripartite to the church of Kil-fiacla, now Kilfeacle, that is the Church of the Tooth, which is about three miles from Tipperary on the road to Cashel, and which, therefore, marks the route of the Apostle when journeying westward from Cashel into Muskerry. One day, as Patrick was washing his hands in a ford there, a tooth fell out of his head into the ford. Patrick went on a hill to the north of the ford, and (missing his loose tooth) sent to seek it, when straightway the messenger saw the tooth ‘shining bright like the sun in the ford.’ So he brought it back to Patrick, and therefore the ford was called Athfiacla, the Ford of the Tooth; and when Patrick founded the church close at hand he left the tooth there, and, moreover, four of his household, namely—Cuircthe and Loscan, Cailech and Beoan, and, bidding them farewell, he left his blessing with them in Muskerry.

From this narrative we may infer that the four clerics of Patrick’s family wished to keep the tooth as a relic of their beloved master. It would seem also that Patrick made Kilfeacle the principal church in that district, and left four of his disciples there to preach and found other churches in Clanwilliam. Tipperary—in Irish, Tibraid Arann—though an ancient parish, rose to importance only at a later date, when King John built a castle there to guard the ford of the Ara, on the great southern road from Tipperary to Cork.

There is a stream flowing northward by the old church of Kilfeacle to join the Multeen River on its way to the Suir. It was doubtless at the ford on this stream that Patrick lost the tooth which gave its name both to the ford itself and to the parish. On the western bank of the Suir, some two miles to the east of Kilfeacle, William de Burgo, the conqueror of Connaught, founded a Priory for Augustinian Canons, where he himself, with his great-grandson, Walter, Earl of Ulster, and the renowned Red Earl, the first of all the Burkes, after stormy lives, sleep in peace beside the Suir, in the hearing of its murmuring waters. The old abbey is a roofless ruin, the monks are gone, and the Burkes are gone; but the Suir still calmly flows through fields as fair and woods as green as when Patrick blessed the beautiful and bounteous river at the Ford of Golden so long ago.

After this, we are told, Patrick went north-westward ‘to Arada Cliach, and abode in Ochtar-Cuillen in Hy Cuanach.’ Cullen is still the name of a parish and a village, just one mile west of the Junction, on the borders of Tipperary and Limerick. Coonagh is the name of the modern barony, which, no doubt, anciently included the parish of Cullen. Arada Cliach was the name of a considerable territory, which comprised the barony of Coonagh, and the east of Coshlea barony in the Co. Limerick, with that part of Clanwilliam west of Tipperary town, which lies between them. This territory belonged to the diocese of Emly, for St. Ailbe, its founder, was a member of its ruling family, and established his church in his own tribe land. The Cliu—of which Cliach is the genitive case—came originally, it is said, from South Leinster, under the guidance of a certain Laidir of the race of Fergus MacRoy. This Laidir was ‘ara,’ that is charioteer to the King of Leinster, hence the tribe name became Ara, or Arada Cliach. There was another branch of the same tribe located further to the north, who gave the name to the barony of Ara, now joined with that of Owney, east of the Shannon at Killaloe.






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