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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

The subsequent narrative of the Tripartite gives us a lively picture of the social life of the times. There was a great feast being prepared for the king and his nobles on the summit of the hill, which is described as to the south of Carn Feradaigh—a famous cairn, but not yet certainly identified. We can only infer, from the many battles fought there, that it was on the highway from Limerick to Cork.

It is stated in the Tripartite that Loman, or Lonan, son of Mac Erc, made this feast for Patrick, and it appears that Deacon Mantan, who doubtless had some skill in cookery, at least so far as to please Patrick, was helping to prepare the feast at the king’s house or rath. Just then a train of jugglers or mountebanks, who were always welcome at such assemblies, appeared upon the scene, and at once demanded food. Bards, jugglers, and strollers of every kind were privileged people on these occasions, and were often most unreasonable and importunate in their demands. Still no one ventured to refuse them, through fear of their lampoons, which were often scurrilous and bitter, and were recited by the itinerant strollers all over the country. It was a principle both of prudence and of honour, at all cost, to yield them their demands.

Now, the food was not ready, but the strollers were hungry, ‘and would take no excuse.’ The King himself does not appear to have been present at the time, so Patrick said to the strollers, “go to the King (Loman) and to Deacon Mantan, they will help me,” that is, save him from the dishonour of a refusal. But the King and the Deacon would not give them a share of the banquet before anyone else partook of it, saying not unnaturally—‘It is not public criers that shall bless for us the beginning of our banquet’—it was intended for St. Patrick and his clerics, not for such strollers.

Patrick, however, saw that the poor jugglers were really hungry, and at all cost he wished, in a spirit of genuine charity, to give them food even before he got it himself. Just then he saw a youth accompanied by his mother coming to the King’s feast with a cooked ram on his shoulder, for provisions were requisitioned in this way for the royal banquets when the guests were numerous. Thereupon Patrick said:—

The boy who arriveth from the North,

To him the victory (of charity) hath been given,

Unto Cothraige (that is Patrick) he is near to help him,

With his wether on his back.

Then Patrick asked the boy to give him the wether that he might give it to the hungry jugglers, and thus save his own honour and the episcopal character for charity and hospitality. The boy at once gave it gladly; although his mother was reluctant to give it for fear of the King. Then Patrick gave the jugglers the mutton, and forthwith ‘the earth swallowed them up,’ which is, perhaps, a strong way of saying that having eaten the King’s sheep they at once disappeared, vanishing as completely as if the earth had swallowed them up. Derg, son of Scirire of Deisi, was their leader. Still, Patrick resented the refusal of the King to give the food at his request; and he said of Loman’s race there never would be king, nor crown prince, nor bishop. He said, also, that the cloister or house of Deacon Mantan on earth would not be lofty, and that sheep and swine would trample on his grave. But to Nessan the charitable he said—“Thou art mighty of race,” and he baptised him afterwards, and ordained him a deacon, and founded a church for him, that is Mungret, the ruins of which still survive, though, perhaps, not of that early date. Neither did Nessan’s mother escape the penalty of her timorous reluctance to be charitable. Patrick said she would not enjoy the privilege of a grave in her son’s church, and ‘that is true,’ the writer adds; ‘her grave is in the ground to the west of Mungret, and the bell out of the great cahir or church steeple of Mungret is not heard in that place, yet they are not far distant, only a wall separates them.’

It is clear that Patrick, besides saving his honour for Irish hospitality, wished to impress upon all his followers the great lesson that charity is the first of all virtues, and that the call of urgent need should never be refused in any circumstances whatsoever.

Going thence northward, Patrick founded the church of Domnach Mor Maige Aine about three miles to south of the modern city of Limerick.

If Mantan, the Deacon referred to above, be founder of Kilmantan of Wicklow—as seems likely—Colgan tells us that he visited his church there, and found the site of the church a refuge for sheep, swine, and other animals—but the same has, alas! too often happened to many of our ancient and holy churches. Still, the coincidence is striking. This Mantan is said to have landed with St. Patrick at Wicklow in the beginning, where, as we have seen, he lost a tooth from a blow of a stone—whence his name. This sin on this occasion clearly manifested a spirit of disobedience as well as a want of charity, and hence the temporal penalty with which it was afterwards visited.

The Saint remained there, it would seem, for some time instructing and baptising the people of Hy Fidgente. Word of this was brought to their kinsmen north of the Shannon, so fearing that Patrick would not venture to cross the great river the men of Thomond to the north of Luimnech came in their ‘sea fleets’ to meet him at Donaghmore, then called Dun-n-Oac-Fene; and Patrick baptised them in Tirglass to the south east of the dun. This is not Terryglass (Tir-da-glas) in north Ormond, which is far away from Luimnech to the north east, but it is the place now called Patrick’s Well, which is accurately described as south-east of Donaghmore.

At their head was Cairthenn, son of Blatt (or Bloid), King of the Dal-cais of Thomond, who believed in the Lord and was baptised by Patrick at Sangel. His children up to that time had been in one way or another deformed from their birth, but by Patrick’s blessing the next son, Eochu Baillderg, was born a shapely child, fit to inherit his father’s kingdom. There is still an ancient graveyard near Limerick to the north-east, which is said to be the site of this church of Sangel, or as it is now called Singland. It was close to the palace of Cairthinn Finn, King of the Dalcassians, whom with his infant son, Eochu Baillderg, Patrick baptised on that occasion. Through the blessing of Patrick, this Eochu became the founder of a mighty race of kings and saints, whose forts and towers and churches are scattered over Clare, lending to that historic county a romantic interest, sacred and profane, which few other counties in Ireland can rival.






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