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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

Although not expressly stated, it is likely that Patrick crossed the hills by this pass, and then journeyed eastward through the territory of the Deisi, a wide-spread and warlike tribe that dwelt between the mountains and the southern sea, reaching eastward as far as Creadan Head, over Waterford Harbour.

These Deisi were originally a Meath tribe that dwelt in the barony of ‘Deece,’ which takes its name from them. But they were expelled from their territory in the third century by Cormac Mac Art, whose life they attempted, and were forced to take refuge for a time in the South of Ireland. O’Donovan says they subdued all the country from the river Suir to the sea, and from Lismore to Waterford Harbour. In the fifth century, not long before the, advent of St. Patrick, Ængus, King of Cashel, gave them the vast and fertile plain called Femen in the Tripartite, south of Slievenaman, towards the east of the Galty Mountains. It is clear, too, from the Tripartite that a branch of this tribe, called the Deisi Beg, had pushed westward as far as Ardpatrick, and northwards to Knockainy, but being surrounded by the Munster men, they were often pillaged and ‘peeled’ like an onion, and finally expelled from that part of the country. The Northern Deisi may, therefore, be the men who occupied the Baronies of Iffa and Offa East and Iffa and Offa West in the south of Tipperary, while the Southern Deisi occupied the whole of the County Waterford. It is clear, therefore, that St. Patrick, crossing the mountains at Seefin, went eastward through the territory of the Deisi, probably by Mitchelstown and Clogheen, towards the Suir, at Ardfinnan.

Somewhere there Patrick was kept awaiting the king of the country, namely, Fergair, son of Ross. On his arrival the Saint said to him—“Thou hast come slowly.” “The country is very stiff,” said the King; sure enough it was a stiff country between the Knockmealdown Mountains and the Galtys, and so Patrick said; but he did not believe the excuse to be genuine, for he added—“a king shall never come from thee.” “What (really) delayed you to-day?”—said Patrick. “Rain delayed us,” said the King. “Your tribal gatherings shall be showery,” said Patrick.

‘Patrick’s Well is in that place, and there is the church of Mac Clarid, one of Patrick’s household. Moreover, the Deisi held their gatherings at night, for Patrick left that word upon them, since it was at night they came to him.’ In this way, doubtless, they hoped to escape the penalties threatened by Patrick.

There is a Patrick’s Well in the parish of Inislounaght, near Clonmel, which is, probably, the place here referred to. If so, it is likely that Patrick crossed the river Tar at Clogheen, and the Suir at Ardfinnan, and so came to Patrick’s Well. This view is confirmed by the narrative: ‘Patrick cursed the streams of that place because his books had been drowned in them—thrown, perhaps, into the river at the ford—and the fishermen had refused to give him fish.’ And, although they were fruitful hitherto, he said that there would be no mills on these streams, but ‘the mills of the foreigners would be nigh to them’—perhaps at Clonmel or Waterford. The ‘foreigners’ were, doubtless, the Danes. But he blessed the Suir and its banks; and that river is fruitful except where the other streams enter it. These streams must be either the river Tar or the Nar, or both, for they enter the Suir from different directions quite close to each other. If Patrick went from Ardfinnan to Clonmel, he would pass by the parish of Tubbrid, famous for all time as the birth-place and parish of Geoffrey Keating, the greatest of our Irish historians.

In the Life of St. Declan it is said that having himself yielded due submission to Patrick at Cashel, at his return he besought the chieftain of the Deisi, who dwelt at a place called Hynneon, to go with his followers, and meet the Apostle, to receive baptism at his hands, and gain his blessing for himself and his tribesmen. But the stubborn chieftain refused, and Declan found it necessary to choose another leader named Fearghal, who duly submitted to Patrick, and gave him large grants of land not far from the Suir, perhaps at Donaghmore, where the name implies that Patrick founded a church. The name of this unbelieving chieftain is called Lebanny, and he is, perhaps, the same who came late to visit Patrick, and may afterwards have refused to receive baptism for himself and his people at his hands. The place where he dwelt is called Hynneon, which, according to Hennesy, is identical with Mullaghnoney, about two miles north-west of Clonmel. Perhaps Rathronan, in that neighbourhood, contains the same name. Knockgraffon, still further north, was, certainly, a royal palace at that time, and this chieftain of the Deisi may have dwelt there.

From Clonmel of the Deisi Patrick returned north; most likely by Cashel.

The Tripartite never brings Patrick twice through the same territory on his missionary journeys, its main object being to show the new districts which he evangelized and the churches which he founded. Patrick did not, we think, cross the Blackwater at all, nor enter any part of the Co. Waterford, for St. Declan had that as his own special territory, and had already preached the Gospel with success in the diocese of Ardmore, which included the district now known as Decies within Drum. The old church and beautiful round tower of Ardmore still mark the site of his cathedral, on a commanding eminence overlooking the southern sea.






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