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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

Killeigh is called in Irish Cell Achadh Droma-Fada—the Church of the Field of the Long Ridge; and most appropriately, for a long ridge rises up from the great plain just over the church, and it would appear that over this long ridge lay the great highway to the north. So Patrick must have passed there, and Colgan thinks the church was founded by his disciple, St. Sinell of the Hy Garrchon of Inver Dea—the first man whom Patrick baptised in Erin. ‘Sinell, son of Finchad, is the first who believed in God in Ireland through Patrick’s preaching. And Patrick bestowed a blessing on him and on his offspring.’ We are not told his age at that time, in 432, but his death is marked at 549, so he must have lived to a very great age, perhaps to be one hundred and thirty years old before he died—not three hundred and thirty, as some manuscripts have it, doubtless through an error of the scribes. He was of the royal blood of the Leinster kings, and migrated from the unbelievers of the Hy Garrchon to his kinsmen in the west of Leinster. It is doubtful if he was there at Killeigh when Patrick passed by. Most probably he was not, for the inhabitants seem to have been still pagans. But his church afterwards became the centre of a great school and monastery, and also a home for many pious pilgrims from foreign lands. The Litany of Ængus commemorates ‘thrice fifty holy bishops with twelve pilgrims under Senchill the Elder, a priest, and Senchill the Younger (perhaps his nephew or son), a bishop; and twelve other bishops, who settled in Cell Achadh Droma-Fada in Hy Failgi.’ The ‘Pious Rules and Practices’ of this ancient and holy community are still extant in the original Irish, and go to show that it must have been one of the most famous establishments of the kind in Ireland; it certainly was, after Kildare, the most famous in North Leinster. We know, too, from the entries in the Annals that its abbots, scribes, and anchorites continued to flourish down to the time when Lord Leonard Grey plundered the church of Killeigh, and carried off its organs and its stained glass for the use of the young Collegiate Church of Maynooth, which was founded by the great Earl of Kildare in the opening years of the sixteenth century, whilst Henry VIII. was still a good Catholic, if not in morals at least in doctrine. It was at her castle of Killeigh, too, that Lady Margaret, daughter of O’Carroll of Ely, and wife of O’Conor Faly, gave the famous feast to which all the Bards and Sages of Erin were invited on the festival day of the founder of the church, the 5th of April, 1451. Never since or before was such a feast given to the scholars of Erin, and those who could not attend on the first occasion were invited to a second feast, which was given in the same year by the same noble lady. She died a nun in the convent of Killeigh; and the old chronicler, who, doubtless, shared her bounty, whilst he asks a prayer for her soul and the blessing of all the saints ‘from Jerusalem to Inisglora in Erris on her going to heaven,’ winds up with a hearty ‘curse on the sore in her breast that killed Lady Margaret.’ She probably died of cancer.

If St. Sinell was at Killeigh when Patrick was going north, we may be sure that he gave a hearty welcome to the beloved master who first preached to him the saving truths of faith and cleansed his soul in the laver of regeneration.






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