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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

St. Loman of Trim, to be carefully distinguished from another St. Loman of Lough Gill in the Co. Sligo, is the first of St. Patrick’s nephews who meets us in Ireland. He was also, so far as we can judge, the first Bishop whom St. Patrick placed over an Irish see, and that Church of Trim was the first which the Saint founded in Ireland, twenty-five years before the founding of Armagh.

Patrick having resolved to smite the paganism and idolatry of Ireland in the very seat of its supreme power, determined to make his way to the Court of King Laeghaire at Tara. So bidding farewell to his friend Dichu, son of Trichem, at Saul, he put to sea and, crossing the wide bay of Dundalk, he soon brought his ship to anchor at the mouth of the river Boyne, then called Inver Colptha, from the famous Colptha, son of Milesius, who was drowned there when crossing the bar. This was at the beginning of Lent, 433, for Patrick had not been duly authorised to come to Ireland until the summer of 432.

The Saint, having disembarked at the mouth of the river, resolved to make his way to Tara by land, but it is likely he spent the greater part of the Lent in that neighbourhood, engaged as usual in penitential exercises, for he did not reach Slane until Holy Saturday. At his departure he left Loman in charge of the boat, with instructions to row up the Boyne, ‘until he should get to the place where Ath-Trim stands to-day.’ It is likely both Patrick and Loman had heard that there were friendly Britons in that neighbourhood who would receive Loman hospitably and protect him from danger. The Saint, too, had an idea that Trim was not far from Tara, which was his own destination, and thus he hoped to secure his boat, and find it readily again.

From Trim to Drogheda the Boyne flows for 25 miles through fertile plains and swelling uplands, all haunted with the thrilling memories and historic monuments of more than two thousand years. It is not, strictly speaking, navigable, but the light boats of the time could be easily pushed over the fords or shallows. Loman had to row against the stream, and, as his course was first west and then south, most probably against the wind also. Jocelyn would represent his progress up the river against stream and wind as a miracle in itself. It was more likely the result of one or two days’ hard rowing by Loman and his companions. Late at night, it seems, they came to the Ford of Trim and rested where they were, for in the morning we are told that young Fortchern, son of Feidlimid, who dwelt in the fort of Trim, and kept the Ford, going down to the river in the early morning, found Loman ‘with his Gospel before him’ either in his boat or on the bank. And at once it seems Loman proceeded to explain to the young chieftain the message of the Gospel. ‘And a marvel it was to him the doctrine which he heard,’ but, touched by grace, he believed and was baptised.

Now, the mother of this young prince was a British lady, and no doubt she taught both to her son and to her husband Feidlimid the British tongue. This will explain how it came to pass that Fortchern was able to understand the language of Loman. Now, that lady herself, noting the absence of her son, and seeing him talking to strangers at the Ford, came down herself to the river seeking her son. And finding out that the strangers were Britons, her own countrymen, she made welcome to the clerics, for of the Britons was she—namely, Scoth, daughter of the King of the Britons.

Now, her husband, Feidlimid, who was the son of King Laeghaire, the great ruler of Tara, by a British lady, came to meet the strangers, and he, addressing them in the British tongue, gave them hearty welcome. Then he had speech of Loman, who explained to him, as he did to his son, the glad tidings of the Gospel, and Feidlimid, too, believed, and was baptised. Moreover, with all the fervent zeal of a sincere and generous heart, he made over Ath-Trim to God and to Patrick and to Loman and to his own son Fortchern, who, it seems, resolved to join Loman in preaching the Gospel of Christ. It is one of the most beautiful and striking scenes recorded in the Life of St. Patrick, that meeting of Loman with that holy family by the Ford of Trim.

In the meantime, as we know, Patrick went first to Slane, and afterwards to Tara, where on Easter Day he had that celebrated conflict with the Druids of the King which is recorded in all the Lives of the Saint, and is justly regarded as the most remarkable event in his career. It was in fact the crisis and the victory of the Christian faith in Ireland.

On that very day, it would appear, he went down from Tara to Trim to ascertain how Loman and his companions had fared on their journey up the river. It may be that Loman had sent a messenger to Patrick at Tara to announce his own good fortune; and Patrick was very naturally anxious to visit the British lady who had received his nephew so kindly, and with her family had embraced the faith sc fervently. So he went himself in person and founded Ath-Trim twenty-five years before the founding of Armagh, and there he left his disciple Loman. ‘Of the Britons, moreover, was the race of Loman, son of Gollit, and his mother was own sister to Patrick.’ That happy mother was, as we have seen elsewhere, Tigris, and she was also the mother of Broccaid, Broccan, and Mugenoc, holy prelates, two of whom were, it appears, placed by St. Patrick over churches in Meath, and the third at Emlagh, in Connaught.

Of the subsequent history of Loman of Trim, little is known. He may have been a bishop before his arrival in Ireland; if not he was in all probability consecrated by St. Patrick before his departure from Meath.

After ‘some time’ his death drew nigh, and then he went with ‘his foster son Fortchern to have speech of Broccaid his brother,’ that is to pay him a friendly visit at Emlagh Ech amongst the Ciarraige of Connaught. Returning home to Trim ‘he bequeathed his church to Patrick and to Fortchern,’ who was still comparatively young. But Fortchern, with truly Catholic instinct, refused at first to enter upon this inheritance, for the lands were the inheritance of his father, and if he now succeeded as bishop it would seem that it was not by virtue of a canonical election but of hereditary descent—which would set a very dangerous example to other churches. Still Loman, no doubt with the assent of Patrick, said—“Thou shalt not receive my blessing except thou receivest the abbacy of my church.” Then Fortchern, loth to forfeit the blessing of his spiritual father, consented to accept the abbacy; but, yet true to his own noble resolve, he resigned it after three days to Cathlaid, who appears to have been a pilgrim from the Britons. So the early succession in Trim was British; and British influence prevailed long centuries afterwards at the Ford of the Ridge. The site of the Patrician Church has completely disappeared, but Trim has a noble modern church, and is full of venerable ruins which eloquently attest the faith and power of the conquering Normans.

Fortchern went further south to Leinster, and established himself in the neighbourhood of Tullow in the Co. Carlow. There he built himself a church close to a blessed well which still bears his name, and in which the great St. Finnian of Clonard was baptised. That old church has disappeared; but the well is flowing yet beneath the hill which gives its name to the town, for in ancient books it is always known as Tullagh-Fortchirn—the true name of that neat and prosperous town, which still retains its ancient character as a centre of holiness and religion.






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