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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

AS we have seen, Patrick had resolved to celebrate his first Easter in Ireland in the very headquarters of the idolatry and Druidism of Erin. In fact his friend Dichu had told him what he felt to be true, that if he did not conquer there he could not succeed elsewhere. A message had already been sent from the High King to Dichu, bidding him beware of the wiles of the bare-crowned priest, and yield him no obedience. This message did not affect Dichu, but he felt it might be effective elsewhere, as it already had been in Wicklow, except Patrick was able to secure at least toleration and liberty to preach from the central authority at Tara.

Now, having come in their boats from Strangford Lough to Inver Colptha, Patrick and his companions left their vessel in the estuary there, and went by land along the swelling shores of the Boyne to Ferta fer Feicc—the graves of Fiacc’s men—now known as the Hill of Slane, ‘and Patrick pitched his tent there, and struck the paschal fire.’

This is a brief, but significant entry, and throws much light on the customs of the time.

It would be very interesting to know what kind of a boat Patrick and his crew had on this occasion. As it was intended to ascend the Boyne as far as possible, we may reasonably conclude that it was a curragh, such as were commonly used at the time. Some of them were of good size, for we are told in an ancient tale of one that was covered with forty hides, and had twenty benches for the rowers, with two thick tall masts and broad-bladed oars. Patrick would not need so large a craft as this, but still it was probably of good size, yet of light draught, so that it could be easily beached and drawn over the shallow fords of the river.

Dichu had, no doubt, many such boats on Lough Cuan, and would be glad to accommodate the Saint with a suitable craft. We are expressly told that they had a prosperous voyage, sweeping out of Lough Cuan, we may suppose, with the first of the ebb, and then keeping away from the mountains on the starboard and the dangerous flats off the coast of Louth, they would in about ten hours cover the distance of fifty miles, and run their light craft into the estuary of the Boyne with the next flowing tide.

They left their vessel in the estuary, somewhere near Drogheda, in charge of Lomman, who was a nephew of Patrick, with instructions to him and his companions to make their way as best they could up the river. Patrick himself, with a few more of his household, set out for Tara by road, keeping, it may be, the right bank of the river as far as Donore, and then striking across the bend of the Boyne for the Hill of Slane, which is about nine miles from Drogheda. They travelled on foot, setting out, doubtless, in the early morn.

We are told that Patrick left his nephew Lomman at the mouth of the Boyne, to watch his ship for the forty days and forty nights of Lent, and that Lomman, in a spirit of obedience to Patrick, watched some forty days more before he resolved to sail up the Boyne on his own account. This statement is improbable, and does not fit in with what is elsewhere recorded, both in the Tripartite and the Book of Armagh.

What is clear is this, that Patrick, having sailed from Saul with the opening spring, landed at the mouth of the Boyne, perhaps about the beginning of Lent, and then leaving Lomman with a few companions to guard his ‘ship’ and push up against the stream as far as they could, he himself, with some ten or twelve of his clerics, resolved to make the journey to Tara by land. There is some reason to think that it was on this occasion, just after his voyage from the North, that Patrick, tired after his voyage, enjoyed the welcome hospitality of Sescnen, father of Benignus, and that it was in the valley of the Boyne—the valley of Sescnen—that the gentle boy clung to the feet of Patrick, and would not be parted from his dear spiritual father, whose bosom, as he slept on the green sward, he had strewn with choicest flowers.






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