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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

Now Patrick, hearing these things at Tara on Easter Day, went down to Trim to the hospitable home of Fedilmid, where he found Lomman and his companions, with their kindly host and hostess of his own British race. He accepted Fedilmid’s grant to God with gratitude, and founded a church at Trim, in the twenty-fifth year before Armagh was founded, which gives us 457 as the date of the foundation of the primatial city.

This narrative, given both in the Tripartite and the Book of Armagh, is very suggestive. It shows us that the church of Trim was the first erected in Meath, and that it was endowed by a son of King Laeghaire himself. It shows also that there was much social intercourse between Meath and Britain, for we find that King Laeghaire had a British wife, and that her son Fedilmid had another British wife, and that Patrick’s nephew Lomman was also a Briton, and conversed familiarly with that lady in her own British tongue. We have also this Prince Fedilmid making a royal gift of his own stead to Patrick and to God, migrating himself to another place beyond the river.

Now Lomman, who ruled the church of Trim, died young, and we are told that when his death drew nigh he sent Fortchern, ‘his foster son,’ and destined successor in the See of Trim, to have speech of his (Lomman’s) brother, Broccaid, in Immliuch Ech in Connaught—that he might, so far as we can judge, explain to his brother his own dying wishes, for his purpose was to bequeath his church ‘to Patrick and to Fortchern.’ But Fortchern refused his foster-father’s inheritance, and entrusted it to God and to Patrick, whereupon Lomman said:—“Thou shalt not receive my blessing unless thou receivest the abbacy of my church.” Then he consented; but he only kept it for three days, when he resigned it to Cathlaid the Pilgrim. Wisely, too, he acted, for Fortchern feared that his acceptance of what his father had given to God might prove an evil example in favour of that hereditary succession in ecclesiastical benefices which afterwards wrought widespread ruin in many of the churches of Erin.

Of the other churches which Patrick founded in eastern Bregia we know little or nothing. There is a brief list of them in the Book of Armagh, but it is not easy to identify the localities. The first is the church ‘in Culmine,’ which perhaps may refer to the Hill of Slane, on which Patrick no doubt founded a church. The second is the ‘Ecclesia Cerne,’ in which Erc, who was carried off in the great plague (of 550?) is buried. It may be Kilcarne, to the south-east of Navan. Another was founded—in Cacuminibus Aisse—on the summit of Asse. It has not, we believe, been identified. A fourth was in Blaitiniu, which Reeves correctly identifies with Blaitine, now Platin, in the parish of Duleek. The fifth is said to be in Columbus, in which Patrick ordained the holy Bishop Eugene. The sixth is called the Church of Mac Laffy—filii Laithphi. Another was in Bridam—Collis Bovis—in which was the holy Dulcis, brother of Carthacus. The eighth was ‘Super Argetbor,’ in which was the Bishop Ciannan, whom Patrick ordained on his first Easter festival in Ferta-fer-Feice—that is in Slane. This shows that Argetbor was the old name of Duleek. It is curious there is no reference to the foundation of the church of Dunshaughlin, over which Patrick placed his own beloved nephew, Sechnall, whom he destined to be his successor in Armagh. Yet it was certainly one of the earliest churches founded in Bregia, probably during the summer of 433. We should be very glad if we could get further particulars about the ancient churches of Bregia from any of the clergy or antiquaries of the district.

Patrick, in his missionary progress, now turned westward from Tara, and on Easter Monday—prima feria—as it is called in the Tripartite, that is, the first week-day of the Easter week, he came to Tailteann, where just then a royal assembly was being held, and there he met Cairbre, son of Niall. Cairbre, like his brother Laeghaire, was a pagan, and, like Laeghaire, he had, doubtless, pledged his word to his great sire that he would live and die as his fathers, and have nothing to do with the new doctrines of the Tailcend from over the sea. But he was worse than Laeghaire, for apparently, even after the peace of Tara, he desired to slay Patrick, and not finding an opportunity of so doing, he scourged Patrick’s servants into the river at Tailteann, because, it seems, they would not inform against their master, and tell the tyrant where he was. Wherefore Patrick called him God’s foe; and foretold that his seed should serve the seed of his brother, “and of thy seed,” he added, “there never shall be a king.” Moreover, that river Sele, the modern Blackwater, which joins the Boyne at Navan, was also cursed with the doom of sterility. ‘There will never be salmon in that river owing to Patrick’s curse,’ says the Tripartite, and we believe if they are there still, they are very few. When the fish come to Navan they prefer the Boyne to the Blackwater, and go up the stream to the south rather than take the accursed waterway of Cairbre to the west.

Of this Cairbre we shall hear more hereafter. He was one of the eight sons of Niall the Great, four of whom permanently settled in Meath, and four in the north-west of Ireland, in a great territory which they had during the lifetime of their father acquired by the sword. The four who finally settled in Meath and became the ancestors of the Southern Hy Neill, were Laeghaire, Conall Cremthainn, Fiacha, and Maine. The four sons who settled in the North were Conall Gulban, ‘chief of the sons of Niall,’ Cairbre, Eoghan, and Enna. But some of these bold warriors retained their estates in Meath after their conquests in the North, and so we find Cairbre at Telltown, where, on this occasion, he probably presided at the great fair, but he certainly had a territory in Northern Teffia, which has long borne his name, as well as in Carbury of Drumcliff, a beautiful and famous land extending from the Owen More River at Ballysodare to the Erne at Ballyshannon. It was this Cairbre Mac Neill who now opposed St. Patrick at Telltown on the Blackwater.

It is evident from the Book of Armagh that the great gathering at Tara of the King’s satraps—the leaders, princes, and nobles of Erin—on Easter Sunday eve, was not the triennial Feis of Tara, which was a political assembly of the chiefs of the nation, but a ‘religious assembly,’ or, as the writer calls it, ‘an idolatrous assembly,’ under the direction of the Druids, convened for the purpose of celebrating some great religious festival. Some writers think it was the birthday celebration of Laeghaire himself, but the stringent ordinance forbidding the kindling of any fire before it was lighted in Tara, rather suggests a religious festival in connection with the Bel-tine, or May-day festival in honour of the sun-god. May-day, it is true, had not yet come, but this might have been a preliminary celebration in connection with the same solemnity, of which the games at Telltown also formed a part, and, doubtless, the chiefs and nobles of Tara went from the Royal Hill to take their own share in the great celebration on the banks of the river at Telltown.






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