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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

From Ardagh Patrick went some twelve miles north and by east to Granard ‘in the dark land of northern Teffia.’ So it is described in the Book of Rights, most probably because it was the territory of the accused Cairbre, and it was a gesa, or unlucky thing, for ‘a true king to go at all on a Tuesday’ into that dark country. Cairbre’s royal dun was at Granard, and perhaps the great moat marks the stern old warrior’s grave. But though an unbeliever himself, his sons seem to have been Christians, for it is stated that Granard was offered to Patrick as the place of a church by Cairbre’s sons. The old chief himself was, it would appear, either accidentally absent at the time or kept away on purpose, for he had good reason to fear the Tailcend’s curse. So Patrick founded a church at Granard, and he left there Guasacht, son of his old master, Milcho, and therefore his own foster-brother, as the Tripartite calls him. But the Book of Armagh speaks of him and his sisters as the foster-children of Patrick, because whilst he was yet a slave he cared them and taught them in secret the Christian religion, for he feared much the Magus, that is, their then father. He left there also the two Emers, his own foster-sisters, as they were daughters of Milcho, and had accompanied their brother Guasacht all the way from their far-off northern home to Granard.

This incident reveals a beautiful trait of tender human affection in Patrick’s character. It would appear that when Milcho burned himself in his flaming dun, Patrick took over the guardianship of his son and two daughters. He attached them to his own religious family, and had Guasacht trained for the sacred ministry, and now he placed him, the very first of all his Irish disciples, over this church of Granard. His sisters, the two Emers, he consecrated as virgins to God—the very first of the daughters of Erin whom he veiled for Christ—and he placed them near their brother at a place called Clonbroney, which must, we think, be regarded as the first convent of nuns established in Ireland. Then the Tripartite adds: ‘It is the airchindech,’ or chief cleric of Granard, who ‘ordains’ the head of the nuns, that is, appoints the reverend mother in Clonbroney. ‘Now when Patrick blessed the veil on the aforesaid virgins, their four feet went into the stone, and the traces of their feet remain there for ever.’ Clonbroney, which still gives title to a parish, is midway between Granard and Longford, about six miles from the former town. The old graveyard in the centre of the parish marks, it is said, the site of the convent where the two first of that great host of Irish maidens, who in every age since that distant day have given their pure young hearts to God, lived and died in peace. Surely it is a sacred spot, and if it could be ascertained, even from local tradition, where the holy maidens rest, it would be a fitting thing to mark the sacred spot with some appropriate memorial.






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