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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

There are two other things worthy of note in connection with Magh Slecht—first, St. Patrick’s Well, and, secondly, the church which he founded there. The Tripartite refers to the first very briefly:—“There at the ‘Plain of Adoration’ is Patrick’s Well, in which he baptised many.” A little to the north of Fenagh, just under the road to Magh Slecht, there is a round, deep, and limpid spring, under a spreading ash tree, which all the people regard as a holy well. We asked if it were St. Patrick’s Well. Yes, our informant thought so; and it is just such a well as St. Patrick would have blessed for the baptismal rite. It is close to a deep stream, coming out of the rock, over which there still remains in situ a splendid example of the dolmen or cromlech, which usually marks a hero’s grave. We know that Conal Gulban was killed at Fenagh by the Firbolgs, and it is highly probable that this monument marks his grave. But the well is not in Magh Slecht properly speaking, although near the mearing; it is rather in Magh Rein, and hence we can hardly think it is the holy well referred to in the Tripartite. There is another well, however, at Edentinny, close to the Field of Adoration, and it was either there or in the copious fountain that issues from the face of the rock itself, that Patrick baptised his converts on the great day when he overthrew the ancient idols.

It is also stated that he founded a church in that place, namely, Domnagh Mor Maige Slecht, and he left therein Methbrain, called also Patrick’s Barbarian, a relative of his own and a prophet, who foretold, as Tirechan adds, many wonderful things. There is no old church or churchyard, as far as we could ascertain, in the immediate neighbourhood of the place, and the church founded by Patrick must, as its name implies, have been an important one. Hence, we are inclined to think that this Domnach Mor is identical with the parish church of Ballinamore, some two miles to the east. It is called the Church of Oughteragh, or Oughterard, and has given its name to the whole parish, which was certainly a portion of the ancient Magh Slecht. We may add that the whole district is very interesting and is full of memorials of the past. Unfortunately we had no local seanachie to guide us in our explorations. The expression, however, used by Tirechan here is very significant. He says that Patrick sent his relation, the ‘Barbarian’ Methbrain, to the dyke of Slecht, where he founded this Domnach Mor. As we have already stated, the dyke appears to have been the low ground through which the great fountain flowed into the Dale river, and the church of Oughterard is really over this dyke or marshy hollow. The word Barbarian merely means that Methbrain was not like Patrick himself and most of his relatives, a Roman citizen, and hence the family of the Saint gave him this title as a cognomen, or rather nickname, although, as it is expressly stated, he was a relation of the Saint, and had, doubtless, like the rest of his relations, accompanied or followed Patrick from Britain to Ireland.






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