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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

‘Thereafter Patrick went to Magh Selce, that is to Duma Selce, where the six sons of Brian were biding, namely, Bolc the Red, Derthacht, Eichen, Cremthann, Coelcharna, and Echaid.’ This Brian, son of Eochy Moyvane, was the great ancestor of all the Connaught Kings, and the elder brother, by a different mother, of Niall of Nine Hostages. The six named above were therefore first cousins of King Laeghaire, and if the succession went by seniority would have even a better claim than he to the throne of Erin. Magh Ai was, however, their father’s territory; and so we find them now not far from Cruachan. It has been said, indeed, that Magh Selce was the plain around Castlehacket, west of Tuam, in the Co. Galway; but the whole course of the narrative here points to it as a part of Magh Ai, and we think it can be clearly identified therein. It means the Plain of the Chase.

Here is the narrative of what took place at Magh Selce:—

Patrick wrote three names in that place on three stones, to wit, JESUS, SOTER, SALVATOR—the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin names of the Saviour. And he blessed the Hy Briuin from Duma Selce and Patrick’s Seat is there among the three stones, on which he inscribed the letters. The names of the Bishops who were with him there are Bron (Biteus), of Cashel Irre; Sachell, of Baslic Mor in Ciarraige; Brochaid of Imlech Ech, brother of Lomman of Trim; Bronach the Priest; Rodan, Cassan, Benen, Patrick’s successor, and Benen, brother of Cethech; Bishop Felart, and a nun, a sister of his, and another sister who is in an island in the sea of Conmacne, namely, Croch (now Cruach), of Cuil Conmacne. And he founded a church on Loch Selce, namely, Domnach Mor Maige Selce, in which he baptised the Hy Briuin and blessed them.

This narrative is highly interesting and instructive. Patrick’s purpose was always to gain the chiefs, for then he could easily win their followers. These six princes, named above, were the chiefs of a great part of Connaught, and hence he sought them out, instructed, and baptised them, and erected these enduring memorials in stone that there might be some monument to commemorate the great event. Carnfree, near Tulsk, was, from time immemorial, the place where the Kings of Connaught were inaugurated. It was the centre of their royalty, and hence we find that Patrick erected this memorial close to the place to be a testimony to future ages of their reception of Christianity, and their renunciation of paganism. Oran, where we last left him, is only a few miles to the south, and from Oran, according to the narrative, he came straight to meet the princes at Magh Selce. We conclude, therefore, that it was somewhere in Magh Ai, not far from Oran, and that there was a lake in the place, and a church was founded either on the shore or in an island of that lake. The parish of Killukin, north of Oran, includes or borders on Carnfree; in that parish is a lake, now called Ardakillin Lake; on its shores stood the old church of Killukin, and that we believe was the place where the Hy Briuin of Magh Ai were baptised, and where Patrick set up the memorial stones. The holy well of their baptism is on the lake’s shore.

Then, again, St. Patrick’s church at Castlehacket is referred to later on in the Tripartite as Domnach Mor Maige Seolai, which is quite a different name from Domnach Mor Maige Selce; it proves in fact that the two plains and the two churches were quite different. Moreover, we know that the princes of the O’Conor line had in after ages a famous castle or fort at this very place which is called in the Annals Ard an Choillin, now Ardakillin. The ancient mounds still remain near the shore of the lake in the townland of Ardakillin; so there can hardly be a doubt that these mounds are the Dumae Selga referred to in the Tripartite, which continued to be for many centuries a stronghold of the O’Conors, especially of O’Conor Roe, after The O’Conor Don had set up further west in his great castle of Ballintober. The exact situation of the old castle of O’Conor Roe was on the northern shore of the lake, close to the high road, about two miles to the west of Strokestown.

St. Patrick’s sojourn in this district is further confirmed by existing memorials. For instance, there is a St. Patrick’s well on the shore of Ardakillin Lake which marks the presence of the Saint in the district not far, we believe, from the very spot where he set up the three memorial stones to commemorate the conversion of the Hy Briuin princes to the Christian faith. Local traditions also still vividly testify to the presence of St. Patrick in that locality.






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