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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

From Aghagower Patrick fared into the district called Corcutemne; the Book of Armagh adds that he went to the well of Sini in that territory, which has not yet been certainly identified. This region of Corcutemne, of which we have no distinct mention elsewhere, is clearly the territory east of Aghagower, and north of the Lakes, which includes the Three Tuatha, as they were called, that is the Tuatha of Partry, the Tuatha of Manulla, and the Tuatha of the Attacots, which, in our opinion, is now comprised in the present small parish of Touaghty. These were certainly distinct districts, but still adjacent; they were all known as Tuatha in ancient times, and all contain ancient churches, which were, so far as we can judge, originally founded by St. Patrick. The Tuatha of Partry (Partrigia) extended north and south from ‘Caol to Faul,’ that is, from the bridge of Keel to Kilfaul, near Ballintober, at the northern extremity of Lough Carra. Whether the Tuatha of Magh na Beithighe, the Birch Plain, was in St. Patrick’s time included in this territory or not is uncertain; but later on it certainly was recognised as a distinct territory, and may have been one of the Three Tuatha to which reference is made in the Tripartite. It formed a considerable part of the parish of Ballintober. Manulla was certainly one of the Three Tuatha; it is called the Tuatha of Manulla by our best authorities, and the word is a fairly good rendering of the ancient name—Maige Fiondalbha—in the genitive case, of course. The present small parish of Touaghty represents the ancient Tuatha Aitheachta—that is the Tuatha of the Attacots or Firbolgs, who still kept their ground in the district.

Without investigating the matter too minutely, we may then safely conclude that Patrick, after spending his Easter at Aghagower, went to preach the Gospel in the great swelling plain to the east and north of the Lakes, now comprising the parishes of Ballyovey, Ballintober, Touaghty, Ballyhean, and Manulla.

O’Donovan says that ‘St. Patrick’s causeway, the name of an ancient road still traceable in many places, ran from the Abbey of Ballintober, in the barony of Carra, to Croaghpatrick.’ A glance at the map of the Co. Mayo will show that Croaghpatrick, Aghagower, Stringle Well, and Ballintober lie almost in a straight line due east and west.

But about Patrick’s Tochar or causeway we must say something more. As Patrick went from Tobur Stringle to Raithin, and thence to Aghagower, we think the roadway in question marks rather that by which he returned from the Holy Mountain to the Plains of Mayo, than the road which he followed from Tobur Stringle to Croaghpatrick by Aghagower.

It is to a great extent a matter of conjecture, more or less plausible; we can only give our own view. To go back, then, a little, it appears to us that Patrick, having left his nephew Lughnat at Tobur Loona, east of Lough Carra, either crossed the lake there or went round it at its southern extremity, and then continued his journey northward between the lakes of Mask and Carra, through the modern parish of Ballyovey, or Partry, until he came to Killavally on the line of the modern road to Westport. At that point we find many traces of the old road which he travelled until he came to Tobur Stringle ‘in the desert.’ On this occasion he did not touch at the place now called Ballintober; but he came to it at a later period when returning eastward from Croaghpatrick. On his return journey we think the road he travelled can be traced accurately enough, for in after ages it was the pilgrims’ road westward to Croaghpatrick. One who has great local knowledge says: ‘It can be very well traced from Croaghpatrick back to Drum (south of Castlebar); it passed from church to church, thus from Balla to Loona Church, where it is well marked, and thence by Gweeshadan Church to Drum Church, where it is well marked. Thence it is well ascertained (westward) to Ballintober, and from thence to Aghagower, passing in the way a small church marked on the map as Temple Shannagowna, near Bellaburke. From Aghagower it went by Cloghpatrick to Patrick’s Chair, and so up the hill. We have not been able to trace its course east of Balla, but feel sure it must have passed by Kiltamagh and Cloonpatrick, and Patrick’s Well to Balla.’

Now, in our opinion, this Tochar Phatraic fairly represents not merely the road of the pilgrims westward to the mountain, but also Patrick’s road eastward from the Mountain through the Plains of Mayo, and we are much disposed to follow its guidance.

Tirechan says that Patrick came from Oughaval by Aghagower ‘into the regions of Corcu Temne to the fountain Sini, in which he baptised many thousands of men and founded three churches’ in that neighbourhood.

The well Sini we take to be that which has ever since been called Tobur Phatraic, and the place itself Ballintober. It would be the first stage on his road coming eastward from Aghagower into the plains of Mayo. On the road he probably rested for a while at that Cloghpatrick which still bears his name and marks his road to Ballintober. There he would naturally stay and found his church. It was a fertile and populous district, for the soil, though shallow, was of limestone, and the herbage was green and luxurious, so that in after ages it was chosen as the site of a famous Augustinian abbey, founded by Cathal the Red-handed, in the beginning of the thirteenth century, which has lately been partially restored as the parish church. But, no doubt, what most attracted Patrick was the copious crystal stream bursting out at the foot of a low ridge, which he blessed, and with whose waters he baptised the many thousand converts who crowded around him on its verdant banks. One thing is quite clear, that Tobur Stringle ‘in the desert,’ was not Ballintober in the green meads at the head of the lake.

The old church of Touaghty, now within Tower Hill demesne, close to which is a Patrick’s Well, we take to be the second church founded by Patrick in this district. It is not unlikely that the third was either that old church of Drum, close to which Patrick’s Tochar passed, or perhaps the old church of Ballyhean, which is a little more to the west.

Patrick’s next move, we are told by Tirechan, was to the Well of Findmaige, which is called Slan or the Healer, ‘for the heathens and their wizards worshipped it as a god, and made immolations to its deity.’ Well-worship was common in ancient Erin as well as in ancient Greece and this particular well was greatly venerated by the heathen. We are told that it was square, and that a square stone closed the mouth of the well, but that the water forced its way through the joinings of the stones—quasi vestigium regale—marking, as it were, the footprints of the (dead) king; for the gentiles said that a certain dead prophet had made for himself a shrine (bibliothicam) in the water under the rock, so that his bones might be always kept cool by the stream, because he feared fire and adored the water.

Now this was told to Patrick, who in his great zeal for the living God, declared, “What you say is not true—that this fountain is the King of Waters;” and he further said to the assembled wizards and gentiles, and the crowds around him:—“Raise up the rock that we may all see what is under it—whether bones or not—because I say to you there are no bones under it, but I think from the cementing of the stones that there must be some gold or silver there, but certainly none of your foolish offerings made to the god.”

Now they tried to raise it, but were unable to do so. Then Patrick and his attendants blessed or exorcised the rock, and he said to the surging crowds: “Keep back a little, that you may see the power of my God, who dwelleth in the heavens.” Then stretching out his hands, he raised the rock out of the mouth of the well, and placed it on the other side over the orifice of the stream; ‘and it is there always.’ But in the well itself, beneath the stone, nothing was found except the water, wherefore the heathen believed in the Most High God. Then Patrick, being tired, sat down some distance off on the stone, which a certain Caeta, or Cata, had fixed for him; whereupon he baptised that youth, and said to him, “Your seed will be for ever blessed.” Then, it is added:—‘Cella Tog, in the regions of Corcu Temne, belonged to Patrick.’ Bishop Cainnech, Patrick’s monk, founded it. Whence we infer that this church of Kill-Tog was near the Well of Findmaige, and that Patrick left his disciple, Cainnech, to rule over it.

We agree with Knox in thinking that this well of Findmaige, called Slan, or the Healer, was the well near Manulla, at present called Adam’s Well. The name itself has been preserved in the mediæval documents, which describe the vicarage as Slanpatrick, the lands of which belonged to the Archbishop of Armagh, clearly showing that it was a Patrician church, and the Kill-Tog must be either at Manulla, or, perhaps, in its immediate neighbourhood at Breaghwy.

Neither Tirechan nor the Tripartite gives us any further particulars of the churches founded in this district. The name Aglish, the old church of Castlebar, would seem to imply that it was the most important church in that locality, and most likely founded by the Apostle. The ancient church of Turlough, some three miles north-east of Castlebar, appears to have been at one time even a still more important church, for the Round Tower attests its antiquity and celebrity. Moreover, it was, and, we think rightly, always regarded as a church founded by St. Patrick, and hence belonged to the Archbishop of Armagh.

We think, however, that on this occasion Patrick went no further north, as there was strife in the lands of the Hy Amalgaid. So he turned his steps eastwards to Balla, where there is a Patrick’s Well that marks his presence. Going further eastwards, there is another Patrick’s Well beyond Balla, on the road to Kiltamagh, which was, doubtless, the route the Saint followed on the return journey to Tara. From Kiltamagh he would go by Kilkelly through the Lower or Northern Ciarraige, until he came to Ailech Airtech, near Ballaghadereen, and so, crossing, the fords of the Lung River, he would revisit the churches he had founded in that locality.

Thus we find Patrick once more travelling in the Plains of the Sons of Erc, that is, in the Plains of Boyle, where a strange incident befel him.






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