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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

From Lough Dalla Patrick went eastward to Lecc Finn, that is towards the place where Ballina now stands. Lecc Finn, or the White Rock, was the name of a large stone cropping up on the summit of the high ground just over the old church of Kilmore Moy, and it is quite accurately described in the Tripartite, ‘as over the church to the west.’ It was afterwards called Lia na Monagh, or the Monk’s Stone, from St. Olcan, the founder of the church of ‘Kilmore Ochtair Muaide.’ This rock was a conspicuous object in the field, having on one side a smooth face, rising over the soil. On this face of the rock Patrick, who had special reverence for the symbol of our redemption, incised a cross, thus marking it out as the place of a church, ‘although there was no church there at that time.’ The old church has completely disappeared, although the graveyard remains, but Patrick’s Cross engraved on the face of the living rock still remains. It is sometimes covered with the earth which has risen up around the rock, but it is there; and by removing the clay the visitor may see it at any time, and surely the sacred spot is worthy of greater care than it has received from the local proprietors.

Bishop Olcan, who accompanied Patrick to this sacred spot, was probably his own nephew, the son of his sister, Richella, as has been already explained. Olcan carried an axe on his back for the purpose, it seems, of procuring timber for his new church, but Patrick had not yet fixed the exact site. “Go and and build it,” said the Saint, “at the spot where the axe will fall from your shoulder—there your residence will be.” The axe fell at the place ‘where Kilmore Moy is to-day,’ just under the White Rock, and there Olcan built his church, on a very beautiful site, close to the highway from Ballina to Killala, and not more than half-a-mile from the former town. It was, in fact, the parish church of Ballina, on the left bank of the river.

Just beneath the old church there flows a bounteous spring, ‘right in the doorway of Kilmore Moy,’ as the Tripartite says, and along the high road that passes close to it. This well, or stream, was just then the scene of a wondrous miracle, as recorded in the Tripartite. Eochaid, son of the great King Dathi, was, it seems, ruler of the district, and was baptised in this well. His wife, Echtra, had died a short time before, and he besought Patrick to raise her to life. Patrick heard his prayer; and ‘he raised Echtra to life at Ath-Echtra (that is the Ford of Echtra), over the little stream, right in the doorway of Kilmore. And Echtra’s grave-mound is on the edge of the Ford. It is in the knowledge of them in this country’—the story which commemorates this miracle. The grave-mound of Echtra was there until quite recently, when an ‘improving’ farmer levelled it to manure his field; but the spot is still pointed out: and we can testify that the story is still green in the memory of the people. The writer of the Tripartite is perfectly candid. He points to the tradition of the locality, as the evidence of the miracle, and hence he is so precise in defining the places referred to; and, as usual, his description is perfectly accurate. Tirechan, in the Book of Armagh, makes no reference to this miracle; but his account is confessedly brief and imperfect.

Then Patrick faced again northwards, and passing on beyond Killala he came to the place called Lecc Balbeni, where he found the sons of Amalgaid ‘and blessed them.’ There can hardly, we think, be any doubt that ‘Lecc Balbeni, or the Stone of Balbeni,’ is the very striking pillar-stone, standing near the strand at the head of Lackan Bay; placed there, no doubt, to mark the grave of some ancient hero, who probably perished in the tide-way. St. Patrick’s Well, a deep and beautiful spring, stands near the pillarstone, and of itself points to the presence of the Saint in the district. It was there he probably baptised the people of that remote territory.

The Tripartite does not follow the Saint further north; but there can be no doubt that on this occasion he crossed the hill over Lackan Bay, and journeyed to the very remarkable promontory that still bears his name, that is, Downpatrick Head.






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