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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

Not so, young Prince Conall. He either accompanied Patrick from the West, or met him on the eastern shore of the river. Patrick was greatly pleased with this affectionate and generous devotion. “Arise, O Conall,” he said, “thou must take the crozier”—the bachal, or symbol of ecclesiastical authority. “If God wills it I am even ready to do so” (that is to become a cleric) said Conall. “Not so,” said Patrick, “for the sake of thy tribe and their heritage thou shalt be a warrior, but thou shalt bear the crozier on thy shield, and thou shalt be Conall of the Crozier Shield. Dignity of laymen and clerics from thee, and every one of thy descendants in whose shield shall be the sign of my crozier, his warriors shall never be turned in flight.” ‘Which thing Patrick did for him,’ adds the Tripartite.

Thou shalt not be a Priest, he said;

Christ hath for thee a lowlier task;

Be thou His soldier! Wear with dread

His Cross upon thy shield and casque!

Put on God’s armour, faithful knight!

Mercy with justice, love with law;

Nor e’er except for truth and right

Thy sword, cross-hilted, dare to draw.

A. DE VERE.

Conall had given his inheritance to Patrick, and he was ready to give himself also to his service; but Patrick rather made him the champion of the Church as well as of his tribe, to defend the rights of both under Patrick’s special protection. Lands thus given over, or ‘immolated’ to St. Patrick, were not forgotten by his successors in Armagh. So we find in the ‘Additions’ to Tirechan that the Hy Fiachrach immolated to Patrick for ever the plain of the North, between the Gleoir and the Ferni, with all the tenants (servis) ministering to them therein. This northern plain by the sea extended from Enniscrone, where Patrick landed, north-eastwards to the Gleoir, which O’Donovan has shown is the Leaffony River, that flows into Killala Bay about three miles north of Enniscrone. It contained the ancient church of Kilglass and the Castle of Leacan Mac Firbis, a name that will for ever be dear to Irish scholars as the ancestral home of a race of hereditary antiquaries, whose learning and diligence were never excelled, not even by their ancient fellowtribesmen, the renowned O’Clerys of Donegal. Leacan by the sea knows them no more; their castle is now a ruin, and the last and greatest of the masters fell by the hand of a vile assassin in 1666, when there was no law for Catholics in Ireland; but the name of Mac Firbis of Leacan will never be forgotten in their native land whilst the ancient tongue is spoken and the ancient learning is prized by her sons.

It was here, according to Tirechan, that Patrick founded a church, ‘juxta fossam Rigbairt,’ that is at Rath-Rigbairt; but the exact site has not been determined. It was probably near Kilglass by the Moy, although O’Donovan says a place of this name was near Killasbughbrone, not far from the town of Sligo. It is quite clear, however, from the Tripartite, that Rath-Rigbairt was near the Moy at this place, for it tells us that as Patrick came over the river into Grecraide three wizards sought to poison him at Rath-Rigbairt, but failed in the attempt. St. Patrick’s progress now lay eastward through Tireragh, by the coast road towards Sligo. Few particulars are given of his journey through this district, but, as usual, the statements of the Tripartite are strikingly accurate from the topographical point of view.

We are told that ‘he went eastward into the territory of the Hy Fiachrach by the Sea.’ The Hy Fiachrach here referred to are known as the Hy Fiachrach of the Moy—whose principal seat was on the right bank of the river—and they have given their name to the territory since known as Tireragh. They took their tribe name from Fiachra, son of the great King Dathi, whereas the race of which they were only a sub-division took their name from Dathi’s father, Fiachra, the son of Eochy Moyvane.

Now as Patrick was advancing eastward by the sea road, which still exists, we are told that ‘a water opposed him,’ that is, a great unnatural flood therein, and he cursed it. Many an angry water comes down to that wild coast from the slopes of the Ox Mountains when the rain clouds of the west sweep over their summits, but the Easky River is perhaps worst of all in times of flood. Its deep bed is strewn with granite boulders carried down by the raging waters, still its name implies that it is a fishful river though its unnatural floods angered the Apostle so much as to merit a malediction. This ‘cursing’ of the river could be understood if the proprietor brought it upon himself by his opposition to the Gospel, as often happened; but the mere fact that angry waters swollen by the rains barred the Apostle’s progress is, of itself, scarcely a reason for cursing the impetuous stream. Every impediment to the progress of the Gospel throughout the land more or less ruffled the apostolic zeal of St. Patrick; and it is not unlikely that the traditional narrative may express his impatience of delay in stronger language than he really used. Our Saviour, no doubt, ‘cursed’ the fig-tree because it was barren, but there at least there was a moral lesson intended to be conveyed. Perhaps Patrick, too, if indeed he ‘cursed’ the river, intended that his followers should learn, even from inanimate things, a similar moral lesson concerning the wickedness of impeding, in any way, the progress of Gospel.

‘By that water there was a stead, Buale Patraic is its name, that is Patrick’s byre or shed, and there is a small round cross thereon.’ From this we gather that Patrick found it necessary to await the subsiding of the flooded stream, and built a shed for himself and his family on the bank, which as usual he marked with the symbol of the Cross. There was a church built afterwards on that left bank of the river, at the same place, but Patrick’s Byre was, no doubt, the original church where the Apostle and his companions celebrated the Sacred Mysteries whilst they waited for the subsidence of the rushing waters; for it is added, ‘he tarried there a little while.’

His course still lay east by the shore, through the ‘mead-abounding Muirisc,’ that is the Sea Plain, which, says O’Donovan, extended eastwards from the Easky River to the stream which flows into the sea between the townlands of Ballyeeskeen and Dunnacoy. It is now called the Ballymeeny River. The Calraige probably dwelt there still as tenants, but the chiefs seem to have been of the Hy Fiachrach. In after times O’Conmy ruled this district, and one of the family even now worthily rules the ancient See of St. Muredach.

There, we are told, probably at Duncontreathain, where the chief dwelt, “Patrick met Bishop Bron, son of Icni, and he blessed another youth, (afterwards) Bishop Mac Rime, of Cell-Corcu-Roide, and also Bishop Muirethacus, who dwelt on the Bratho, and he wrote elements for them.”

This passage is very significant. It seems to imply that the three prelates were natives of this district, that Bron was already there, for Patrick is said to have come to him there—apud Bronum filium Icni—then ‘they’ wrote elements for the two youths, Mac Rime and Muirethacus, who are called ‘bishops’ by anticipation. Mac Rime here referred to is called Mac Rime of Cell Corcu Roide in the Tripartite; it is the place called Corcagh by Mac Firbis, and the name is still retained at Aughros, in the parish of Templeboy. The church of Corcu Roide, where Bishop Mac Rime dwelt, was, in all probability, the old church of Templeboy. The Bratho where Muredach dwelt was the river now known as the Borrach of bright streams, as Mac Firbis calls it, which flows into the sea east of Aughris Head; and there can hardly be any doubt, as we have said above, that he was the Muredachus whom St. Patrick at a later date placed over the See of Killala. Bron of Cashel Irra appears to have been their senior, and, in some degree, their teacher, although the Tripartite, which makes no mention here of Muredach, says that Patrick wrote elements there for Bron and Bishop Mac Rime. It is more likely, however, that Tirechan is correct in stating that ‘they,’ Patrick and Bron, wrote the elements for the other two younger men, one of whom is expressly stated to have been a youth, ‘filium,’ if the word does not signify that he was the son of Bron himself. This, so far as we can judge, was Patrick’s last stage in the diocese of Killala as at present circumscribed.






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