The History of Ireland - III.

III.

While Patrick was planting the Faith in Ireland in the time of Laoghaire, Aonghus, son of Natfraoch was king of Munster, and when Patrick proceeded to Munster to preach, this Aonghus, son of Natfraoch, came to Magh Feimhean in the northern Deise to welcome him, and conducted him to the royal residence of Cashel in Eoghanacht, which is now called Middlethird, and there Aonghus accepted faith and baptism from him. Thus speaks an old Life of Patrick which we quoted above in treating of Niall: "As he was going into Munster, Aonghus, son of Natfraoch, king of Munster, came to meet him to Magh Feimhean in the country of the Deise, and joyfully conducted him to the royal seat which is called Cashel in the district of Eoghanacht, and there king Aonghus believed and was baptized."[485] And in the same passage it is stated that it was through the foot of Aonghus that St. Patrick drove the point of his crozier. Here is what we read therein: "As St. Patrick was standing and giving a blessing to the king, he drove the point of his blessed crozier into the king's foot."[486] From this it is to be inferred that it was through the foot of Aonghus, son of Natfraoch, king of Munster, that Patrick drove the point of his crozier, and not through the foot of Eoghan, son of Niall, king of Ulster. Even a learned seancha of Leath Guinn, to wit, Torna, son of Muiris O Maolconaire, agrees with the above in a poem beginning, "The bishops' blessing on the race of Eibhear." Thus does he speak:

Through the foot of Aonghus, great the discomfort,
Went the point of Patrick's crozier;
So that the floor was covered with his blood,
The deed is no whispered gossip.

This Aonghus had twenty-four sons and twenty-four daughters, and of these he gave twelve sons and twelve daughters to the Church. It was this Aonghus also who imposed Patrick's capitation screaball, that is, three pence for each person who should receive baptism in Munster, and this tax was paid in the following manner, to wit, five hundred cows, five hundred balls of iron, five hundred mantles, five hundred inner garments and five hundred sheep to be given every third year to the comhorba of Patrick as rent from the kings of Munster. And this rent was paid up to the time of Cormac, son of Cuileannan. Moreover, we read in the Red Book of Mac Aodhagain that Aonghus, son of Natfraoch, used to keep in constant attendance on himself two bishops and ten priests and seventy-two young clerics for the purpose of saying Masses and of Divine psayer.

When Patrick was planting the Faith in Ireland in the time of Laoghaire, Brian, son of Eochaidh Muighmeadhon, had twenty-four sons, who were contemporaries of Laoghaire, son of Niall; and as Patrick was blessing Ireland he went into Connaught and went to meet the son amongst them who was their leader, whose name was Eichen. When this man saw Patrick coming into his presence he mounted his horse and proceeded to lash it, and directed his brothers to do likewise and not to show reverence to the cleric; and they acted accordingly, except the youngest son, whose name was Duach Galach. This man kept on foot, and advanced to meet Patrick and bade him welcome and paid him homage and respect. Upon this Patrick went forward and came into the presence of Eichen, who was their leader, and asked him if he were not Eichen. "I am not," said Eichen. "If thou beest, "replied Patrick, "I deprive of success and of sovereignty both thee and as many of they brothers as are with thee, except the one youth who paid me reverence and honour for my Lord's sake." And that youth said if he were king over them he would do Patrick's bidding. "Then," said Patrick, "I bless thee, and thou shalt be king, and thy seed shall have the kingdom after thee." And Patrick's prophecy came true, for Patrick with twelve bishops attended at the inauguration of Duach Galach as king, and it was the custom with the kings of Connaught ever since to have the comhorbas of these twelve bishops and twelve chiefs of the race of Muireadhach and Ui Maolconaire at their inauguration on the hill called Cam Fraoich.

There were 431 years from the birth of Christ to the coming of Patrick to Ireland in the fourth year of the reign Laoghaire, son of Niall, as we have said; and he was sixty-one years in Ireland up to his death, and if this number be added to the previous number, we get four hundred and ninety-two years; and in testimony of this the seanacha composed this stanza:

Since Christ was born, pleasant reckoning,
Four hundred and ninety also
And two full years added thereto
Till the death of Patrick our chief Apostle.

We read in the life of Patrick that he passed sixty-one years in Ireland after he had come hither as bishop, planting and preaching the gospel and working wonders and miracles, as we read in a Life of Patrick by a certain author. Thus does he speak:

Three score years and one
Few there are to whom it is not a mystery,
In Ireland with many prodigies
Did Patrick continue to preach.

And should anyone say that this stanza is not in the Life of Patrick, let him know that we have read in an ancient historical record that there were sixty-four Lives of Patrick written, each of them being distinct from the others. And it is likely that each writer wrote something new about Patrick which none of the others had written. Hence, one who has read the life of Patrick by one author, must not deem it strange if he happen on a story or miracle of Patrick in another book which he did not find in that life.

It was in Laoghaire's time that Dubhthach Ua Lughair and Fearghus File and Ros son of Trichim, brought the Seanchus of Ireland to Patrick to be approved and purified by him. And from this it arose that Laoghaire was empowered to call a general assembly in which the kings, clerics, and ollamhs of Ireland should meet for the purpose of purifying the Seanchus. And when they had all come together nine were chosen from among them to purify the Seanchus, to wit, three kings, three bishops, and three ollamhs in seanchus. The three kings were Laoghaire, son of Niall, king of Ireland, Daire, king of Ulster, and Corc, son of Lughaidh, king of Munster. The three bishops were Patrick, Beinen and Cairneach. The three ollamhs in seanchus were Dubhthach, Fearghus and Ros. And these nine men purified and arranged and established the Seanchus, and it was this that was called the Seanchus Mor. The poem which begins "Aimhirgin Gluingheal "confirms this account. Here follow the stanzas from the poem that bear out this account:

The authors of the Seanchus Mor
Were nine who set it in order rightly,
Naoimhfhios is its fair noble name,
By reason of the sacred learning of that nine.

Patrick, Beinen, noble Carineach,
Laoghaire, son of Niall the strong,
Fearghus File, laughter pure,
And Daire king of Ulster.

And the king of Munster without stain,
Corc, son of Lughaidh of the red hand,
Dubhthach Ua Lughair of the lake,
The professor of language, Ros son of Trichim.

Nine sages, of wise aspect,
By whom the Seanchus was set in order
After they had examined it with excellent skill
Through every generation from Aimhirgin.

Previous Next