St. Patrick in South Tipperary

In Archbishop Healy’s fascinating Life of St. Patrick, recently published by Sealy, Bryers, & Walker of Dublin, some very interesting particulars are given of the great Saint’s journeys through Tipperary County. From Callan he passed by Mullinahone and Fethard to Cashel, then the second royal court of importance, and received King Aengus and his family into the Christian faith, and obtained full authority to preach the Gospel in Munster. The reason St. Patrick did not found a church on the rock or create a Bishop of Cashel was probably due to the fact that St. Ailbe had set up his see at Emly close by, and St. Patrick was loath to erect a new jurisdiction in his territory. Cashel remained a royal residence down to 1101, when it was handed over by the king, Murtagh O’Brien, to the senior Bishop of Munster, and it thenceforward became the seat of the Archbishops of Munster “St. Patrick’s Stone,” surmounted by an ancient cross, is still on the rock. It stood there ages before St. Patrick, and was, without doubt, the stone on which the ancient kings of Cashel were consecrated. From Cashel, St. Patrick journeyed into Muskerry, or Clanwilliam, and established many churches and monasteries during his visits to Golden, Kilfeacle, Tipperary, Callan, Oola, and Kilteely. Passing round through County Limerick to Fermoy, he entered the Northern Deisi through Mitchelstown and Clogheen, and towards’the Suir at Ardfinnan.

“Somewhere there Patrick was kept awaiting the king of the country, named Fergair, son of Ross. On his arrival the Saint said to him – “Thou hast come slowly.” “The country was very stiff,” said the king; sure enough it was a stiff country between the Knockmealdowns and the Galtees, and so Patrick said, but he did not believe the excuse to be genuine, for he added “A king shall never come from thee. What delayed you to-day?” “Rain delayed us,” said the king. “Your tribal gatherings shall be showery,” said Patrick.
“Patrick’s Well is in that place, and there is the church of MacClarid, one of Patrick’s household. Moreover, the Deisi held their gatherings at night, for Patrick left that word upon them, since it was at night they came to him.” In this way, doubtless, they hoped to escape the penalties threatened by Patrick.

There is a Patrick’s Well in the parish of Inislounaght, near Clonmel, which is probably the place here referred to. If so, it is likely that Patrick crossed the river Tar at Clogheen, and the Suir at Ardfinnan, and so came to Patrick’s Well. This confirmed by the narrative – a Patrick cursed the streams of that place, because his books had been drowned in them – thrown, perhaps, into the river at the ford – and the fishermen had refused to give him fish. And although they were fruitful heretofore, he said that there would be no mills on these streams, but ‘the mills of the foreigners would be nigh to them’ -perhaps at Clonmel or Waterford. The ‘foreigners’ were, doubtless, the Danes. But he blessed the Suir and its banks, and that river is fruitful except where the other streams enter it. These streams must be either the river Tar or Nar, or both, for they enter the Suir from different directions quite close to each other. If Patrick went from Ardfinnan to Clonmel he would pass by the parish of Tubbrid, famous for all time as the birthplace and parish of Geoffrey Keating, the greatest of our Irish historians.

In the Life of St. Declan it is said that having himself yielded due submission to Patrick at Cashel, at his return he besought the chieftain of the Deisi, who dwelt at a place called Hynneon, to go with his followers and meet the Apostle, to receive baptism at his hands, and gain the blessing for himself and his tribesmen. But the stubborn chieftain refused, and Declan found it necessary to choose another leader named Fearghal, who duly submitted to Patrick, and gave him large grants of land not far from the Suir, perhaps at Donoughmore, where the name implies that Patrick founded a church. The name of this unbelieving chieftain is called Lebanny, and he is, perhaps, the same who came late to visit Patrick, and may, perhaps, have refused to receive baptism for himself and his people at his hands. The place where he dwelt is called Hynneon, which, according to Hennessy, is identical with Mulloghnoney, about two miles north-west of Clonmel. Perhaps Rathronan in that neighbourhood contains the same name. Knockgraffon, still further north, was certainly a royal palace at the time, and this chieftain of the Deisi may have dwelt there. From Clonmel of the Deisi, Patrick journeyed north, likely to Cashel, and then on to the Ormond country.”

The Patrick’s Well above referred to is situate in one of the prettiest glens in all Tipperary. During the centuries that have elapsed since our National Apostle rested there, it has been a spot sacred in the sight of the people, and it will ever remain so. Even down to our own times it has been a favourite resort, especially on St. Patrick’s day, and many remember the proocession of thousands of citizens, who followed the famous Clonmel brass band on the annual 17th of March pilgrimages to the historic well. The spring rises at the foot of an ancient tree, in the centre of the glen, and on the wooded hill close by are to be seen the ruins of an old chapel. Within late years the place had become rather neglected, and visitors found some difficulty in reaching the well.

It was also discovered that parties were taking away pieces of the old monumental stones in the little chapel. A few prominent citizens interested themselves in the matter, and with the prompt and generous help of the present owner of the land, Mr. P. Condon, had some much-needed improvements carried out. When commenting on this good work at the time, we expressed the hope that it would be continued until a complete finish was put on it. We are pleased to see that the ivy on the mined church is neatly trimmed, the bed of the stream is cleaned down to the old cross, the pathway is continued from the well to the church. One can now walk from the road on a substantial crossing (with a hand-rail) which runs down to the first tree inside the stile. This rather steep part is perfectly safe, and the passage to the well is easy and clean. As the tree over the well was decaying, portion of it was cut away; ivy is planted at the base, and we trust it will be protected by visitors. When the old well was being cleared out some portions of the stones which formed the altar in the church were discovered at the bottom. The gentlemen who had these works done deserve every thanks for their kindness in improving this historic and favourite spot, and rendering it more easy of access to the large numbers desirous of visiting it.

written by B. J. LONG.

published in the “Nationalist.”

Taken from
“My Clonmel Scrapbook.
County Tipperary.
Famous Trials,
Sketches, Stories,
Ballads, &c.”
Compiled && Edited by James White
Second 1000 ; Published E. Downey & Co., Waterford ; 1907 ; No. ISBN