Monday 1 April 2013

Saint Aedhan Laech of Cill-Aedhain, April 1

A northern saint starts off the month of April, Aedhan Laech. Although we have few details of his life, Canon O'Hanlon believes that scholar John O'Donovan, who published a translation of the Annals of the Four Masters, was correct to identify the place where Saint Aedhan flourished with Tamlacht, County Down and with a site which bears his name, Cill-Aedhain, literally 'Aidan's Church'. The Annals record a raid on this site in the 12th century. Even more interesting is the epithet which accompanies Saint Aedhan's name laech, a Gaelicization of the Latin laicus, a layman. A footnote to Canon O'Hanlon's text says that O'Reilly's Irish Dictionary translates this word as a 'soldier' or 'layman'. I will have to search my notebooks to look further into the context for this title as I know that I have somewhere noted the various classes of people associated with monasteries. We do not know when this saint flourished, but his commemoration is recorded in the earliest of the Martyrologies, that of Tallaght, written in the late 8th/early 9th century:

St. Aedhan Laech, of Cill-Aedhain, probably in The County of Down.

A saint is, in the highest sense, a true benefactor to the cause of humanity, although we may little discover about the particulars of his life. At this date, the Bollandists have "Aidanus Laech" entered, in their great work. In the Martyrology of Tallagh, we have inserted, at the 1st of April,' Aidan laech, i.e. Tamlachtain Bairci.' It is supposed, that this place was within the county of Down, if—as seems not unlikely—the present saint was connected with Cill-Aedhain, plundered A.D. 1149. The existing name and situation of Cill Aedhain do not appear to have been identified, until the late Dr. O'Donovan offered that solution, but the denomination is rendered Aedhan's Cell. The wording of this saint's festival, in the Tallagh Martyrology, seems to imply, that he was a "soldier," or "layman," in Tamlaght Boirche. If such be the case, his locality must be sought, among the mountains of Moume, in or near the parishes of Kilkeel, barony of Moume, or of Kilbrony, barony of Upper Iveagh, and county of Down. Perhaps, it might be identical with Killowen, in Kilbrony parish. In the townland of Lisnacree, at the south-west edge of the parish of Kilkeel, is the graveyard of Tamlacht chapel. On this day, we find Aedhan, of Cill Aedhan, in Ulster, registered in the Martyrology of Donegal, as having been venerated.

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