Canon O'Hanlon presents a very long account of an early saint commemorated on 18 August, Daigh of Iniskeen. The life of Saint Daigh is full of interest, not only does he pursue the monastic life in the company of exalted contemporaries such as Mochta of Louth and Ciaran of Clonmacnoise, but he is also famous as a skilled craftsman and scribe. Indeed, this saint is mentioned in the triads of Ireland as one of the 'three chief artisans of Ireland' who are listed as: 'Tassach with Patrick, Conlaed with Brigit, and Daig with Ciaran'. Canon O'Hanlon's account contains a number of the miracles recorded in the Life of Saint Daigh but I will look at these on another occasion. For now, here are the main details of his biography distilled from Volume 8 of the Lives of the Irish Saints:
ST. DAIGH OR DAGEUS, BISHOP, OF INIS-CAOIN-DEAGHA, NOW INISKEEN, IN THE COUNTY OF LOUTH.
[FIFTH AND SIXTH CENTURIES.]
That the present saint had been greatly venerated in Ireland, and also from the early times of Christian regeneration, may well be inferred, from those acquirements and miraculous powers attributed to him, in the old Acts of his Life, which still remain. In the most ancient of our Irish Calendars, his Feast has been inserted, while allusions to him are contained in the Lives of other Irish saints, who were his contemporaries. ..
The very fact of St. Daigh Mac Cairill having been inserted in the "Feilire" of St. Aengus, at the 18th day of August, with a distinguished eulogy, ‘A man of grace for our wheat was Daig, the good and great son of Cairell’ is proof sufficient of his having a legitimate claim on our veneration, and it gives, likewise, the correct date for his Festival. A scholiast has added further particulars, regarding his descent, place, and profession. The commentator notes in Irish, what is here rendered into English: "Daig, son of Coirell, a smith and an artist and a choice scribe was this Daig. He it is that made 300 bells and 300 croziers and 300 Gospels and chief artist to Ciaran of Saigir was he." It is evident, that the most ancient Acts of this holy man were not written by a synchronus, from certain allusions to matters, which took place long after the time of St. Daygaeus. It would seem to have been Colgan's intention, as we learn from his posthumous list of Manuscripts, to have issued the Acts of St. Dagous, the present saint, at the 18th of August. The Bollandists' writers have published, with a previous commentary in ten paragraphs, the Acts of St. Dega Maccayrill, Bishop and Confessor, in two chapters and seventeen paragraphs, at the 18th of August. These have been taken from a Salamancan Manuscript in their possession, and they are a production of some anonymous writer. The Acts of St. Dagaeus are contained, also, in a Manuscript, belonging to the Burgundian Library at Bruxelles and these have been lately edited by Fathers Carolus de Smedt and Joseph de Backer, at the expense of the Right Hon. John Patrick Marquis of Bute. Bishop Challoner merely observes, at this date, that the Life of St. Dega, written by one of his countrymen, is but modern, and full of nothing but prodigies. However, this description is not quite correct, as it contains some statements of historic interest and value. At this date, likewise, the Petits Bollandistes have some brief notices of St. Dagée Maccayrill.
The old Acts of our saint state, that his father's name was Cayrell, son of Dorona while his mother is called Dechidu, the daughter of Massan. The father is said to have been the fifth in descent from Niall of the Nine Hostages. According to the O'Clerys, he belonged to the race of Eoghan, son to Niall; while Dedi, daughter of Trian, son to Dubhtach Hui Lughair, was his mother. She had been married to four different husbands, and in the first instance, to Cayrell or Cairrell, as the name is indifferently written; and by him, she had two children, renowned for their sanctity, the present saint, and his sister Feme, Virgin and Martyr… This saint's name has been given variedly as Dega, Daigh, Dageus, Daygaeus and Daganus. He was born in the territory of Kiennacta Breagh, sometimes called Kiennacta Arda. This territory was situated in the eastern part of the kingdom of Meath, and a sub-section of this people was also seated in Fingal, northwards from the city of Dublin. It is also to be distinguished from the Kiennacta of Uladh, now the barony of Keenaght, in the County of Londonderry. Daigh had an uncle, named Lassrian, who ruled as Abbot over the monastery of Damhinis, now Devenish; but who happened to be there, in a little monastery, at the time of Dega's birth, and in that he was baptized.
While yet a boy, his parents placed their child under the care of his uncle Lasarian to be instructed in letters. It appears, that abbot had a brother, who was a deacon, and through whose training, likewise, Dega made great progress in his studies. One day, having occasion to visit St. Mochta, who lived in his monastery at Louth, the deacon brought Dega with him. When these visitors arrived at the guest-house, the boy was left there, and the deacon went to see the venerable senior Mochta, so that he might confer with that Abbot about some matters of business. Meantime, while they were thus engaged, it appeared to the monks, that the house in which the boy was left had been surrounded with flames, which they ran at once to extinguish. There Dega was found, but uninjured by that fire. Whereupon, they hastened to their holy Abbot with an account of such a remarkable occurrence. Then, in the spirit of prophecy, Mochta said: " That boy shall be inflamed with the fire of the Holy Spirit, and therefore not inaptly shall he be called Dayg," which in the Scottish language, means a great flame.' Then, the holy Abbot ordered the boy to be brought to him, and he was received with great joy. Taking him by the hand, Mochta said: "This is the physician, whom I have seen formerly in the spirit, and who is destined to heal my three infirmities." These were pains in the head, in the heart, and in the reins. Whereupon, placing the boy's hand on those parts affected, St. Mochta was immediately healed. Wherefore, blessing the hand, which had wrought those cures, the holy Abbot said: "Many a church vessel and ornament in gold, in silver, in brass, and in iron, shall proceed from that hand, and moreover, many an elegant volume shall it write. That hand also shall administer the Body and Blood of Christ to me in the Holy Communion, when I am about to be called out of this world. Moreover, that hand shall fashion the reliquary in which my mortal remains are to be enclosed, and whatever may be useful in such way, it shall likewise accomplish. This prediction was afterwards fulfilled.
Afterwards Daig became a celebrated artificer. This holy man is said to have fashioned no less than one hundred and fifty bells, and one hundred croziers. He likewise made cases or covers for sixty Gospels—i.e., books containing the writings of the four Evangelists. Such is the O'Clerys account, and in confirmation of it they quote an Irish quatrain, of which the following is an English translation :—
"Thrice fifty bells, victorious deed,
With one hundred strong-ringed croziers,
With sixty perfect gospels,
By the hand of Daigh alone."
Besides these, it is stated, that he manufactured shrines, cases, chalices, pyxes, dishes, altariola, baculi, crucifixes, and chrysmals. We are informed, moreover, that while some of these were plainly made, others were highly wrought with gold, silver and precious stones, which were added as ornaments to them. This holy man particularly distinguished himself by his assiduity in transcribing sacred books, as by his ingenuity in making elegant covers for them. Also, bells, cymbals, and utensils he fashioned, for the service of the Church, and many of these he distributed gratis in various parts of Ireland….
Having heard the prediction of St. Mochta already related, the Deacon asked him further questions, regarding the boy's future vocation. Then said Mochta: "Between me and the mountain northwards, he shall found a beautiful monastery." The Deacon then asked, if that should be under his jurisdiction. Mochta replied: "No, for during last night, in a vision, I saw the boy delivered by the Lord of Heaven into the hands of a certain young man, who shall be born after some years." That person of whom the holy Abbot spoke was thought to have been no other than St. Kieran, the renowned Abbot of Clonmacnoise.
Whereupon, that deacon, with the boy Dageus, returned to his brother St. Laserian, the Abbot and founder of a monastery at Daimhinis, now Devenish, in Lough Erne. We learn, that adjoining the great monastery at that place, there was a smaller one, apart from it, and which was a school. In this, Dageus fully learned the arts of writing, and of metal-working, as also the knowledge of literature...Afterwards, having obtained the requisite permission from St. Lassrian, the youth went to the monastery of St. Comgall, at Bangor. There he was initiated to the rule and discipline established by that holy Abbot. By day he studied and exercised his art of metallurgy; while his nights were spent in writing, with the exception of a few hours left for sleep. There, too, with his own hands, many utensils for the monastery were fashioned. Three cymbals or small sounding bells he wrought for St. Comgall and finally, he transcribed a most elegant Book of the Gospels, while he designed a truly artistic cover, or case, which he manufactured to enclose it.
Having spent several years in the Coenobium at Bangor, the blessed Daigh, knowing that he had been consigned by Divine Providence to the care of St. Kiaran of Clonmacnoise, and to his successors, left the former place with a prayer and benediction to seek the latter holy master... While at Clonmacnoise, our saint must have rendered himself useful to the community in various ways. Thus, Dageus is said to have been smith to St. Kieran, which only means, however, that he exercised the art of working in the precious metals, and chiefly for ecclesiastical purposes.
Not long afterwards, the holy Abbot of Clonmacnois directed him to return and to found a monastery of his own, in the territory where he was born. We find it called Inyscam, in the old copy of our saint's Acts.. The name is also written Inishkeen, Enniskeen, or Inniskeen… in after time, this saint's name is found associated with the place, called Inis-caoin-Deghadh, after him… That place selected for St. Daigh's foundation was in the ancient territory of Orgiel or Oriel; and, in Colgan's time, it had only a parish church.
A college or monastery is mentioned, as having been governed by him; and, according to the old Acts of our saint, he lived in a little monastery called Delenna. However, as this place cannot well be identified, we do not think it is different from Inish-caoin, which seems to have been his permanent place of residence.
It is not probable, that St. Daigh lived to the extreme old age of one hundred and forty years assigned in his Acts; and, it may be supposed, the compiler had formed this on some computation of his own, as other Irish accounts, not drawn from his record, hardly seem to warrant that conclusion. It may be allowed, however, that he lived to a good old age… The year of our Lord, when he resigned his spirit, is said to have been 586. This holy man was the same as Dagaeus or Daygeus, from whom St. Moctheus of Louth received the holy viaticum; and, therefore it must follow, that Daigh lived long after his ordination. According to our Annalists, he did not die until 586.
At the 19th of February, Colgan has a brief notice regarding a bishop Dagaeus, whose name was generally marked in the Irish Calendars, at that day. He thinks it very probable, that he could have been no other than the Dagaeus named at the 18th of August. It is not unusual to meet with more than one festival, and marked for one and the same saint. As we have already seen, the feast of this saint has been set down, and with eulogy, in the metrical Calendar of St. Aengus, at this day. At the 18th of August, likewise, the Martyrology of Tallagh mentions, that veneration was given to Daigh Mac Cairill, of Innse cain. In the Calendar of Cashel, he is noticed at this day. Also, Joannes Kirkestede, Martyr, alludes to his veneration, in the Tract "De Praecipuis Hiberniae Sanctis Praesulibus." In the English edition of Withford's English Martyrology, published at London in 1526, this holy man's feast is set down at the 18th of August, with a eulogy stating, that in his youth he wrought many miracles, afterwards that he raised from the dead thirteen persons, besides performing many other notable actions, and that he died in the one hundredth and fortieth year of his age, being distinguished for his sanctity and perfection. The Martyrology of Donegal, at the same date, records Daigh, son of Cairill, Bishop of Inis-cain-Degha, in Conaill Muirtheimne. This holy man was venerated, likewise, in Scotland, and his feast is entered at the 18th of August, in the Calendar of Drummond.
The old writer of this saint's Acts states, that human capacity or memory could not relate all the miracles he wrought, through the co-operation of Divine Grace. His great works were the foundation of monasteries in various parts of Ireland, healing the sick from divers diseases, liberating captives, and even raising the dead to life. Moreover, with his own hands forming many things for use in the churches, his days passed without reproach, until after a life greatly prolonged, he happily slept in Christ.
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