Sunday 29 September 2013

Saint Murghal of Rathlin, September 29

September 29 is the commemoration of an eighth-century abbot of the monastery on Rathlin Island, County Antrim. Canon O'Hanlon's entry on the life of Saint Murghal draws on the evidence for his life preserved in the Irish Calendars and Annals:


In very remote situations, many of our Irish saints chose to remove from the world, to avoid its temptations and snares. In the published Martyrology of Tallagh, we find simply the entry Murgail, at the 29th of September. A similar entry is in the Book of Leinster copy. The Feilire of Marianus O'Gorman enters Murgal, at this date, and a commentator adds, that he was the son of Uinnid, and abbot of Rechrann. This is now the Island of Rathlin, off the northern coast of Antrim. Sometimes the name of Murgal's father is written Nenned. Our saint was probably born before or soon after the commencement of the eighth century. At a remote period, and early in the seventh century, a monastic institution had been there established at Rathlin, by St. Segene, Abbot of Iona, A.D. 630, or a little later. The succession of its Abbots has been given by Colgan. There, or perhaps at Iona, our saint had been religiously trained in monastic studies and religious discipline. He appears to have immediately succeeded as Abbot to St. Cobthach, who died A.D. 743, about twenty years before the period assigned for his own departure to bliss. The "Annals of the Four Masters" place his death at the year 764. According to the Annals of Ulster, he died A.D. 768, with which date the O'Clerys agree, and state, that he departed on the 29th of September. Additional particulars are recorded at the same date in the Martyrology of Donegal. There he is mentioned as Murghal, son of Niunidh, Abbot of Rechrainn.

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