Friday 3 January 2014

Saint Finlugh of Tamlachtfinlagan, January 3

January 3 is the feast of two saintly brothers, Fintan and Finlugh. Last year I looked at the life of Saint Fintan of Doone in a post which can be found here, now we can turn to the life of his brother Finlugh as recorded by Canon O'Hanlon:


This holy man was brother to the preceding saint [i.e. Fintan of Doone], but whether senior or junior to him does not appear. He is variously named. Sometimes he is called Finlog or Finlugh, Lugad, Lagan, or Logha. The latter forms appear to represent his original name, to which the prefix Finn or Fionn, which signifies " white" or "fair," was afterwards added. This appellation was probably bestowed on account of some quality of complexion, or from the colour of his hair. He had the same father and mother as Fintan; and to the former biography the reader is referred for notices regarding them. At the 3rd day of January, St. Finlog, as well as his brother Fintan, was venerated at Dunbleisque, or Doone; and again do we learn from St. Aengus and his commentator, from the "Martyrology of Tallagh," from the " Calendar of Cashel," and from Marianus O'Gorman, as also from the "Martyrology of Donegal” that St.Finlog had been venerated at Tamlacht Finnlogha, or Finlagan, in the territory of Cianachta Glinne Geimhin, on this same day. Finlog seems to have been originally the disciple of his brother, at Dunbleisque, where, as has been- already related, it was predicted that he should pass over the sea, and die an exile from the country of his birth. In the former life we have already related the manner of his departure. It is thought probable, that he went to Iona, and that he was the identical Findluganus, who interposed to save the life of his great master, St. Columkille, in the island of Hinba. We are informed, that while living here St. Columkille had resolved on excommunicating certain oppressors of religious houses. Among these, Joan, the son of Conall, was especially conspicuous. One of his wicked associates was called Lamh Dess. Instigated by the devil, he rushed on the saint with a spear intending to kill Columba. To prevent this dreaded result, one of the brethren, named Findlugan, put on the saint's garment and interposed his person, being ready to die for sake of the holy man. But St. Columba's garment served as a kind of strong and impenetrable shield, which could not be pierced by the thrust of a very sharp spear, although made by a powerful man. The brother who wore it remained safe and uninjured under divine protection. The ruffian who attempted this outrage, and whose name is found Latinized Manus Dextra, retired, thinking he had transfixed the saint with his spear. Exactly one year afterwards, when the saint was in the island of Hy, he said: " A year has just now elapsed since that day when Lamh-dess did his best to put Findlugan to death in my place, but that man is now slain, as I believe, and on this very hour." So it happened; for at that moment, according to the saint's revelation, in an island which is Latinized "Longa," in English, "Long Island," a battle was fought between a number of opposing warriors. Lamh-dess alone was slain by Conan, son of Baithen, and transfixed with a dart. It is said, this stroke was given in the name of St. Columba.

After the fall of Lamh-dess the battle ceased. Whether these events occurred before or after what remains to be noted regarding St. Finlog cannot very clearly be ascertained. Again, St. Columkille is said to have founded a religious establishment at a place near Lough Foyle, in the barony of Kenaught, county of Londonderry. The townland is called Tamlacht. Over the house thus established the great father of Irish monasticism placed his disciple, Finlog, as first abbot. Hence the place seems to have derived its appellation of Tamlachtfinlaghan. It is now a parish in the diocese of Derry. The place of the old monastic site is marked by a much frequented cemetery, within the enclosure of which are the ruins of an old church. Whether any portion of this building dates back to the time of St. Finlog may very fairly be questioned…

Besides his cultus at Tamlacht Finnlaghan, and Dunbleisque, St. Finlog appears to have been venerated, likewise, on the island of St. Finlagan, where are the ruins of a small chapel dedicated to him. That island lies within Loch Finlagan, in the parish of Killarrow, at Islay, or Ila. From this fresh water lake flows the Killarrow river, and between the chapel of St. Finlagan and the east coast at Kilcholmkill stood a chapel dedicated to St. Columba. Before the year 1380, John, lord of the Isles, is said to have roofed the chapel of Finlagan and other churches. He gave them, moreover, proper furniture for the service of God, and for the maintenance of officiating clergy. The lords of the Isles exercised the right of patronage in connexion with the chapels of St. Finlagan and of St. Columba. On the island cemetery of Finlagan the wives and children of the island lords were buried, while these latter were buried at Iona—regarded as still more sacred ground. It may have been the case that a part of St. Columba's missionary enterprise embraced Islay, and that St. Finlog either founded a church at Loch Finlagan, or lived and, perhaps, died there ; but great uncertainty prevails in reference to these matters.

The Christian courage and charity of this saint deserve well the encomium of Prince O'Donnell, for he desired to sacrifice his own life in preserving that of his great spiritual father, whose loss to the Church Findlugan deemed irreparable on earth. Greater charity than this no man possesses, when he is ready to give up his own life for the safety of his friends. Utterly unselfish and nobly generous was his spirit of self-devotedness. His humility and obedience were equally conspicuous, for he felt ready to accept any injunction which might best promote God's honour. In either Scotia his religious acts were conspicuous; and the people both of Ireland and of Scotland have just reasons for celebrating his virtues.

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