Tuesday 27 May 2014

Saint Ethern of Donoughmore, May 27

On May 27 the Irish calendars remember a a County Meath bishop, Saint Ethern of Donoughmore. Following the work of the nineteenth-century scholar John O'Donovan, Canon O'Hanlon places the saint's locality of Domhnach-mór-mic-Laithbhe 'the great church of the son of Laithbe' near Slane, a position which is still accepted by the recent authoritative work, A Dictionary of Irish Saints. Professor Ó Riain, however, adds that Saint Ethern was himself the son of Laithbe, alluded to in the place name and that May 27 probably represents an octave day of the May 20 festival of Saint Mac Laithbhe. He also quotes from the Patrician texts in the Book of Armagh that among the churches founded by Saint Patrick in Meath was a great Domhnach 'for the son of Laithbe' which may have been Donoughmore. Thus this would place our Bishop Ethern among the earliest of the Irish saints. Canon O'Hanlon brings us the details from the calendars:

St. Ethian or Ethern, Bishop of Donoughmore Mic-Laithbhe, in Mughdorna.

In the Martyrology of Tallagh, this saint's name appears, at the 27th of May, as Ethirn, Bishop of Domhnach mor. On the same authority, the Bollandists enter Ethernus, Episcopus de Domnach-Mor. There was a Mughdhorna-Breagh in Ireland, but its position is not well known. From the church of this saint having been here placed within the territory of Mughdorna, Dr. O'Donovan thinks it highly probable, he must have been connected with Donoughmore, near Slane, and in the county of Meath. The Martyrology of Donegal enters a festival on this day, in honour of Ethern, Bishop, of Domhnach-mór-mic-Laithbhe, in Mughdorna. Under the head of Domhnach-mic-Laithbhe, likewise, Duald Mac Firbis enters Bishop Ethern, for May 27th.

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