Tuesday 24 June 2014

Saint Tiú of Rubha, June 24

Canon O'Hanlon begins his accounts of the saints for June 24 with the following notice of what he believed to be an obscure County Down holy woman:

THE festival of St. Thiu or Tiu, of Rubha, is celebrated, on the 24th of June, according to the Martyrology of Donegal. This female saint's name does not appear in the earliest Irish Calendars; so, it is probable, she flourished after the eighth century. She belonged, it is said, to the posterity of Eochaidh, son to Muiredh, who descended from the race of Heremon. We are informed, likewise, that Rubha was the name of this holy woman's place, and that in Ard Uladh it was situated. Some doubt existed, regarding the modern denomination of Rubha. A learned writer inclines to the opinion, that it is identical with the townland of Echlinville, in Ballyhalbert parish, otherwise St. Andrews, barony of Upper Ards, and called at present Row or Grange-Row, but formerly Rowbane or Rheubane. The adjoining townland is still called Rowreagh. In the year 1306, we find a chapel, named Grangia, on the townland of Gransha, parish of Inishargy, and barony of Upper Ards, in the county of Down. The townland of Gransha, at the south end of Inishargy parish, is bounded southwardly by the River Blackstaffe, which was formerly regarded as a line of demarcation, between the Great and Little Ards. About a mile eastward of this townland, the other chapel, called Row or Grange Row, stood. This seems to have been the place, anciently called Ruba, and Anglicized Rue or Rubha. Before the middle of the last century, the name of Rheubane was changed by James Echlin, Esq., who had a seat here, to Echlin-ville, which was called after himself as being the proprietor. The old chapel formerly stood at the entrance to Echlinville demesne; but, a single trace of its ruins cannot be seen at present. In the O'Clerys Calendar, Rubha is located, also, in the Ards of Ulster.

The entry in the Martyrology of Donegal, referenced by Canon O'Hanlon above also presents Tiu as a female saint:

Tiu,  of  Rubha,  i.e.,  Rubha  is  the  name  of  the  place,  and  in  Ard- Uladh  it  is  situated.  She  is  of  the  posterity  of  Eochaidh,  son of  Muiredh,  who  is  of  the  race  of  Heremon.
Bishop William Reeves mentions this calendar entry and includes Saint Thiu of Rubha in his own calendar of the saints appended to the 1847 Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Down, Connor and Dromore, but does not mention the saint's gender.

In the 2011 A Dictionary of Irish Saints, however, Professor Pádraig Ó Riain does not address the issue of the saint's gender but says that Tiú is a son of Fionán, attached by the genealogists to a branch of the Ulaidh of east Ulster and that 'his' feast was June 24.  So, there would appear to be a question around whether Saint Tiú is actually a male saint. There are cases where even much more well-known saints, Dabheog of Lough Derg and the great Saint Maol Ruain of Tallaght, to name two who come to mind, were described as females to researchers in the nineteenth century. 

Note: This post, first published in 2014 was revised in 2022.

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