Tuesday 11 November 2014

Saint Coirpre of Cuil Raithin, November 11

November 11 is the feast of Saint Coirpre (Cairbre, Carbreus), an early bishop of Cuil-Raithin, now anglicized as Coleraine, County Derry. His memory is recorded in the Martyrology of Donegal on this day:

COIRPRE, Bishop, of Cuil-Raithin, son of Decill, son of Nadsluagh, of the race of Irial, son of Conall Cearnach.
but notices of this saint are also preserved within the hagiography of Saint Patrick, as Father O'Laverty explains in his history of the northern dioceses of Down and Connor:
The earliest notice we have of Coleraine is in connexion with the missionary visit of St, Patrick. The Tripartite Life of St. Patrick relates, that when the saint arrived in Dal-Araidhe, he found the territory parcelled out among the twelve sons of Caelbadh, a prince who had been King of Uladh, or Ulidia, and of Ireland for one year, and was slain in the year 357. Of the twelve sons three are mentioned in the Life—Saran, Connla, and Nadsluagh.

Saran's brother Nadsluagh, was submissive to Patrick; and he was in captivity on Patrick's arrival. " You shall have from me," said he "the site of your regles (monastery)." "Where shall you give it me?" asked Patrick. "On the brink of the Bann, in the west," said Nadsluagh, "where the boys are burning the ratha (ferns)." "It shall be mine truly," said Patrick, "a descendant of mine and thine shall be there," that is Bishop Coirpre, son of Deggel, son of Nadslaugh; it is he that is in Culrathain on the eastern brink of the Bann. Bishop Brugach, who is in Rath-Maighe-Aenaighe (Eaymochy), in Crich-Conaill (Co. Donegal), it was that conferred orders on Bishop Coirpre. Patrick also it was that conferred orders on Bishop Brugach; so that he (Bishop Coirpre) is a descendant of Patrick in this wise."— Tripartite Life transiated by W. M. Hennessy, Esq., M.R.I. A.
...Coleraine in Irish Cuil rathain (pronounced Cooil-rawin) takes its name, as O'Brien in his dictionary explains, from the words Cuil rathan—' ferney corner.' The Life of St. Patrick, by Tirechan, in the Book of Armagh states :

"And he proceeded across the river Bann, and he blessed the place in which is the little cell of Cuile Raithin in Eilniu, in which there was a bishop, and he made many other cells in Eilniu, and he made a passage through the river Bush . . . And he returned into the plain Elni, and he built many churches, which the Coindire (the bishops of Connor?) possess."

It would seem, therefore, that the country between the Bann and the Bush was named ' The Plain of Elniu', called also Magh Elne, and that the Church of Coleraine in the time of St. Patrick was unimportant, if it existed at all before the time of Bishop Coirpre, or Carbreus, who, as Dr. Reeves, on good authority, supposes, flourished about the year 540, and died about 560. His festival was celebrated on the 11th of November. The entry in the Calendar of Donegal is "Coirpre, Bishop of Cuil-Raithin, son of Decill, son of Nadsluagh, of the race of Irial, son of Conal Cearnach," and the note given in the Leahhar Breac to the entry in the Calendar of Aengus says—" In the north of Dalaradia is Cul Raithin."
Rev. J. O'Laverty, An Historical Account of the Diocese of Down and Connor, Vol IV (Dublin, 1887), 160-161.
The 'good authority' quoted by Bishop Reeves in dating Bishop Coirpe to the sixth century, is the great 17th-century hagiologist, Father John Colgan:
The genealogy of Carbreus is thus given by Colgan: "Sanctus Carbreus Episcopus de Cuilraithen, filius Degilli, filii Natsluagii, filii Coelbadii, filii Crunnii Badhraoi, &c." — (Trias Thaum., p. 183, col. 2.) Accordingly the year 540 is generally assigned as that in which he flourished, and 560 has been (at p. 138) given as the year of his death.

Rev. W. Reeves, Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Down, Connor and Dromore (Dublin, 1847), 247.

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