Monday 17 November 2014

Saint Duilech of Clochar, November 17

On November 17 we remember an early saint of County Dublin, Duilech (Doulach) of Clochar. The scholarly Anglican Bishop William Reeves read a paper to the Royal Irish Academy in 1859 on the church of Saint Duilech, and as he brings together the evidence from the Irish calendars and genealogies I have excerpted the following from his work:


St. Duilech is one of those early Irish ecclesiastics whose memory is preserved in the Calendar and local association, but of whose history, and even date, almost all documentary evidence has perished. Ledwich, indeed, refers to a statement, that a life of the saint was preserved at Malahide; but such a record, if it ever existed, is now unknown; and in the absence of any mention of the saint's name in our Annals, we are obliged to fall back upon his pedigree as the only available material even for conjecture as to the age in which he lived. He is set forth in the sacred genealogies as the son of Malach, or Amhalgaidh, son of Sinell, and eighth in descent from Fergus Mac Rosa, whose date is referred to the Christian era. But, allowing thirty years to a generation, this would only bring him down to the year of our Lord 240; so that several generations are manifestly omitted. However, there are other saints of the same race, the dates of whose obits, or the names of whose contemporaries are recorded, and whose relative distance from a common head will measure that of St. Duilech. St. Mochoemhog, or Pulcherius, who was ten degrees, died in 656 ; Cruimther Fraech, who was nine degrees, was a contemporary of St. Columcille, who died in 597 ; St. Iarlath of Tuam, who was eight degrees, was a little senior to St. Brendan, and flourished about 540 ; and lastly, St. Mobhi, surnamed Mac Ui Alda (from Alia, a common ancestor with St. Duilech), was uncle to St. Duilech, and seven degrees, and his obit is recorded by Tighernach at 630. We may, therefore, taking an average of the dates of these ecclesiastics, all of whom were of the race of Conmaicne, son Fergus mac Rosa, assign the year 600 as about the age in which St. Duilech flourished.

His festival is the 17th of November; and in the calendar of Christ Church he is styled " Sanctus Dulech Episcopus et Confessor," though in the Martyrology simply " Sanctus Dulech Confessor." But whatever may have been his ecclesiastical rank, his patronage was very limited, for, besides the church under consideration, I know of none other where he was commemorated, unless Cillduleg, which was the Irish name of Grange Gorman, was derived from him.

That there was an early local veneration of his memory appears from the Feilire of Oengus (a composition of the commencement of the ninth century), where at his festival, November 17, he is introduced in the verse:—

la Duilech cain clochair.
With Duilech the beautiful, of Clochar.

After him, in 1171, Maelmuire, or Marian O'Gorman, in his metrical Calendar, at same day, notices
Duilech craibdech clochain.
Duilech the devout, of Clochar.

Upon the former of which is the gloss :—'of Clochar Duiligh, by Faeldrum on the south, i. e. beside Sord of Columcille.'
And upon the latter:—'by Faeldrum on the south, in Fingull.'

Or, as O' Clery, more fully, in the Calendar of Donegall:—' Duilech of Clochar by Feldruim, on the south, in Fingal; and Clochar-Duiligh is the name of his town, beside Swords of Columcille. He was of the race of Conmac, son of Fergus, son of Ros, son of Rughraidhe.'
Thus, Clochar is given as the Irish name of his church in native documents, ranging from 800 to 1600.

But, like many primitive foundations, it lost its local importance in the twelfth century, when superseded, on account of position, family interest, or some other cause, by the parish church. In the Bull of Pope Alexander III., which confirmed to St. Laurence O'Toole, in 1179, the possession of his see, mention is made of many ancient churches in the county, both north and south of the city, but none of St. Duilech's: there is, however, a denomination called Tertia Pars de Clochair [trian Clochair], which may have denoted the site and land of this ancient church, then waste.

The parish that absorbed St. Duilech's cell was Ballygriffin, which probably first obtained its severalty, as it got the name of Griffinstown, under a Welsh settler. The new parish church was founded close to the manorial castle of Balgriffin, and its outline is still discernible on the sward at the left-hand side entering the avenue of Balgriffin Park. It is not marked on the Ordnance Survey, and might escape any eye but one accustomed to the shades of extinct churches. It consisted of a nave and chancel, about eighteen yards long. The churchyard also is under meadow, but a faint outline of its precincts remains. This church was under the patronage of St. Sampson, a Cambrian saint, and thus the parochial name and the dedication agree in indicating a Welsh occupant about the time of the English Invasion.

Rev. W. Reeves, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy Vol. 7 (1857 - 1861), pp. 141-147.

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