Tuesday 7 May 2013

Saint Berchan of Daire Eachdroma, May 7

On May 7 we commemorate the memory of a northern saint, Berchan (Brecain, Bretan), about whom not a great deal seems to be known, as Canon O'Hanlon explains:

FROM accessible accounts, it seems difficult to set down any authentic particulars, regarding the present holy man, his place, and his period. At the 7th of May, in the Feilire of St. Aengus, a commemoration of two distinct saints, and at the same place, denominated Daire Echdroma, is recorded. These are called Mochuaroc and Breccan. The commentator on this Metrical Martyrology of Aengus remarks, that Daire Ech-Droma is in the north of Dalaradia, and on the border of Dalaradia and Dalriada. It was in the Diocese of Down and Connor, according to Colgan. It seems likewise to have been denominated Echdruim Brecain. Though the name is now lost, the position corresponds very accurately with that of Deshcart, which is close upon a stream dividing both territories. The spot bears strong marks of remote antiquity.The denomination Echdruim or Eachdruim is usually Anglicized Aughrim. At the 7th of May, the Bollandists notice this saint, after the Martyrology of Tallagh, and as referred to by Colgan, but with some inaccuracy. He is believed to have been of Ulster descent. St. Berchan, or Breacain, who was venerated at Eachdruim, is said to have been a son to Saran. This chieftain received St. Patrick, in a very rude manner, when the Irish Apostle visited Dalaradia, where he lived. For this, the saint reproved him, and predicted, that he should be expelled from his place. Notwithstanding, he had posterity, remarkable for holiness of life, viz., Brocan, his son, Atractha, his grand-daughter, and a grand-son called Trenoc. Another alternative conjecture of the scholiast on St. Aengus is, that Daire Echdroma was possibly in Mucraime, in the west of Connaught. We are told of it, moreover, that the tree of the church was seen from the plain, and when one went to see it in the oak-wood, it was not to be found; it is added, that the voice of the bell was heard, and the psalmody there, while the church itself was not found. Elsewhere, Colgan has a conjecture, that the present St. Breccan was not distinct from Becan, brother to St. Carnech and to St. Ronan sons of Saran, son of Colgan, son to Tuathal, son of Felim, son to Fiach Cassan, son of Colla Dachrioch. The published Martyrology of Tallagh enters Breccan Echdroma. The Franciscan copy has not a quite similar notice. The Martyrologies of Marianus O'Gorman, of Christ Church Cathedral, of Donegal, and of Rev. William Reeves, have noticed this festival to St. Bretan, or Berchan. He must have lived, at a remote period. At the Nones of May, corresponding with the 7th day, the Kalendar of Drummond has placed the two saints, then venerated in Ireland.

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