Wednesday 16 October 2013

Saint Colman of Kilroot, October 16

Photo credit: Kilroot Power Station for J4388

October 16 is the feast of a northern saint, Colman of Kill-Ruaidh, now known as Kilroot, County Antrim. Natives of this part of the world today associate Kilroot with the power station which can be seen across Belfast Lough, so the locality continues to shed light, albeit of a type unknown to its saintly patron. The account below has been taken from the revised edition of Archdall's Monasticon Hibernicum, with notes contributed by Bishop (later Cardinal) P.F. Moran, which was serialized in the Irish Ecclesiastical Record:
Kill-Ruaidh, called in mediaeval records, Kilroigh, Kilruaigh, Kilroe, and Kilrothe, gave name to the present parish of Kilroot. The “Felire of Oengus” mentions St. Colman in connection with this church on the 16th of October:
"Colman of Kill-Ruaidh," and the "Gloss" adds : "Colman, bishop, son of Cathbadh, of Kill-Ruaidh, on the bank of Loch-Laig, in Ulidia" and the "Martyrology of Donegal" also writes, on the same day: "Colman, bishop of Kill-Ruaidh, in Dal-Araidhe, on the brink of Loch Laoigh, in Uladh." Lough-Laoigh was not Lough-Neagh, as Archdall supposes, but the modern Belfast Lough. Close upon its Antrim coast, in the townland Kilroot) is a churchyard of the same name, which still retains some traces of the ancient church. From the "Life of St. Mac Nisse" we learn that St. Colman was still a boy whilst this saint was bishop of Connor. He is there called "Colmanus Episcopus, qui Ecclesiam nomine Kellruaid fundavit" (Ada SS. Bolland, Sept. I, 665); and the learned Franciscan, Ward, adds the note: "S. Colmanus fuit Episcopus Kill-Ruadhensis, quae nunc obsoleta sedes est in Aradeorum regione (i.f., Dalaradia) ad oram stagni Juvenci vulgo Loch-Laodh in Ultonia ubi ejus festum tamquam patroni colitur xvi. Octobris." The "Annals of the Four Masters" and the "Annals of Ulster" record, at 1122, that Connor Mac Lochlin, with an army from Tyrone, laid waste "Kill-Ruaidh, in Ulster," and carried away great spoil.

From the "Life of St. Ailbhe, of Emly" we glean a few interesting particulars regarding the first foundation of this ancient church. It is stated there that, "St. Ailbhe, like an industrious bee with its load of honey, returned from Rome, under the Divine guidance, to his native Ireland. And when he arrived at the sea he blessed it, and, with a breathless calm, he and his whole company crossed its waters in a frail ship uninjured, and landed on the north coast of Ireland. And there, at Ailbhe's order, one of his disciples called Colman, founded a church named Cill-ruaidh. And whereas the spot was unprovided with fresh water, St. Ailbhe blessed a stone, in the name of God omnipotent, and forthwith there gushed from it a stream of water. Then said St. Colman to Ailbhe, "The water is scanty;" to whom Ailbhe replied: "Though the water is scanty, it will never fail; but will be a running stream as long as the world lasts." Therefore the name of the stream is called Buanan Cylle Ruayd, i.e, the "Unfailing Stream of Kill-ruaidh." (Codex Kilken. Marsh's Libr. fol 136, b). The Irish Franciscan, Father MacCana, visited the spot about 1640, and closed his "Itinerary" with the following note regarding it: "Not far from Carrickfergus, on the east, is the church of Kill-ruaidh, which the English call Killread. In all times it was celebrated, and, even in my time, and that of my forefathers, it was always one of the residences of the bishops of Connor. The church was endowed in former ages with very ample possessions, and, even in my day, it was provided with no mean appurtenances. Of this place mention is made in the 'Life of St. Albeus."

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