Thursday 14 August 2014

Saint Echlech, Cuimmein and Coemhan, August 14

August 14 is the feast of a trio of brothers, the three sons of Daighre - Echlech, Cuimmein and Coemhan. Canon O'Hanlon suggests that they should be located within the County Kerry parish of Kilcummin and in his account provides a glimpse into the traditional pious practices of the Irish countryside. His source here is the Ordnance Survey scholar, John O'Donovan, who was writing in 1841. The letters of O'Donovan and his colleagues are an important source of information on the Irish saints as they record the existence of sites, devotional practices and traditions regarding the saints in the various places they visited. Often the dates they noted for pattern days can give a clue to the commemoration of the feast days of the saints in the local areas. In this case, however, the people seemed to have gathered at the holy well not on August 14 but on the eve of May 1, which probably reflects the agricultural rather than the ecclesiastical calendar:

Saints Echlech, Cuimmein and Coemhan, three Sons of Daighre.

In the Martyrology of Tallagh, Cummine, Caeman and Aicclig, are the names set down in separate lines and in the preceding order, but without any further designation of their parentage. In that copy, contained in the Book of Leinster, they are placed in like order. In the Martyrology of Marianus O'Gorman, these saints are commemorated at this date... There is a parish dedicated to a saint having the name of Cummein, and which is called Kilcummin. It is situated in the barony of Magunihy, County of Kerry. The old church belonging to this parish is situated on a ridge of fertile land, within the glebe of Kilcummin. In 1841, it measured on the inside 56 feet in length, and 19 feet 6 inches in breadth. Its side walls were 3 feet 5 inches in thickness, and 10 feet in height; being built of green unequally sized stones, cemented with lime and sand mortar. The west gable was destroyed nearly down to the ground; only 3 feet of its height then remaining, but the other walls were nearly perfect. The internal portion of the east window was disfigured, but its external part was in a state of excellent preservation. The window, measuring 5 feet 2 inches in height, and 11 inches in width, was pointed and formed of cut lime stone; the sill was 4 feet 8 inches, from the outside ground level. At the distance of 8 feet from an east gable, there was a window in the south wall. This had been destroyed on both sides, with the exception of one stone left on either external side, These were chiselled lime-stones, and the distance between them was only 7 inches. A rude representation of the head and face of St. Cummin—as is believed—was carved on brown sand stone, which projected from the wall, near the northern extremity of the east gable and on the outside. There was also a large graveyard attached to this church. In the townland of Gortnagowan, in the east division of this parish, there stood a caher or circular stone fort, called Caher-Crovderg, i.e., the Fort of the Red-handed. On the eastern side of it, a holy well lay, at which stations were performed by the peasantry, on May eve. They also drove their cattle into the fort, and made them drink the water of this holy well, which was believed to possess the efficacy of preserving their animals from all contagious distempers, during the ensuing year. Colgan thinks St. Coeman, a deacon, and a disciple of St. Patrick, to be identical with one of these saints. He was set over the church of Ard-lice, commonly called Sean Domhnach. In the O'Clerys' Calendar of Donegal, we find the three sons of Daighre, Echlech, Cuimmein and Caemhan, had veneration given them at the 14th of August.

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