Friday 5 September 2014

Saint Eolang of Aghabullogue, September 5

September 5 is the commemoration of a County Cork saint, Eolang of Aghabullogue. As Canon O'Hanlon's account below makes clear there was some confusion among hagiologists about the locality where he flourished, with some being misled into identifying 'Achaid-bo' as Aghaboe, County Laois. Professor Pádraig Ó Riain, who has made a special study of Cork patron Saint Finbarr, confirms in his 2011 Dictionary of Irish Saints that Eolang was patron of the East Muskerry church of Aghabullogue. The twelfth-century Life of Saint Finbarr presents Eolang as Finbarr's father-confessor and includes episodes such as this:

“Eolang placed Barra’s hand in the hand of the Lord himself on the site of Eolang’s tomb in the presence of angels and archangels, and said: ‘O Lord, receive this just man.’ Whereupon the Lord raised Barra’s hand to himself in heaven. However, Eolang then said: ‘O Lord do not take Barra away from me until it is time for his body to be released.’ The Lord then released Barra’s hand, and from that day on no one could look at the hand because of its brightness. That is why he always covered it with a glove.”

Pádraig Ó Riain, ed.,  Bheatha Bharra, Saint Finbarr of Cork: The Complete Life (London, 1994), 81.

Canon O'Hanlon's account also mentions a holy well associated with the church of Aghabullogue and dedicated to our saint under the anglicised version of his name, Olan. In a study of the holy wells of East Muskerry, P.J. Hartnett described the well, its associated sites and the traditional 'stations' performed there:

Regarding the rounds paid I must, first of all, point out that St. Olan's Well is one of a chain of three "Stations"; the other two - St.Olan's Stone and St. Olan's Cap - being located in the neighbouring town land of Coolineagh. The Olan whose name is here perpetuated was, of course, the patron saint of the parish of Aghabullogue, as well as being the preceptor of St. Finbarr of Cork. His name is recorded in the Martyrology of Donegal as Eolang, Eulang, or Eulogius, and his feast-day occurs on September 5th. It is on this date that rounds are paid at all three stations. 

P. J. Hartnett, 'The Holy Wells of East Muskerry' in Béaloideas, Iml. 10, Uimh 1/2 (Jun. - Dec., 1940), pp. 101-113.

Hartnett goes on to give some interesting details of these three stations including the fact that both the well and the cap include stones with ogham inscriptions. Saint Olan's Cap had a reputation for healing and 'was much sought after for various feminine ailments, particularly maternity cases'. Saint Olan's stone had two 'foot-like' impressions which local people believed to be the imprints of the holy man's bare feet!

So, let us conclude with the entry from Volume IX of Canon O'Hanlon's Lives of the Irish Saints:

St. Eolang, said to have been of Aghaboe, Queen's County, yet probably of Aghabollogue, County of Cork.

This holy man must have lived during an early century of Christianity in the Irish Church, since his name has been entered in the Calendar of Oengus, where he is designated a "fair pillar" and a "victory of piety." The published Martyrology of Tallagh mentions, and also the copy in the Book of Leinster, that, at the 5th of September, veneration was given to Eolang, of Achaid-bo. This is the celebrated Aghaboe, a parish in the barony of Clarmallagh, and in the southern part of the Queen's County. In the Martyrology of Donegal, at the same date, he is recorded as Eolang, of Achadh-bo-Cainnigh, in Osraighe. The O'Clerys state, that he was descended from the race of Conaire, son to Moghlamha, Monarch of Erin, according to the poem beginning, "The Saint-History of the Saints of Inis Fail." After the entry of this holy man's name in the last-mentioned calendar, a space is left, as if to supply a notice of his ecclesiastical rank, when that might have been better ascertained. However, such identification of his locality seems to be more than doubtful, since Mr. William M. Hennessy states: "There is a Tober Eolang, near Aghabollogue, County of Cork, where Eolang' s name is venerated at the 5th of September." In the table appended to the Martyrology of Donegal, this saint's name is Latinised Eulogius. Among the abbots or religious of Aghaboe, as entered in the Irish Annals, the name of Eolang does not occur.

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