Thursday 13 November 2014

Saint Lasair of Killesher and Aghavea, November 13

On November 13 we celebrate the feast day of the last of the handful of Irish female saints who has an extant written Life. The Life of Saint Lasair, however, is the least known and also the latest written, dating as it does to the 17th century. Our saint shares her name with over a dozen others, most of whom are completely obscure. A list of them can be found on the page dealing with homonymous saints here. To introduce our holy lady, below is an account from a diocesan history which refers to the sources. As you will see, Saint Lasair is associated with more than one locality in the lakeland county of Fermanagh, she is also associated with a County Roscommon site, Kilronan, named after the man identified as her father in the sources:
On the south-eastern shore of Lough Mac Nean, and in County Fermanagh, is the ruined church of Killesher, which has given its name to the parish. Its Gaelic form is Cill Laisir, which has given its name to the parish. Its Gaelic form is Cill Laisir, i.e. the church of St. Laisir who is patroness of the parish. In the Martyrologies we find the entries of no fewer than fourteen saints of the same name, and it is not quite easy now to determine with certainty which of them is here intended. Lassar of Achadh Fada appears in the Martyrology of Donegal on January 6th. O'Donovan, who visited Killesher in 1834, records that there is a Tobar Laistreach beside the ruined church; also the cell of St. Laisir is pointed out in the same town land. But he did not establish the particular saint to whom the church and well were dedicated. 
In Brother Michael O'Clery's work on the Genealogies of the Kings and Saints of Ireland - Genealogiae Regum et Sanctorum Hiberniae - in the Franciscan Library, there is a reference to St. Lasair which, however, establishes her identity. The entry concerning her genealogy is as follows: 
Lasair ingen Ronain m Ninnedha m Aodha m Feargosa m Nélline m Muircertoigh m Muireadhoigh m Eogain m Nell [i.e., Niall] Naoighiallaigh. 
O Achadh Beither agus o Cill Lasair for bhrú Loca mic nEn, 13 Nou. 
This identifies St. Lasair, or Laisir, of Cill Lasair beside Loch Mac Nean, with the daughter (ingen) of Ronan, son (m) of Ninnedh, etc., descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages, monarch of Ireland, who died A.D. 405. Her festival is entered on Novemebr 13. It may be accepted without further question that the Cill Lasair for bhrú Loca mic nEn is identical with the present Killesher. Achadh Beither, of which place she is also mentioned as patroness, is also in Co. Fermanagh; it is now Aghavea. 
Even a century ago, when O'Donovan visited Killesher, the traditions concerning St. Lasair do not appear to have been well remembered. Further local enquiry may ascertain whether there may exist any collateral evidence, such as the date of the annual pattern, which would verify from traditional sources, the festival date of St. Laisir.

Philip O'Connell, The Diocese of Kilmore - Its History and Antiquities, (Dublin, 1937), 122-123.

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