Thursday 5 February 2015

Saint Dubhthach of Iona, February 5

A further suggestion was made by writer Eoin Neeson in his entry for this day in The Book of Irish Saints. He records: 'Dubhthach, Duach or Duffy, abbot and alleged nephew, successor and coarb of Colmcille (June 9).' Neeson does not give references in his book so I am not sure what was the source of the alleged family link with Saint Colmcille. The only Dubhthach, coarb of Colmcille, whom I could find was a Dubthach, son of Duban, whose repose is recorded in the Annals of Ulster at the year 938. Given that Saint Colmcille reposed in the year 597 a contemporaneous family relationship with this Dubhthach can be ruled out, although they were kinsmen. In the introduction to his translation of Adamnan's Life of Columba, Bishop William Reeves identifies the 10th-century Dubhthach as the saint commemorated on this day:
XXVI.— DUBHTHACH. Coarb 927-938. Ob. Oct. 7.

Son of Duban, of the race of Conall Gulban, from whom, according to the pedigree in the Naemhseanchas, he was fourteenth in descent, and in the same line as his predecessor, Maelbrighde. He was abbot of Raphoe as well as of Hy, and is styled by the Four Masters "Coarb of Columcille both in Erin and Alba."
Rev. W. Reeves, The Life of Saint Columba: Founder of Hy (Edinburgh, 1874), clxxvi.

In her study of the monastic familia of Columba, Máire Herbert revises Bishop Reeves' view that Dubhthach was abbot of Raphoe and Iona and feels it more likely that he exercised his office from the monastery of Kells:
That Dubhthach was a kinsman of his predecessor, Máel Brigte, as well as of the saint himself, is likely to have been a key factor in his selection as head of the Columban federation. It is not possible to ascertain whether he was based in Kells at the time of his selection, or whether a conscious decision was made at that period to designate Kells in place of Iona as the seat of the comarba. The title of 'successor of Colum Cille and Adomnán' which the annals accord to Dubhthach and to his successor Robartach, has been interpreted by Reeves as meaning that the holders were abbots of Raphoe as well as of Iona. However, while the monastery of Raphoe may have been particularly associated with Adomnán, it is clear from a ninth-century annal that it belonged to the familia of Colum Cille. Adomnán was not a founder of a monastic paruchia, and his commemoration is seen alongside that of Colum Cille in various churches of the Columban federation. The title of 'successor of Colum Cille and Adomnán' certainly implies especial consideration accorded to the saint's biographer by the tenth-century leaders of Colum Cille's familia, and the possibility cannot be discounted that Dubhthach, first holder of the title, held the abbacy of Raphoe, or of another church associated with Adomnán, at some time previous to his appointment as comarba. However, it is not unlikely that Kells, founded from Iona, would also have commemorated the most famous holder of the Iona abbacy after Colum Cille himself...
Máire Herbert, Iona, Kells and Derry - The History and Hagiography of the Monastic Familia of Columba (Dublin, 1996), 80.

Professor Herbert makes no reference to a possible date for the feastday of Abbot Dubhthach and thus we cannot be entirely sure if this ninth-century leader of the Columban monastic federation is the saint commemorated today.

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