Tuesday 11 August 2015

Saint Liadhain of Killyon, August 11

We have an unusually large number of female saints commemorated on the Irish calendars at August 11. Among them are Saint Attracta and Saint Lelia and now we can meet another holy lady whose feast occurs on this day, Liadhain of Killyon. We have already been introduced to Saint Liadhain on the blog when discussing the feast of Saint Brunsecha. Tradition says that Liadhain was the mother of the man known as the 'firstborn of the saints of Ireland', Ciarán of Saighir, and that she was also a monastic foundress in her own right. Canon O'Hanlon tell us what else is known of this mother of saints and of the efforts of the 19th-century scholar John O'Donovan to identify the locality where she flourished:

St. Liadhain, Abbess, of Killyon, King's County.

[Fifth or Sixth Century.]

This holy woman, according to received traditions, must have flourished during the very infancy of Christianity in Ireland. According to the Martyrology of Donegal, a festival was celebrated, at the 11th of August, to honour Liadhain, daughter of Eochaidh. She descended from the race of Laighaire, the son of Niall. We are told, she was mother to Ciaran of Saigher, and the first Abbess among the virgins—i.e., female—saints of Ireland. There was a religious establishment at a place called Killiadhuin, supposed to have been founded by the present saint, and named after her. It is now identified with Killyon, near Seir-Kieran. Two acres of land are said to have been under the old buildings; but, only a small portion of the walls are now be seen. Already allusion is made to this place, on the banks of the small stream, called the Camcor River. At one time, John O'Donovan thought the parish of Killyon, in the barony of Upper Moyfenrath, in the County of Meath, had been that specially dedicated to St. Lidania. This parish of Killyon is bounded on the north by the parish of Killaconnican; on the east by the parishes of Castlerickard and Clonard; oh the south by the latter parish, and on the west by the County of Westmeath. There were detached portions of this parish within that of Clonard. However, this opinion of Mr. O'Donovan was afterwards retracted, although, as he supposes, and with a great possibility of conjecture, that the parish of Killian, in the County of Meath, had also been dedicated to the present saint. The remains of an ancient church are in a cemetery. There was a holy well in the churchyard, at the gable of the old church. This was said to have been dedicated to the Virgin Mary; but, as the traditions were just extinct in the district, when he visited that locality [in the 1830s], Mr. O'Donovan could place little reliance on them. Under the rule of St. Liadhain or Liadania, lived St. Brunsecha, a holy virgin. Both are supposed to have flourished in the fifth or sixth century.

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