Friday 30 October 2015

Saint Ernach of Duneane, October 30

There is a considerable amount of confusion surrounding the identity of the saint commemorated at the County Antrim locality of Duneane on October 30. For although the calendars record the name of a male saint Ernach at this date, they also record a female Hercnat or Ergnata on the same day. This female saint has a second feast at January 8. The diocesan historian, Father James O'Laverty, attempts to sort out the confusion, although he ends by introducing yet another saint into the mix: 
Colgan (Acta. S.S. 8 Jan.) says, "St. Ergnata flourished about the year of Christ, 460, and our Hagiologists relate, that her festival was celebrated in the Church of Cluainda-en (the meadow of the two birds), in the district called Fiodhbhaidh (Feevagh), and in the Church of Tamhlact-bo, both on the 8th of January, and on the 31st (recte 30th), of October." Colgan adds in a note that Cluain-da-en is a parochial church on the banks of Lough Neagh. Two transcripts of the Calendar of Aengus, read at the 30th of October, where it commemorates St. Ernach — "Ernach a virgin (uag) a high pillar," but the oldest transcript which Whitley Stokes gives, reads, "Ernach, a youth (oc), a high pillar." It is obvious that there were two saints, one a virgin, the daughter of the prince, who gave Armagh to St. Patrick; she was named Ergnata, or Eargnath, or Herenat, and was honoured on the 8th of January, with a festival in the Church of Tamlachtbo, in the parish of Eglish, Armagh. While there was another saint called by nearly the same name, though a man, who was honoured by a festival in the Church of Duneane, which was held on the 30th of October. In process of time, the hagiologists confounded the two on account of the similarity of names. Thus the Calendar of Donegal has, at the 8th of January, "Eargnat, Virgin of Dun-da-en, in Dalaraidhe," and again at the 30th of October, it has "Hercnat, Virgin of Dun-da-en, in Fiodhbhadh (Feevagh), of Dalaraidh." The note on the Festology of Aengus, in the L. Breac, sets the matter at rest. Ernach-i-MacTairnd, &c., Ernach, i.e. son of Tairnd, is his name, but it fitted not the quatrain; and in Dun-da-en, in Fidbaid (Feevagh), of Dalaraidhe, is he".  Dun-da-en, the old form of the name Duneane, signifies "the fort of the two birds," in allusion to some old legend a version of which is given below. Feevagh is still the name of district adjoining Duneane. St. Ernach, whose festival was held on the 30th of October, in Duneane, seems to be the same St. Ernin, whose festival was held on the 31st of May, in Cranfield. 

Rev. James O'Laverty, An Historical Account of the Diocese of Down and Connor, Ancient and Modern, Vol. III (Dublin, 1884), 333-334.

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