Thursday, 19 March 2015

Traces of Saint Patrick in County Antrim

A 1936 cigarette card
We continue the octave of posts in honour of Saint Patrick with some memories of our patron's association with County Antrim by the 'scholar revolutionary', Eoin Mac Neill (1867-1945).  Although he went on to achieve fame on a much larger stage, Mac Neill was born in the Glens of Antrim and below he talks about his childhood awareness of the sites associated with Saint Patrick in his native district:

...Among the memories of my childhood's home on the Antrim coast, I can recall how often I walked the mountain road, higher and higher, until a well-known spot was reached where the great dome of Slemish began to appear above the other hills.  On the other side of the valley of Glenarm was the site of the ancient church of Gleoir, founded by the apostle. That was where my mother's kin belonged. Nearer home, a path along the front of the cliffs that rise above the coast road led to Saint Patrick's Well. It was not right to pass the well without making a votive offering of some part of your belongings; the combined sentiments of reverence and thrift had brought about a uniformity of observance, and the well came to be commonly named the Pin Well. At the foot of Slemish is Baile Luig Phádraig, "the Hamlet of Patrick's Hollow" - there in my early memory lived the last native Irish-speaker in that district, who had the reputation of always saying his prayers in Irish - I think his name was Harry MacLoughin. On the further side of the Braid valley from Slemish is Skerry, Sciridh Phádraig, "Patrick's rocky hill." On the top of this hill there is a ruined church which the saint is recorded to have founded, and surrounded by a burial ground in which some of my kinsfolk had buried their dead from time immemorial. In this burial ground is a rock on which the angel Victor was supposed to have left his footprint - it was pointed out to me more than forty years ago. The legend was known to the author of "Fiacc's Hymn" more than a thousand years ago. He tells how the angel came to Patrick in his captivity: "Victor said to the slave that he should flee from Míliucc across the waves: he set his foot upon the flag, its trace remains, it does not fade."....

Eoin Mac Neill, 'The Fifteenth Centenary of Saint Patrick, A Suggested Form of Commemoration' in Studies, An Irish Quarterly Review, Volume 13, no. 50 (June, 1924), 181-182.

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