Saturday, 4 January 2014

Saint Maolan of Enagh, January 4

January 4 is the feast of a saint of the Derry area who may have been related to the family of Saint Colum Cille, Maolan of Enagh. Canon O'Hanlon tells us what is known of him:

ST. MAOLAN, OF ENAGH, PROBABLY IN THE PARISH OF CLONDERMOT, COUNTY OF LONDONDERRY.

From the extreme north to the extreme south, and from points the most distant in the east or west, spots of former ecclesiastical interest and importance are to be found in Ireland. There is entered in the "Martyrology of Tallagh" on the 4th of January the name Maolan, Eanaigh, more generally written Enagh. Maolan, of Enach, occurs likewise in the "Martyrology of Donegal" on this day. It is quite probable this saint had his dwelling within the present parish of Glendermot, or Clondermot, in the barony of Tirkeeran, county of Londonderry.

There, it would appear, considerable remains of old ecclesiastical foundations are yet visible; and at an early period, it is said Saints Patrick and Columkille founded religious houses in this place. The ruins of Annagh, or Enagh, near one lough of this name, are very extensive. Many other places having a similar etymon are to be found in various parts of Ireland. If the conjecture of Colgan be admitted, it is possible the present saint may be identified with St. Moelchuo, son to Degill and Cumenia, sister to the great St. Columkille. The words Moelchuo and Moelan have nearly the same signification in Irish. Except St. Melchuo, the nephew and disciple of St. Patrick, and who was bishop over Ardagh about the year 460, Colgan was not able to find the natalis of any saint similarly named in our calendars. Hence he seems inclined to conclude, that the St. Melchuo, nephew to St. Columkille, may perchance be St. Maolan, of Enach; or, if not, St. Maelan, of Snamhluthair, now Slanore, in the county of Cavan. If the nephew of St. Columkille can be identified with the present saint, then his period should be assigned to the close of the sixth or to the beginning of the seventh century. But it must be confessed the conjecture appears rather apocryphal. He may have lived at an earlier or a later date than the epoch noted.

Enagh lies about two miles north-east of Derry; and here formerly the O'Cahans or O'Kanes had their chief residence in the castle of Enagh, situated on an island in Eastern Lough Enagh. From this family the whole tract from the Foyle to the Bann was called the O'Cahan country. The church ruins at this place are very extensive. They measure ninety-one by twenty-one feet, with a transept on the south twenty-three feet square. In the year 1197, Rotsel Piton violated the religious establishment here, and he was afterwards defeated on the strand of Faughanvale. In former times, Enagh was a chapel of Clondermot, in the corps of the deanery. It seems to have been well endowed by the O'Kanes, and to have been managed by a Herenach about the beginning of the seventeenth century. The exact period of St. Maolan's career upon earth yet remains in doubt.

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