September 3 is the feastday of Irish scholar saint, Lon-garadh, 'the Augustine of Ireland'. Below are two accounts of his life, the first from Canon O'Hanlon's Lives of the Irish Saints, which includes an interesting diversion to Ethiopia, and the second from a history of the area in which the saint flourished.
1. St. Lon, or Loman, also called Lon-garadh, of Disert-Garadh, or of Magh Tuathat
In the ancient monastic schools of Ireland, learning and piety were admirably combined ; and this too at a very early period, as we can learn from the traditional and written accounts regarding the present devout scholar. In the Feilire of St. Oengus, at the 3rd of September, Longarad, " a delightful sun," is mentioned, as having had his commemoration. We find a festival recorded, also, in the Martyrology of Donegal, at the same date, and in honour of Lon-garadh. In the manuscript copy of that calendar, a space had been left after the insertion of his name, to fill in the title of his dignity, the O'Clerys being uncertain as to whether they should style him “priest," "abbot," or " bishop." His original name seems to have been Lon, or Loman, to which the name of his place was afterwards added. It is possible, that he may be the same as Lon or Lonn of Cill Gobhra, who is venerated on the 24th of June. The present Lon-garadh is said to have belonged to Sliabh Mairge, or to have been of Magh Tuathat. He is called Lon-garadh Coisfinn, of Disert Garadh, in the north of Osraighe. He was surnamed Garadh, from Disert Garadh, in the Queen's County, where he probably had a cell. Lon-garadh was denominated "of the White Legs," either because they were covered with a whitish hair, or because they were smooth and very white. Lon is said to have been a doctor in teaching, in history, in laws and in poetry. This saint was regarded, likewise, as the Augustine of Ireland; such was the depth and range of his ecclesiastical knowledge. He was passionately addicted to a love of literature; but, it would seem, he was not remarkable for lending his much-prized books to others who desired their use or possession. The most valuable codices, especially the copies of Gospels and ritual Books, were often kept in polaire or leathern cases and in tiaga or satchels. These latter usually hung from pegs fastened in the walls of the old Irish monasteries. In the time of St. Patrick, a legend is related, that the Irish Apostle desired a skin on which he slept and stood, while celebrating the holy sacrifice of the Mass, to be converted into a sack or satchel, which might serve to hold books. These were then fastened to the girdles of six attendant boys, who accompanied six Irish clerics, on a Roman pilgrimage. This saint is said, likewise, to have been a great lover and collector of books. St. Columkille once paid him a visit; but, according to the legend, Lon-garad hid his books, and his visitor predicted that after Longarad's death, no man would be able to read the works which were in his possession, and which were so inhospitably withheld, from one who could so thoroughly appreciate their value. It is a curious remark, how many similar ancient customs have prevailed, and in countries so very far remote, when we undertake the task of making antiquarian comparisons.
At the present time, in the Abyssinian monasteries and notably in that of Souriani the disposition of the monks' manuscripts is to Europeans very original. Those manuscripts are usually hung in leather cases or satchels, tied with leather thongs, and having straps attached to the cases. By these, the books contained in them depend from long wooden pegs, fastened in the walls. Those wooden pegs project underneath a shelf, carried in the Egyptian style around the walls, and at the height of the door-top. Three or four manuscripts are hung on one peg, or even on more, if the Cordices be small. The usual size of these books is that of a small and very thick quarto. The books of Abyssinia are bound in the ordinary way; sometimes in wooden boards, which occasionally are elaborately carved in rude and coarse devices. The straps, attached to the book cases, were intended also to support these, and the manuscripts were carried over the shoulders.
A very interesting account is given about the manner in which Abyssinian manuscripts are written; most usually on skins or vellum, but occasionally, too, on charta bombycina. The ink used by the scribes is a compound of gum, lampblack and water. It is jet black, and it keeps the colour for ever ; while it is not corrosive or injurious, either to the pen or paper. The scribes use a reed pen. The ink-horn is the small end of a cow's horn, stuck into the ground, at the feet of the scribe. The Abyssinian manuscripts are adorned with the quaintest and greatest illuminations conceivable. The colours are composed of various ochres, and laid over the outlines of figures, first drawn with the pen. The foregoing recorded facts may probably throw considerable light on the preservation of the ancient books of Erinn, and especially as relating to the legendary account of St. Longaradh's death. It is said, that the book satchels of Erin, and the gospels, and the lesson books of the students,' fell from their racks, on the night of Lon-garadh's death. Another account states, that this happened in an apartment where St. Columkille and others dwelt. St. Columkille then announced to Baethin the death of Lon, of Garadh, in Ossory. It was believed, also, that no person had such a knowledge of books as Lon-garadh ; for, it is related, he used to understand them in a most perfect manner. Universal regret for Lon-garadh's death was felt in all the monasteries and schools of Ireland, and we have still some Irish poems extant which give expression to it. There is still extant in an old Treatise some notices of this St. Longard, of Dysart Longard, whose death brought such confusion to the Libraries of Ireland, in his time. Also, an abridged version of this same story is found in a copy of the Felire OEngusa, at the 3rd of September, in the Leabhar Breac version. It is told more at length in the notes. His private collection of books included a curriculum of all the sciences. His learning was greatly extolled. It is said, although illegible owing to long keeping, injury, damp, or probably to bad ink, his books were preserved for ages after his time. The date for Lon-garadh's departure from this life is not recorded; but, as being a contemporary of St. Columbkille, he must have lived in the sixth century.
2. St. Garadh, Lon, or Lon-garadh, an Ossory Saint of early date, distinguished as well for his great learning as for his eminent virtues, was the founder and patron of the church of Cashel (or Coshel, as the name is locally and correctly pronounced). He was the contemporary of St. Columbkille, and pre-deceased him, so that his death must have occurred before the year 597. He is commemorated in the Martyrology of Tallaght, on the 24th of June, as "Lon of Cill-Gabra,"that is, of Kilgorey, in the parish of Doonane, on the borders of time the parish of Clough. The Martyrology of Donegal also commemorates him on the 24th of June, as "Lon of Cill-Gohhra,' (from which it may be concluded that his festival was kept at Kilgorey, on the 24th of June); and again on the 3rd Sept., thus:
"Lon-garadh of Sliabh Mairge, or of Magh Tuathat. Lon-garadh Coisfinn [i.e. of the white foot], of Disert Garadh, in the north of Ossraighe, i.e. of Magh-Garadh in Ui-Faircheallaigh, and of Cill-Gabhra, in Sliabh Mairge. It is said that the book-satchels of Erinn, and the Gospels, and the lesson-books of the students, fell from their racks on the night of Lon-garadh's death, so that no person should ever understand them as Lon-garadh used to understand them. It was of this was said:-
"Lon died, [Lon died,]
Garadh was unfortunate;
He is a loss to learning and schools
Of Erinn's isle to its extremities."
"A very ancient old-vellum-book, which we have mentioned under Brighit, at 1st Feb., and under Patrick, 17th March, states, that Lon-garadh, in his habits and life, was like to Augustine, who was very wise."
The Feilire of Aengus, at same date (Sept. 3rd), has:
"Longarad, a delightful sun."
On this passage, the Scholiast in the Leabhar Breac thus comments:
"Longarad, i.e. of Sliabh Mairge or in Mag Tuathat in the north of Ossory. Longarad the white-legged in Mag Tuathat in the north of Ossory, i.e. in Ui-Foirchellain, i.e. in Mag Garad in Disert Garad especially, and in Cell Gabra, in Sliabh Mairge, in Les Longaradh. Whitelegged, i.e. great white hair through his legs. Or bright-white were his legs. A sage of learning and jurisprudence and poetry was he. To him Colombcille chanced to come as a guest, and he hid his books from Colomb, and Colombcille left his curse on Longarad's books, to wit, 'May that,' quoth he, 'as to which thou hast shown niggardliness be of no profit after thee.' And this was fulfilled. For the books still remain and no man reads them. Now when Longarad was dead, men of lore say this, that the book-satchels of Ireland fell down on that night. Or it is the satchels wherein were books of every science in the cell where Colombcille was that fell then, and Colombcille and everyone in that house marvel, and all are silent at the noisy shaking of the books. So then said Colombcille: 'Lon-garadh in Ossory,' quoth he, 'a sage of every science, has now died.' 'May it be long till that comes true,' quoth Baithin.' Unfaith on the man in thy place,' says Colombcille et dixit Colombcille:-
'Dead is Lon
Of Cell garad--great the evil!
To Erin with her many homesteads
It is ruin of learning and schools.
'Died hath Lon
In Cell garad--great the evil !
It is ruin of the learning and schools
Of Erin's island over her border.'"
The Saint's church of Disert-Garadh though described so minutely above as in Magh-Garadh, in the territory of Magh-Tuathat otherwise Ui-Foircheallain, in the north of Ossory, has been hitherto sought for in vain. Its position is, however, no longer doubtful. It stood within the churchyard of Cashel, on the south bank of the river Nore, in the original Ui-Foircheallain. The Irish name of this churchyard, as still traditionally handed down in the locality, is Coshel-Gorra, which exactly represents Caipeal-Sapad, or St. Garadh's Cashel.
Rev E. Carrigan, "The History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory", Vol 2 (1905)
Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.
Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.