Thursday, 21 January 2016

Saint Seighin of Cill-Seighin, January 21

The Irish calendars at January 21 record the name of Saint Seighin along with the church that bears his name. Canon O'Hanlon's account below illustrates the many difficulties in trying to narrow down exactly who this saint was and when and where he may have flourished. In the end, although he gives it his best shot, the case remains open. I note that the official place names website logainm.ie  renders the County Limerick townland of Killshane promoted by O'Hanlon as Cill Sheáin, the church of Seán, and makes no mention of our saint. The abbey there was a twelfth-century foundation, being a daughter-house of the Cistercian Abbey at Corcomroe, County Galway. There was also a Franciscan friary which, according to the Limerick Diocesan Heritage Project, was dedicated to Saint John of the Third Order of Saint Francis. Might this dedication explain the name Cill Sheáin rather than the name  of our early saint?

St. Seighin, of Cill-Seighin.

[Possibly in the Fifth Century]

The unknown workers for God's kingdom in our early Christian history are not the less interesting, as subjects for investigation; but it is to be lamented, in the words of an estimable and a talented ecclesiastic, that while we are taught at school the histories of Rome, Greece, and England, the history of Ireland is altogether ignored. This is more especially the case with regard to our Irish ecclesiastical history; and although it may seem a paradox to conceited or half-educated historical students, yet it is an unquestionable fact, that the histories, not only of the first-named countries, but of most nations in the world, require a vast amount of illustration, which can only be developed by bringing fully to light, and from comparative obscurity, what is still quite possible to be cleared up from hitherto unpublished Irish records. At the 21st of January, Segain Cille Segain is found in the Martyrology of Tallaght. Again do we meet Seighin, of Cill Seighin, entered in the Martyrology of Donegal for this day. A great difficulty exists in identifying this holy man and his place. Colgan hazards a conjecture, that he may be that Siggeus who is classed among the disciples of St. Patrick.  Colgan, however, suggests the possibility of the proper reading being Sigenus. There was a Kilshanny, alias Kilsonna, a religious establishment in the barony of Corcunroe, in the county of Clare and again there were religious institutes at Kilshane, in the county of Limerick. This latter place seems more euphonic with the present saint's name, and with that of his church, than the denominations, Kilshesnan of Mayo County, Kilteashin of Roscommon County, or Kilshanny, alias Kilsonna, of Clare County. An old church and graveyard are in the town of Ballingarry, county of Limerick, and separated from the modern Protestant church by a stone wall. Traces of the foundations are only visible at present, the gable having fallen about  1810. But on the townland of Killshane, near Ballingarry, are the ruins of an abbey, within a disused graveyard. The abbey consisted of nave and choir, separated by a tower about 60 feet in height. The choir was 33 and a half feet long, by 18 feet 8 inches in breadth. The nave was 39 feet in length by 19 feet 11 inches in width. A square tower springs from two pointed arches, about 15 feet high, 7 feet in width, and 3and a half feet in thickness: these arches are 4 and a half feet from each other. The whole building was in a very ruinous condition in 1840. It seems possible enough that Kilshane townland had been formerly more extensive, and it may have taken in the present site of the parish church at Ballingarry.


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