Sunday, 19 March 2017

St. Lachteen and the Boggera Mountains

In a previous post I wrote about the sights and sites of the valley between the Boggera Mountains and the Nagles Mountains through which the Martin River flows south to Blarney and the Clyda River flows north through Mourne Abbey towards Mallow.

In this post I'd like to take you on a visit to one of the valleys of the Boggera Mountains to the north and west of Blarney. The Martin River meets the River Shournagh at St. Ann's just west of Blarney and shortly thereafter their mingled waters join the River Lee near Ballincollig. One branch of the old Muskerry Railway (1893-1934) used to follow the line of the River Souragh to Donoughmore and it is effectively in the traces of that line, going upstream from Blarney, that I am going to take you today.

Just north of where the Shournagh flows through St. Ann's, it passes through the townland of Loughane West, the site of the old Parish Church of Matehy. I don't mean the present St. Joseph's. One story of this site relates to the long era of the Penal Laws, when Catholicism was illegal and persecuted. As the Priest was celebrating Mass, a soldier entered and, before any of the congregation could react, drew his sword and cut off the Priest's arms. He rushed out of the Church and rode away down the hill. The horse stumbled beneath him, threw him to the ground and he was killed. A companion buried him in the grave yard of Loughane. The following morning, the people found that the dead soldier had left the grave yard, crossed the River, mounted the hill and lay buried instead in the grave yard of the Church at Matehy.

Farther up the river about half a mile north of the village of Donoughmore is the site of St. Lachteen's Well. The Holy Well is said to have dried up and appeared instead at Ballyglass near Lyradane because a woman once washed her clothes in it. The original well was the site where St. Lachteen preached to the people of the area, using the dripping waters of the well to illustrate the dropping down of God's mercy. The Corkman Lachteen had been directed by his guardian angel, Uriel, to the monastic school of St. Comgall at Bangor, where he studied for the Priesthood. The Saint lived near Donoughmore at the beginning of the 7th century. His pattern day is 19 March, on account of which the present well is known interchangably as St. Joseph's Well or Tobar Laichtin. The unfortunate modern Parish Church at Stuake is named for St. Lachteen. Built in the 1990s, it replaced a beautiful Church from the 1830s. It is certainly my least favourite Church in the County.

St. Lachteen also founded another monastery at Kilnamartyra about 8 miles to the west, set between the Sullane and Toone Rivers. Cill na Martra is actually the Church of the Relic, referring to St. Lachteen's hand was venerated. The 12th century 'shrine' or reliquary of his hand, Lámh Lachtaín, was kept locally by the Healy family until the 19th century, when it was sold and came to the Museum of the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin and I think it's now in the National Museum of Ireland. As you can see, it is in the form of an arm with a fist, which is very worn on account of the custom of taking oaths on it. The beautiful old Church of Kilnamartyra (1839) is also dedicated to St. Lachteen.

Passing on through Gowlane Cross, you pass Uctough Mountain, which is the source of the River Shournagh. Next it passes through a very wide moorland, which is probably about 1,000 feet above sea level and as the road turns west to Nad, on the north face of the Boggeras, it passes the great Bweeng Mountain. The River Nad becomes the River Glen and, at Fr. Murphy's Bridge, you suddenly leave the mountains and enter the broad valley of the River Blackwater that sweeps eastward towards Mallow and Fermoy, then on to Lismore and Cappoquin, before turning sharply south and into the ocean at Youghal.

[First Published on the St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Blog in March, 2010]

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