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January 30, 2006


NUMBER 20.         SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 1840.    VOLUME I.
AMONGST the many extraordinary characters with which this country abounds, such as fools, madmen, onshochs, omadhauns, hair-brains, crack-brains, and naturals, I have particularly taken notice of one. His character is rather singular. He begs about Newbridge, county of Kildare: he will accept of any thing offered him, except money—that he scornfully refuses; which fulfils the old adage, “None but a fool will refuse money.” His habitation is the ruins of an old fort or ancient stronghold called Walshe’s Castle, on the road to Kilcullen, near Arthgarvan, and within a few yards of the river Liffey, far away from any dwelling. There he lies on a bundle of straw, with no other covering save the clothes he wears all day. Many is the evening I have seen this poor crazy crea­ture plod along the road to his desolate lodging. There is another stamp of singularity on his character: his name is Pat Mowlds, but who dare attempt to call him Pat? It must be Mr Mowlds, or he will not only be offended himself, but will surely offend those who neglect this respect. In general he is of a downcast, melancholy disposition, boasts of being very learned, is much delighted when any one gives him a ballad or old newspaper. Sometimes he gets into a very good humour, and will relate many anecdotes in a droll style.
About two years ago, as I happened to be sauntering along the border of the Curragh, I overtook this solitary being.
“A fine morning, Mr Mowlds,” was my address.
“Yes, sur, thank God, a very fine morning; shure iv we don’t have fine weather in July, when will we have it ?“
“What a great space of ground this is to lie waste—what a quantity of provisions it would produce—what a number of people it would employ and feed!” said I.
“Oh, that’s very thrue, sur; but was it all sown in pittaties, what would become ov the poor sheep? Shure we want mutton as well as pittaties—besides, all the devarshin we have every year.—Why, thin, maybe ye have e’er an ould newspaper or ballit about ye?“
I said I had not, but a couple of Penny Journals should be at his service which I had in my pocket.
“Och, any thing at all that will keep a body amused, though I have got a great many of them; but among them all I don’t see any pitcher or any account of the round tower furninst ye; nor any account ov the fire Saint Bridget kept in night an’ day for six hundred years; nor any thing about the raison why it was put out; nor any thing about how Saint Bridget came by this piece ov ground; nor any thing about the ould Earl ov Kildare, who rides round the Curragh every seventh year with silver spurs and silver reins to his horse—God bless ye, sur, have ye e’er a bit of tobacky?—there’s not a word about this poor counthry at all.”
My senses were now driven to anxiety—I gave him some tobacco. He then resumed:—
“Och, an’ faix it’s myself that can tell all about those things. Shure my grandfather was brother to one of the ould anshint bards who left him all his books, and he left them to my mother, who left them to me.”
“Well, Mr Mowlds,” I said, “you must have a perfect knowledge of those things—let us hear something of their contents.”
“Why, thin, shure, sur, I can’t do less. Now, you see, sur, it’s my fashion like the priests and ministhers goin’ to praich: they must give a bit ov a text out ov some larned book, and that’s the way with me. So here goes—mind the words:
“The seventeenth ov March, on King Dermot’s great table,
Where ninety-nine beeves were all roast at a time,
We dhrank to the memory, while we wor able,
Ov Pathrick, the saint ov our nation;
And gaily wor dhrinkin’, roarin’, shoutin’,
Cead mille faltha, acushla machree.
There was Cathleen so fair, an’ Elleen so rare!
With Pathrick an’ Nora,
An’ flauntin’ Queen Dorah!
On Pathrick’s day in the mornin’.
County Kildare an’ the sky over it!
Short grass for ever !”
He thus ended with a kick up of his heel which nearly touched the nape of his neck, and a flourish of his stick at the same time. Then turning to me he said,
“I am not going to tell you one word about the fire—I am going to tell you how Saint Bridget got all this ground. Bad luck to Black Noll (a name given to Cromwell) with his crew ov dirty Sasanachs that tore down the church; and if they could have got on the tower, that would be down also. No matther—every dog will have his day. Sit down on this hill till we have a shaugh ov the dhudheen. In this hill lie buried all the bones ov the poor fellows that Gefferds killed the time ov the throuble, peace an’ rest to their souls!”
“But to the story, Mr Mowlds,” I said, as I watched him with impatiencc while he readied his pipe with a large pin.
“Well, sur, here goes. Bad luck to this touch, it’s damp: the rain blew into my pocket t’other night an’ wetted it—ha, I have it.
Now, sur, you persave by the words ov my text that a great feast was kept up every year at the palace of Castle­dermot on Saint Pathrick’s day. Nothing was to be seen for many days before but slaughtering ov bullocks, skiverin’ ov pullets, rowlin’ in ov barrels, an’ invitin’ all the quolity about the counthry; nor did the roolocks and spalpeens lag behind—they never waited to be axt; all came to lind a frindly hand at the feast; nor war the kings ov those days above raisin’ the ax to slay a bullock. King O’Dermot was one ov those slaughtherin’ kings who wouldn’t cringe at the blood ov any baste.
‘Twas on one ov those festival times that he sallied out with his ax in his hand to show his dexterity in the killin’ way. The butchers brought him the cattle one afther another, an’ he laid them down as fast as they could be dhrained ov their blood.
Afther layin’ down ninety-nine, the last ov a hundhred was brought to him. Just as he riz the ax to give it the clout, the ox with a sudden chuck drew the stake from the ground, and away with him over hill an’ dale, with the swingin’ block an’ a hundred spalpeens at his heels. At last he made into the river just below Kilcullen, when a little gossoon thought to get on his back; but his tail bein’ very long, gave a twitch an’ hitched itself in a black knot round the chap’s body, and so towed him across the river.
Away with him then across the Curragh, ever till he came to where Saint Bridget lived. He roared at the gate as if for marcy. Saint Bridget was just at the door when she saw the ox with his horns thrust through the bars.
‘Arrah, what ails ye, poor baste?’ sez she, not seein’ the boy at his tail.
‘Och,’ sez the boy, makin’ answer for the ox, ‘for marcy sake let me in. I’m the last ov a hundred that was goin’ to be kilt by King O’Dermot for his great feast to.morrow; but he little knows who I am.’
Begor, when she heard the ox spake, she was startled; but rousin’ herself, she said,
‘Why, thin, it ‘ud be fitther for King O’Dermot to give me a few ov yees, than be feedin’ Budhavore: it’s well you come itself.’
‘Ah, but, shure, you won’t kill me, Biddy Darlin,’ sez the chap, takin’ the hint, as it was nigh dark, and Biddy couldn’t see him with her odd eye; for you must know, sur, that she was such a purty girl when she was young, that the boys used to be runnin’ in dozens afther her. At last she prayed for somethin’ to keep them from tormenting her. So you see, sur, she was seized with the small-pox at one side ov her face, which blinded up her eye, and left the whole side ov her face in furrows, while the other side remained as beautiful as ever
‘In troth you needn’t fear me killin’ ye,’ sez she; ‘but where can I keep ye?’
‘Och,’ says the arch wag, ‘shure when I grow up to be a bull I can guard yer ground.’
‘Ground, in yeagh,’ sez the saint; ‘shure I havn’t as much as would sow a ridge ov pittaties, barrin’ the taste I have for the girls to walk on.’
‘And did you ax the king for nane?’ sed the supposed ox.
‘In troth I did, but the ould budhoch refused me twice’t.’
‘Well, Biddy honey,’ sez the chap, ‘the third offer’s lucky. Go to-morrow, when he’s at dinner, and you may come at the soft side ov him. But won’t you give some refreshment to this poor boy that I picked up on the road? I fear he is dead or smothered hanging at my tail.’
Well, to be sure, the chap hung his head (moryeah) when he sed this.
Out St Bridget called a dozen ov nuns, who untied the knot, and afther wipin’ the chap as clean as a new pin, brought him into the kitchen, and crammed him with the best of aitin’ and drinkin’; but while they wor doing this, away legged the ox. St Bridget went out to ax him some questions consarnin’ the king, but he was gone.
“Pon my sowkins,’ sed she, ‘but that was a mighty odd thing entirely. Faix, an it’s myself that will be off to Castledermot to-morrow, hit or miss.’
Well, sur, the next day she gother together about three dozen nuns.
‘Toss on yer mantles,’ sez she, ‘an’ let us be off to Castledermot.’
‘With all harts,’ sez they.
‘Come here, Norah,’ sez she to the sarvint maid. ‘Slack down the fire,’ sez she, ‘and be sure you have the kittle on. I couldn’t go to bed without my tay, was it ever so late.’
So afther givin’ her ordhers off they started.
Well, behould ye, sur, when she got within two miles ov the palace, word was brought to the king that St Bridget and above five hundred nuns were on the road, comin’ to dine with him.
‘O tundheranounthers,’ roared the king, ‘what’ll I do for their dinner? Why the dhoul didn’t she come an hour sooner, or sent word yestherday? Such a time for visithers! Do ye hear me, Paudeen Roorke?’ sez he, turnin’ to his chief butler: ‘run afther Rory Condaugh, and ax him did he give away the two hind quarthers that I sed was a little rare.’
‘Och, yer honor,’ sed Paudeen Roorke, ‘shure he gev them to a parcel of boccochs at the gate.’
‘The dhoul do them good with it! Oh, fire and faggots! what’ll become ov me?—shure she will say I have no hospita­lity, an’ lave me her curse. But, cooger, Paudeen: did the roolocks overtake the ox that ran away yestherday?’
‘Och, the dhoul a haugh ov him ever was got, yer honor.’
‘Well, it’s no matther; that’ll be a good excuse; do you go and meet her; I lave it all to you to get me out ov this hobble.’
‘Naboclish,’ said Paudeen Roorke, cracking his fingers, an’out he started. Just as he got to the door he met her going to come in. Well become the king, but he shlipt behind the door to hear what ud be sed. ‘Bedhahusth,’ he roared to the guests that wor going to dhrink his health while his back was turned.
‘God save yer reverence!’ said St Bridget to the butler, takin’ him for the king’s chaplain, he had such a grummoch face on him; ‘can I see the king?’
‘God save you kindly!’ sed Paudeen, ‘to be shure ye can.
Who will I say wants him?’ eyeing the black army at her heels.
‘Tell him St Bridget called with a few friends to take pot luck.’
‘Oh, murther!’ sed Paudeen, ‘why didn’t you come an hour sooner? I’m afraid the meat is all cowld, we waited so long for ye.’
‘Och, don’t make any bones about it,’ sed St Bridget: ‘it’s a cowld stummock can’t warm its own mait.’
‘In troth that’s thrue enough,’ sed Paudeen; ‘but I fear there isn’t enough for so many.
‘Why, ye set of cormorals,’ sed she, ‘have ye swallied the whole ninety-nine oxen that ye kilt yestherday?’
‘Oh, blessed hour!’ groaned the king to himself, ‘how did she know that? Och, I suppose she knows I’m here too.’
‘Oh, bad scran to me!’ said Paudeen, ‘but we had the best and fattest keepin’ for you, but he ran away.’
‘In troth you needn’t tell me that,’ sez she; ‘I know all about yer doings. If I’m sent away without my dinner itself, I must see the king.’
Just as she sed this, a hiccup seized the king, so loud that it reached the great hall. The guests, who war all silent by the king’s order, thought he sed hip, hip!—so. Such a shout, my jewel as nearly frightened the saint away.
‘In troth,’ ses she, ‘I’d be very sorry to venthur among such a set of riff-raff, any way. But who’s this behind the door?’ sez she, cockin’ her eye. ‘Oh, I beg pardon!—I hope no inthrusion—there ye are—ye’ll save me the trouble ov goin’ in.’
‘Oh,’ sed the king (hic), ‘I tuck a little sick in my stum­mock, and came down to get fresh air. I beg pardon. Why didn’t you come in time to dinner?’
‘I want no dinner,’ said she; ‘I came to speak on affairs ov state.’
‘Why, thin,’ said the king, ‘before ye state them, ye must come in and take a bit in yer fingers, at any rate.’
‘In troth,’ sez she, ‘I was always used to full and plenty, and not any scrageen bits; and to think ov a king’s table not having a flaugooloch meal, is all nonsense: that’s like the taste ov ground I axt ye for some time ago.’
Begor, sur, when she sed that, she gev him such a start that the hiccough left him.
‘Ah, Biddy, honey,’ sez he, ‘shure ye wor only passin a joke to cure me: say no more—it’s all gone.’
Just as he sed this, he heard a great shout at a distance: out he pulled his specks, an’ put them on his nose; when to his joy he saw a whole crowd ov spalpeens dhrivin’ the ox be­fore them. The king, forgettin’ who he was spaikin’ to, took off his caubeen, and began to wave it, as he ran off to meet them.
‘Oh! mahurpendhoul, but ye’re brave fellows,’ sez he; ‘who­ever it was that cotch him shall have a commission in my life guards. I never wanted a joint more. Galong, every mo­ther’s son ov yees, and borry all the gridirons and frying-pans ye can get. Hand me the axe, till I have some steaks tost up for a few friends.’
So, my jewel, while ye’d say thrap-stick, the ox was down, an’ on the gridirons before the life was half out ov him.
Well, to be shure, St Bridget got mighty hungry, as she had walked a long way. She then tould the king that the gen­tlemen should lave the room, as she could not sit with any one not in ordhers, and they being a little out ov ordher. So, to make themselves agreeable to her ordhers, they quit the hall, and went out to play at hurdles.
When the king recollected who he was goin’ to give dinner to, sez he to himself, ‘Shure no king ought to be above sarvin’ a saint.’ So over he goes to his wife the queen.
‘Dorah,’ sez he,’ do ye know who’s within?’ ‘Why, to be shure I do,’ sez she; ‘ain’t it Bridheen na Keogue?’
‘Ye’re right,’ sez he, ‘and you know she’s a saint; an’ I think it will be- for the good ov our sowls that she kem here to-day. Come, peel off yer muslins, and help me up wid the dinner.’
‘In troth I’ll not,’ sez the queen; ‘shure ye know I’m a black Prospitarian, an’ bleeve nun ov yer saints.’
‘Arrah, nun ov yer quare ways,’ sez he: ‘don’t you wish my sowl happy, any how?—an’ if you help me, you will be only helpin’ my sowl to heaven.’
‘Oh, in that case,’ sez she, ‘here’s at ye: and the sooner the betther. But one charge I’d give ye: take care how ye open your claub about ground: ye know she thought to come round ye twice before.
So in the twinklin’ ov an eye she went down to the kitchen, an’ put on a prashkeen, an’ was first dish at the table.
The king saw every one lashin’ away at their dinner except Bridget.
‘Arrah, Biddy, honey,’ sez he, ‘why don’t ye help yerself?’
‘Why, thin,’ sez she, ‘the dhoul a bit, bite or sup, I’ll take undher yer roof until ye grant me one favour.’
‘And what is that?’ sez the king; ‘shure ye know a king must stand to his word was it half his kingdom, and how do I know but ye want to chouse me out ov it: let me know first what ye want.’
‘Well, thin, Mr King O’Dermot,’ sez she, ‘all I want is a taste ov ground to sow a few pays in.’
‘Well, an’ how much do ye want, yer reverence,’ sez he, all over ov a thrimble, betune his wife’s dark looks, and the curse he expected from Bridget if he refused.
‘Not much,’ sez she, ‘for the present. You don’t know how I’m situated. All the pilgrims going to Lough Dhearg are sent to me to put the pays in their brogues, an’ ye know I havn’t as much ground as would sow a pint; but if ye only give me about fifty acres, I’ll be contint.’
‘Fifty acres!’ roared the king, stretching his neck like a goose.
‘Fifty acres!’ roared the queen, knitting her brows; ‘shure that much ground would fill their pockets as well as their brogues.’
‘There ye’re out ov it,’ said the saint; ‘why, it would’nt be half enough if they got their dhue according to their sins; but I’ll lave it to yerself.’
‘How much will ye give?’ ‘Not an acre,’ said the queen.
‘Oh, Dorah,’ sed the king, ‘let me give the crathur some.’
 ‘Not an inch,’ sed the queen, ‘if I’m to be misthress here.’
‘Oh, I beg pardon,’ sez the saint; ‘so, Mr King O’Der­mot, you are undher petticoat government I see; but maybe I won’t match ye for all that. Now, take my word, you shall go on penance to Lough Dhearg before nine days is about; and instead ov pays ye shall have pebble stones and swan shot in yer brogues. But it’s well for you, Mrs Queen, that ye’re out ov my reach, or I’d send you there barefooted, with no­thing on hut yer stockings.’
When the king heard this, he fell all ov a thrimble. ‘Oh, Dorah,’ sez he, ‘give the crathur a little taste ov ground to satisfy her.’
‘No, not as much as she could play ninepins on,’ sez she, shakin’ her fist and grindin’ her teeth together; ‘and I hope she may send you to Lough Dhearg, as she sed she would.’
‘Why, thin, have ye no feeling for one ov yer own sex?’ sez the saint. ‘I’ll go my way this minit, iv ye only give me as much as my shawl will cover.’
‘Oh, that’s a horse ov another colour,’ sez the queen; ‘you may have that, with a heart and a half. But you know very well if I didn’t watch that fool ov a man, he’d give the very nose off his face if a girl only axt him how he was.’
Well, sur, when the king heard this, he grew as merry as a cricket. ‘Come, Biddy,’ sez he, ‘we mustn’t have a dhry bargain, any how.’
‘Oh, ye’ll excuse me, Mr King O’Dermot,’ sez she; ‘I never drink stronger nor wather.’
‘Oh, son ov Fingal,’ exclaimed the king, ‘do ye hear this, and it Pathrick’s day!’
‘Oh, I intirely forgot that,’ sez she. ‘Well, then, for fear ye’d say I was a bad fellow, I’ll just taste. Shedhurdh.’
Well, sur, after the dhough-an-dheris she went home very well pleased that she was to get ever a taste ov ground at all, and she promised the king to make his pinance light, and that she would boil the pays for him, as she did with young men ov tendher conshinses; but as to ould hardened sinners, she’d keep the pays till they’d be as stale as a sailor’s bisket.
Well, to be shure, when she got home she set upwards ov a hundhred nuns at work to make her shawl, during which time she was never heard of. At last, afther six months’ hard la­bour, they got it finished.
‘Now, sez she, ‘it’s time I should go see the king, that he may come and see that I take no more than my right. So, taking no one with her barrin’ herself and one nun, off she set.
The king and queen were just sitting down to tay at the parlour window when she got there.
‘Whoo! talk of the dhoul and he’ll appear,’ sez he. ‘Why, thin, Biddy honey, it’s an age since we saw ye. Sit down; we’re just on the first cup. Dorah and myself were afther talkin’ about ye, an’ thought ye forgot us intirely. Well, did ye take that bit ov ground?’
‘Indeed I’d be very sorry to do the likes behind any one’s back. You must come to-morrow and see it measured.’
‘Not I, ‘pon my sowkins,’ sed the king: ‘do ye think me so mane as to doubt yer word?’
‘Pho! pho!’ sed the queen, ‘such a taste is not worth talkin’ ov; but, just to honour ye, we shall attind in state to-morrow. Sit down.’
 She took up her station betune the king an’ queen: the purty side ov her face was next the king, an’ the ugly side next the queen.
‘I can’t be jealous ov you, at any rate,’ sod the queen to her­self, as she never saw her veil off before.
‘Oh, murther!’ sez the king, ‘what a pity ye’re a saint, and Dorah to be alive. Such a beauty!’
Just as he was starin’, the queen happened to look over at a looking-glass, in which she saw Biddys pretty side.
‘Hem!’ sez she, sippin’ her cup. ‘Dermot,’ sez she, ‘it’s very much out ov manners to be stuck with ladies at their tay. Go take a shaugh ov the dhudheen, while we talk over some affairs ov state.’
            Begor, sur, the king was glad ov the excuse to lave them together, in the hopes St Bridget would convart his wife.    
Well, sur, whatever discoorse they had, I disremember, but the queen came down in great humour to wish the saint good night, an’ promised to be on the road the next day to Kildare.
‘Faix,’ sez the saint, ‘I was nigh forgettin’ my gentility to wish the king good night. Where is he?’
‘Augh, and shure myself doesn’t know, barrin’ he’s in the kitchen.’
‘In the kitchen!’ exclaimed the saint; ‘oh fie!’
‘Ay, indeed, just cock yer eye,’ sez the queen, ‘to the a key-hole: that dhudheen is his excuse. I can’t keep a maid for him.’
‘Oh! is that the way with him?.—never fear: I’ll make his pinance purty sharp for that. At any rate call him out an’ let us part in friends.’
So, sur, afther all the compliments wor passed, the king sed he should go see her a bit ov the road, as it was late: so off he went. The moon had just got up, an’ he walked alongside the saint at the ugly side; but when he looked round to praise her, an’ pay her a little compliment, he got sich a fright that he’d take his oath it wasn’t her at all, so he was glad to get back to the queen.
Well, sur, next morning the queen ordhered the long car to be got ready, with plenty ov clean straw in it, as in those times they had no coaches; then regulated her life guards, twelve to ride before and twelve behind, the king at one side and the chief butler at the other, for without the butler she couldn’t do at all, as every mile she had to stop the whole re­tinue till she’d get refreshment. In the meantime, St Bridget placed her nuns twenty-one miles round the Curragh. At last the thrumpet sounded, which gave notice that the king was coming. As soon as they halted, six men lifted the queen up on the throne, which they brought with them on the long car. The king ov coorse got up by her side.
‘Well, Dorah,’ sez he in a whisper, ‘what a laugh we’ll have at Biddy, with her shawl!’
‘I don’t know that neither,’ sez the queen. ‘It looks as thick as Finmocool’s boulsther, as it hangs over her shoulder.’
‘God save yer highness,’ sed the saint, as she kem up to them. ‘Why, ye sted mighty long. I had a snack ready for ye at one o’clock.’
‘Och, it’s no matther,’ sez the queen; ‘measure yer bit ov ground, and we then can have it in comfort.’
So with that St Bridget threw down her shawl, which she had cunningly folded up.
Now, sur, this shawl was made ov fine sewin’ silk, all net­work, each mesh six feet square, and tuck thirty-six pounds ov silk, and employed six hundred and sixty nuns for three months making it.
Well, sur, as I sed afore, she threw it on the ground.
‘Here, Judy Conway, run to Biddy Conroy with this corner, an’ let her make aff in the direckshin ov Kildare, an’ be shure she runs the corner into the mon’stery. Here, you, Nelly Murphy, make off to Kilcullen; an’ you, Katty Farrel, away with you to Ballysax; an’ you, Nelly Doye, away to Arthgarvan; an’ you, Rose Regan, in the direckshin of Connell; an’ you, Ellen Fogarty, away in the road to Maddenstown an’you, Jenny Purcel, away to Airfield. Just hand it from one to t’other.’
So givin’ three claps ov her hand, off they set like hounds, an’ in a minnit ye’d think a haul ov nuns wor cotched in the net.
‘Oh, millia murther!’ sez the queen, ‘she’s stretchin’ it over my daughter’s ground.’
‘Oh, blud-an’-turf!’ sez the king, ‘now she’s stretchin’ it over my son’s ground. Galong, ye set ov thaulabawns,’ sed he to his life-guards; ‘galong, I say, an’ stop her, else she’ll cover all my dominions.’
“Oh fie, yer honour,’ sez the chief butler; ‘if you break yer word, I’m not shure ov my wages.’
Well behould ye, sur, in less than two hours Saint Bridget had the whole Curragh covered.
‘Now see what a purty kittle of fish you’ve made ov it!’ sez the queen.
‘No, but it’s you, Mrs Queen O’Derrnot, ‘twas you agreed to this.’
‘Ger out, ye ould bosthoon,’ sez the queen, ‘ye desarve it all: ye might aisy guess that she’d chouse ye. Shure iv ye had a grain ov sinse, ye might recollect how yer cousin King O’Toole was choused by Saint Kavin out ov all his ground, by the saint stuffin’ a lump ov a crow into the belly ov the ould goose.’
‘Well, Dorah, never mind; if she makes a hole, I have a peg for it. Now, Biddy,’ sez he, ‘though I gave ye the ground, I forgot to tell ye that I only give it for a certain time. I now tell ye from this day forward you shall only have it while ye keep yer fire in.’”
Here I lost the remainder of his discourse by my ill man­ners. I got so familiar with Mr Mowlds, and so interested with his story, that I forgot my politeness.
“And what about the fire, PAT ?” said I, without consideration.
Before I could recollect the offence, he turned on me with the eyes of a maniac—
“The dhoul whishper nollege into your ear. Pat! — (hum)
Pat!—Pat!—this is freedom, with all my heart.”
So saying, he strode away, muttering something between his teeth. However, I hope again to meet him, when I shall be little more cautious in my address.
[Original spelling and grammar retained – no attempt has been made to correct or explain the conversational vernacular used to present the story. It is of course quite possible that the author has merely invented Mr. Mowlds as a literary vehicle for poking fun at the Irish peasantry or simply a vehicle to make the story humourous for the readers of the Irish Penny Journal. There are obvious historical inaccuracies which may indicate confusion in the maintenance of the oral history or a deliberate attempt to entertain the reader by introducing characters and places familiar to the listener –King Dermot may mistakenly refer to Dermot Mac Murrough and his supposed connection to Castledermot but he died in the 12th century – Airfield may be a corruption of a local 19th century name in connection with Eyre Powell, the main landlord in Newbridge. It would be nice to think that the names of the nuns who held the corners of the cloak for Brigid in the story were actual names of real nuns that survived through oral tradition – Mario Corrigan]

Below is the cover of the issue of the Irish Penny Journal of 1840 which contained the story of St. Brigid's Shawl. The image is of Malahide Castle, Co. Dublin.

Irish Penny Journal.jpg


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In November 1840 the Irish Penny Journal carried a story of how St. Brigid's extended her Shawl across the Curragh to claim the land for her monastey at Kildare. It is told in the form of a conversation the author had with a local man, Pat Mowlds who probably lived at at Walshestown, Newbridge.

Posted by mariocorrigan at 10:49 PM


The Journal of the County Kildare Archaeological Society (J.K.A.S.) Vol. I, (Dublin, 1891-1895), p. 40.
Notes and Queries.
The Breedoge.—Can anyone inform me if the old custom of carry­ing round “The Breedoge” on St. Bridget’s Eve or Day (the 1st of February) is still kept up? Formerly, I am told, a figure was dressed up to represent the patron saint of Kildare, St. Bridget. This figure was called “The Breedoge” (Bride Oge), or “Young Bridget,” and carried round by the young people from house to house asking for coppers, in the same way as the wren on a holly hush is carried round on St. Stephen’s Day. The result of the day’s round was spent in a jollification. I believe this was a local custom peculiar to the neighbourhood of Kildare.—WALTER FITZ GERALD.
J.K.A.S. Vol. I, pp. 151-152.
Replies to Queries.
“The Breedoge” (JOURNAL, No. 1, p. 40).—In answer to my query in the County Kildare Archaeological Journal, as to whether the custom of carrying round the Breedoge was a local one or not, Ireceived a communication from Dr. P. W. Joyce, M.R.I.A.,of the Educational Department, in which he says he made inquiries among the pupils concerning it, with the result that he got written descrip­tions of it in the counties of Kilkenny, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, and Mayo, so that the custom is very general over Ireland. I have given below two or three descriptions of this custom, which Ihave selected from several sent to me by Dr. Joyce: —
One from the Co. Mayo.—The children dress up a figure, and decorate it with ribbons and flowers. Then four or more of them carry it from house to house on St. Bridget’s Day,* and ask the housewife to “honour the Breedoge.” One of the girls hums a tune, and the others dance. It is thought a very niggardly thing to refuse to honour the effigy. Eggs are taken where the housekeeper has no coppers to give. There is a spokeswoman for the party, who has a short made-up speech that she delivers at every house. The money and eggs collected are evenly divided between the girls, who pur­chase sweets and cakes with the proceeds. The girls usually choose the day for their rounds; then, at night, the boys go round with what is ‘called “The Cross.” This is a cross made of two ropes; a boy catches an end each, and then the four boys dance away to the music of a flute; like the girls they, too, gather contributions from each house they visit, and spend the result in a jollification.
Another from the Co. Kerry.—The Breedhogue is an image, supposed to be St Bridget. It consists of a churn-dash, or broom­stick, padded round with straw, and covered with a woman’s dress, the head being formed of a bundle of hay, rolled into the form of a ball; the hands are formed of furze branches, stuck up in the sleeves. This figure is carried round from house to house by boys and girls on St Bridget’s Eve. One boy starts a tune, and the others commence dancing, after which they are given pennies, or more generally eggs, in honour of the “Biddy.” No matter what the weather is, the Breedhogue is annually carried round, though since moonlighting commenced in Kerry it had to be discontinued for some time, owing to the fear of being mistaken for members of that band.
A Co. Cork description.—In some parts of the county the boys dress up a female figure in a white dress with gaudy ribbons, which they call “a Breedhoge.” They are generally themselves queerly dressed and disguised. On St. Bridget’s Eve they visit from house to house in the parish, particularly those houses where there are young women who, they say, should get married during Shrove time. If they are welcomed, and given money for a spree, then they will praise up and recommend the girls to their male friends; but if not, they will warn them to avoid them.—WALTER FITZ GERALD.
The practice alluded to by Lord Walter Fitz Gerald at p.40 exists in several parts of Ireland. It is probably a remnant of the procession in honour of St Brigid, when her statue would be carried about. The rude figure, if we can call it such, goes by the name of Breedog, i.e. brigid óig, Brigid the Virgin.—D. M.
[In the last line brigid óig is in old Irish text; D. M. is probably Denis Murphy who contributed an article on ‘St. Brigid of Kildare,’ on pages 169-176 of the same volume of the Journal; Walter Fitz Gerald is Lord Walter Fitzgerald of the family of the Dukes of Leinster; of Carton and Kilkea in Co. Kildare– Mario Corrigan]

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Volume I of the County Kildare Archaeological Journal contains notes on the Breedoge in the form of a query and follow-up on the custom of carrying the Breedoge on St. Bridget's Eve and St. Bridget's Day by Lord Walter Fitzgerald.

Posted by mariocorrigan at 06:32 PM


The Journal of the County Kildare Archaeological Society (J.K.A.S.) Vol. I, (Dublin, 1891-1895), pp. 169-176.
THE name Brígíd, brigid [in old Irish in text] in Irish, as we learn from Cormac Mac Cullenan’s ancient Glossary of the Irish tongue, was given to the goddess of poetry in ancient times. Others will have it to mean a fiery dart. So much for the name.
Her manner of life is summed up briefly in the Martyrology of Tallaght,which says, “Brigid was following the manners and the life which holy Mary, mother of Jesus, had.” And the Martyrology of Donegal,after quoting this passage, goes on to say: “It was this Brigid too that did not take her mind or her attention from the Lord for the space of one hour at any time, but was constantly mentioning Him and ever thinking of Him, as is evident in her own Life and in the Life of St. Brendan of Clonfert. She was very hospitable and very charitable to guests and to needy people. She was humble, and attended to the herding of sheep and early rising, as her Life proves, and as Cuimin of Condure states. Thus he says:-
“The blessed Brigid loved
Constant piety, which was not prescribed,
Sheep-herding and early rising,
Hospitality towards men of virtues.”
She spent seventy-four years diligently serving the Lord, per­forming signs and miracles, curing every disease and sickness in general, until she yielded up her spirit.”
Whosoever wishes to know in greater detail the life of this Saint will find it in the great work of Fr. John Colgan. He was of the Franciscan order, the same which had convents at Clane, Kildare, Castledermot, and in several other places of this county, as well as in nearly every other county in Ireland, numbering in all about sixty in the middle of the 16th century. This great man, not being able, for reasons which I need not enter into here, to find at home the education which he needed, went in search of it to Spain. The greater part of his life was passed in the Franciscan College of Louvain, founded in 1609 by the generosity of Philip III., and the Archdukes Albert and Isabella. There from 1626 to 1658, the year of his death, he devoted himself to bringing together and illustrating the Lives of Irish saints. He intended his work to extend over six folio volumes. Unhappily, he lived to complete only two of these—one the Lives of the Irish saints whose feast days occur in the three first months of the year, and another volume, comprising the Lives of three patrons of Ireland, Patrick, Colum­cille, and Brigid. Of the value set on these books at the present day we may judge from the fact that Dr. Reeves’ copy of the first fetched, at a sale held a few weeks since in Dublin, £31; and the other volume was bought a year or two ago from a Dublin bookseller for £18, and by a lawyer too, who, I am sure, knew well what he was about and thought his invest­ment a safe one.
Of that second volume, containing the Lives of the three patrons, the last of the three parts is taken up with the history of St. Brigid, and this is the storehouse in which those who write of her find ample materials. It extends from p. 513 to p. 649. It bears the title: The various Acts of St. Brigid, the Virgin, Abbess of Kildare, founder of the Brigittine Order, and common patron of all Ireland. Now these Acts comprise six different Lives of the saints, all of them ancient, some of them from very remote times.
The first of them is contained in a hymn in very ancient Irish, written by St. Broegan Claen, abbot of Rosturk, in Ossory, on “The Titles and Miracles of the Saint.” Side by side with the Irish hymn Colgan gives a Latin translation. As is the custom in such Irish works of ancient date, it is prefaced by a few lines telling when, where, and why it was written. “The place,” it says, “in which this hymn was composed was Slieve Bloom, or Cluan St. Maedog, and it was composed in the time of Lughaidh, son of Leoghaire, king of Ireland, when Aelider, son of Dunlang, was king of Leinster; and the reason of its being composed was that Ultan of Ardbraccan asked Broegan to describe in verse the acts and virtues of Brigid. It begins thus:—
“ Brigid did not love the pride of life.”
And it goes on:—
          “She was not querulous, not evil-minded;
She did not love fierce wrangling such as women practise,
She was not a venemous [venomous – sic] serpent or untruthful,
Nor did she sell the Son of God for things that fade.
She was not harsh to strangers,
She used to treat the wretched lepers kindly;
She built her dwelling on the plain
Which was frequented by vast crowds after her death.
There are two holy virgins in heaven,
Mary and holy Brigid;
May they protect me by their mighty help.”
And so for 53 stanzas of four lines each. Some think this Life was written so far back as the sixth century. If it was written at the suggestion of St. Ultan, we must take it to be a century later, i. e. eleven or twelve hundred years ago.
The second Life is by Cogitosus. It is in Latin prose. Most probably he was a monk of the monastery of Kildare that was under the rule of St. Brigid in ancient times, for he describes, in great detail, the architecture, ornaments, and arrangements of the church, as if lie had it before his eyes every day. From his omitting all mention of the ravages of the Danes and of some of the Irish chiefs in the early part of the ninth century, it has been correctly inferred that he wrote before 835, the year when the foreigners first plundered Kildare. “Cilldara,” say the Annals of the Four Masters, “was plundered by the foreigners of Inver Dea, i.e. Wicklow, and half the church was burned by them.” Cogitosus says, “Kildare was a sanctuary, or place of refuge, where there could be no danger of the attack of an enemy.” The Life begins thus: “You oblige me, brethren, to make an attempt to set down in writing the virtues and deeds of Brigid of holy and blessed memory, as if I were one of the learned. The burthen you lay on me, lowly and weak as I am, ignorant too of the niceties of language, is to tell in a fitting way of her who is the head of nearly all the churches of Ireland, and the summit towering above all the monasteries of the Scoti; whose power extends over the whole of Ireland, stretching from sea to sea; the abbess who dwells in the plain of the Liffey, whom all the abbesses of the Scoti venerate.” And he ends thus: “I ask pardon from the brethren, and from all who may read this, for, urged on by obedience, not sup­ported by any excellence of learning, I have traversed this vast ocean of the virtues of St. Brigid, one to be dreaded even by the bravest men.” This Life is published in the Bollandist Acta Sanctorum for February 1st.
The third Life is by St. Ultan, of Ardbraccan, in Meath, the same who induced St. Breogan to write the metrical Life already mentioned. The manuscript from which this Life was printed was found by F. Stephen White, S.J., in a monastery at Ratisbon; it was collated with another found in the monas­tery of St. Albert, at Cambray. Though there may be some doubts about the authorship, still that it is very ancient Colgan infers from the fact that most of the manuscripts which contain it were admitted to be five hundred years old, some of them seven hundred, in his time, i.e. in the middle of the seventeenth cen­tury. This would take the composition of it hack to the year 1000.
The 4th Life is by Anmchad, Latinized Animosus: it is in Latin metre. Who this Anmchad was — whether he was Bishop of Kildare and died in 980, or another — we have not sufficient grounds for saying with anything like certainty. The work seems to be that of one well acquainted with Kildare and its surroundings, and is more detailed than the others already mentioned. It begins thus: “Brethren, my mind is disturbed by three things—by love, which forces me to set down in writing the Life of St. Brigid, so that the great virtues which she practised, and the wonders which she wrought, may not be forgotten; next by shame, lest my uncouth and simple language may displease the learned and wise men who may read, or hear read, what I am going to write. But fear disturbs me still more, for I am too weak to undertake this work. I fear the sneers of unjust critics, who will scrutinize this work of mine as they do their food. But as the Lord ordered the poor among the people to offer to Him things mean and worthless in themselves for the building of the tabernacle, should not we too make an offering to build up His Church? And what is it but the congregation of the just?”
The 5th Life is the work of Laurence of Durham, a Benedic­tine monk, who lived about the year 1100. It was taken from a manuscript in the Irish College of Salamanca, the same which the Marquis of Bute lately published in a magnificent quarto volume, edited by the Bollandists.
Lastly, there is the Life by St. Caelan, a monk of Iniscealtra, in the Shannon, near Scariff. It is in Latin hexameters. It was discovered by an Irish Benedictine in the library of the mother-house of the Order, at Monte Cassino. The author lived in the first half of the eighth century. Prefixed to it is a beautiful poem on Ireland by St. Donatus, bishop of Fiesole, of whom Miss Stokes has given an account in her last book, Six Months in the Apennines, who lived a century later.
Besides, there are most valuable appendices:—
I. Offices to be said on the feast—one printed in Venice, in 1522; another in Paris, in 1622; a third in Genoa, not dated; a fourth used by the Canons of St. John of Lateran.
2. Extracts from the Lives of other saints relating to St. Brigid.
3. Accounts of her ancestors, death, her birthday, the number of years she lived, her place of burial.
4. The devotion to the Saint in Ireland and in other countries.
5. The history of the church of Kildare, its bishops, and the ravages by the Danes.
These are the Lives given by Colgan in the Trias. I should weary you if I enumerated to you the others that are now known, not only those written by her own countrymen, as that of Dr. Rothe, bishop of Ossory, On Brigid, the Worker of Miracles, but by French, Italian, German, Flemish, English, and Scottish writers. Even in our time her life has been written by Rev. S. Baring-Gould and by Dr. Forbes, bishop of Brechin. I need hardly say that no subject is oftener met with in our ancient Irish manuscripts than that of St. Brigid’s life. Dr. Whitley Stokes has published an ancient Irish Life of the Saint from the Book of Lismore. Those who wish to know the Saint’s life in detail, and the literature connected with it, will find all they can desire in the Rev. Canon O’Hanlon’s Lives of the Irish Saints, ii. 1.
The pedigree of St. Brigid is given in the Book of Leinster. She was the daughter of Dubtach, son of Demri, son of Bresil, son of Den, son of Conla, son of Art Corb, son of Cairbre, son of Cormac, son of Enghus Mean, son of Eochaidh Finn, son of Feidlimidh Rechtmar, who was ardrigh or chief monarch of Ireland, A.D.111. Her father is said to have been a great and mighty chief, Dux magnus et potens. Dr. Todd gives her genealogy and that of St. Columba, and shows they were descended from a common ancestor, Ugony Mor, supreme monarch of Ireland A.M.4546. Her mother, Brotseach, is said to have been a slave; but it is far more probable that she too was of noble birth, being the daughter of Dallbronach of the Dail Concobair in South Bregia. The Martyrology of Donegal says St. Ultan of Ardbraccan was her brother. Her birthplace was Fochart Muirthemhne, now Fochart, which is three miles north-west of Dundalk; the dun there was possibly the site of her father’s dwelling. There are remains of an old church dedicated to her, and close by is a holy well bearing her name, surmounted by a conical roof. Whether this building is of very remote date I cannot say, not having yet seen it. A stone, too, is pointed out in which it is said she was laid im­mediately after her birth. Such another stone we find at Gartan, the birthplace of St. Columba. The people of Donegal think that by lying on it before they set out for a foreign land, they will be freed from all danger of home-sickness. St. Bernard, in his Life of St. Malachy, makes mention of “the village of Fochart, which they say is the birthplace of Brigid the virgin.” This is close to the spot where Edward Bruce was slain in the year 1318.
Her parents wished to give her in marriage to a chief who sought her as wife. But she desired to devote herself wholly to the service of God and the poor. Other maidens followed her example, and joined her. They went to St. Macaille, bishop of Hy Failge. One of his clerics told him who she was, and why she and her companions had come to him. He placed the veil on her head, in token of her consecration to God in the re­ligions state. So St. Broegan Claen, in his hymn:
Posuit bonis avibus Maccalleus velum
Super caput sanctae Brigidae,
Clarus est in ejus gestis.
It would seem that she founded a religious establishment first near Uisneagh, in Westmeath. After a while she went, with her disciples, to Connaught, and dwelt in Magh Aoi, a district between Elphin and Roscommon, possibly at a place now bearing her name, called Killbride, in the parish of Kil­lacken. The people of Leinster, hearing of the wonders she wrought, besought her to return to her native province, and she determined to establish her monastery among them. She was welcomed by all. Drum Criadh seemed to her a fit place for her purpose; a large oak spread its branches around. “This,” Animosus tells us, “she loved very much, and she blessed it. Its stem and roots remain to this day.” The date of her settling there is not certain; it is presumed to have been 470; others say 480 and 484. This house, small and mean at first, grew to a great size, and soon it became the head of some hundreds of such houses, scattered throughout the country. Owing to her great repute, Kildare was for a while the metro­politan see of Leinster
The precise date of her death is not known. We shall not be much astray if we take that given by Colgan, namely, A.D. 523; nor is it known what her age was at her death. Colgan, who set down her birth as 439, would,, consequently, make her more than fourscore, while others say she died at the age of seventy.
Cogitosus says she was buried at Kildare. Indeed, he describes the shrines in which her remains and those of St. Con­laeth, the first bishop of this See, were preserved. He says they were ornamented with gold and silver, and precious stones; and crosses of gold and silver were suspended close by, one on the right side, the other on the left. He goes on to describe how the church grew in size, its extent, and the different parts and divisions of it; the door by which the priest, “cum regulari schola,” with his school of religious, entered, that by which the men entered, and the third, by which the women were admitted.
I am aware that some have held she was buried at Downpatrick immediately after her death; but that can hardly be, from what I have said above. Except by the fact of her relics being preserved at Kildare, it is impossible to account for “the vast crowds, the numberless multitudes, that came there from all the provinces of Ireland on her feast day, some for the plentiful banquets given them; others who were sick and diseased, coming to get back their health; others with gifts. All these came on the 1st of February, the day she cast off the burthen of the flesh, and followed the Lamb of God to the heavenly dwelling.” So Cogitosus. Later, very possibly to preserve her relics from the devastations of the Danes, from which Kildare seemed to have suffered oftener than any other place, they may have been removed to Down. Colgan thinks the removal may have taken place in the ninth century; and so the words of the distych would be verified—
Hi tres in Duno tumulo tumulantur in uno,
Brigida, Patricius, atque Columba pius.
Others will have it that John De Courcy got some of her relics transported there, in order to increase the importance of Down, which was the capital of his possessions. It would seem that the precise place where the bodies of the three Saints were laid was somehow forgotten. It is said that it was revealed to Bishop Malachy in 1189, and that the remains were transferred with great solemnity into the interior of the church soon after. When the relics of these Saints were destroyed, in the sixteenth century, during the deputyship of Lord Leonard Gray, St. Brigid’s head was saved by some of the clergy, who carried it to Neustadt, in Austria. In 1587 it was presented to the church of the Society of Jesus at Lisbon by the Emperor Rudolph II.
A few words in conclusion on the extent of the veneration shown to this saint. “So famous is the renown of this holy virgin,” says Hector Boetius, “that the Scots, the Picts, the Irish, and those who live near them, the English, put her next after the Virgin Mother of God.” And Alanus Copus: “She is most famous, not only among the Scots, the English, and the Irish, but churches are named after her throughout the whole world.” “Her feast,” F. Stephen White tells us, “was cele­brated in every cathedral church from the Grisons to the German Sea, for nearly a thousand years.” Cogitosus, in a passage given above, speaks of the veneration in which she was held by all the abbesses of the Scoti. The Book of Leinster gives a list of some thirty religious houses of women which were under her obedience in ancient times. Here are some places in the diocese of Dublin which still bear her name. We have Bride’s Church, a parish church, Bride’s street, Bride’s alley, Bride’s hospital; chapels dedicated to St. Brigid at Killo­sery, Swords, Ward, Tully, Tallaght, Kilbride near Rathfarnham. In Kildare—Kildare itself, Rosenallis, Cloncurry, Rathbride, Rathdrum. At Armagh there was a church and convent of women bearing her name, of which Dr. Reeves speaks in his Ancient Churches of Armagh. Wells bearing her name: Bride street, St. Margaret’s, Clondalkin, Swords, Clonskeagh, Rosslare, Ballysadare, Ballintobber, Kilcock, Buttevant, Tuam, Birchfield, near Ennistymon. Hospitals—Kilmainham, Carrickfergus, Dungarvan, Kells, and Galway. In the Ordnance Survey list of Irish townlands there are thirty-six Kilbrides. In Australia, America, wherever the Irish people are—and where are they not?—will be found churches, and schools, and convents bearing her name; no diocese without one at least; in some several, as in the diocese of Boston, four churches. And if we go to the Continent of Europe, we shall find her name wherever Irish missionaries have set foot—at Amiens, St. Omer, Besancon, Tours, Cologne, Fulda, at Fossey, in the diocese of Namur, at Seville, and Lisbon. An interesting fact bearing on what I have just said has been told me by the parish priest of Kildare. Very lately he received a letter from a parish priest in the neighbourhood of Aix-la-Chapelle, requesting of him a relic, however small, of St. Brigid; his parish church was dedicated to her, and on her feast, February 1st, there was a great concourse of the people to it in her honour. Few things are more touching than the casual inscription which one meets with at times on the margin of an old manuscript in St. Gall or Milan, the work of an Irish scribe in a foreign land; his labour is tedious and trying, working out these endless spirals and convolutions of the Opus Hibernicum; or it may be that a feeling of home-sickness has suddenly come on him, a fond longing to see once more “the fair hills of Eire,” and he stops awhile, and instinctively turns his thoughts to her who is the pride and glory of his race, “Margareta Hiberniae,” the pearl of Ireland, and its protectress, and he writes: “St. Brigid, aid me in the laborious task which I have undertaken,” or “St. Brigid, pray for us.”

The Journal of the Co. Kildare Archaeological Society is an invaluable source for those interested in the History, Heritage and Archaeology of Co. Kildare.   

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Above the cover of vol ii. 

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 Above the first page of Denis Murphy's article and below the old Irish text for the word Brigid

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Denis Murphy's article on St. Brigid of Kildare from Volume I of the Kildare Archaeological Journal.


Posted by mariocorrigan at 06:32 PM

January 29, 2006


The Annual Feile Bhride Festival is underway in Kildare Town - for full details visit the Solas Bhride website or the website

On Wednesday, 1st February, St. Brigid's Day, a new sculpture will be unveiled by the Irish President, Mary McAleese, on the Market Square, Kildare Town. This sculpture will house the permanent flame to commemorate the inextinguishable fire of St. Brigid which burned in Kildare for centuries.

To commemorate St. Brigid's day and Feile Bhride I am adding a section on St. Brigid to the site and will post 5 articles today relating to St. brigid.

Posted by mariocorrigan at 10:11 PM


Cambrensis writing in the 12th century refers as follows to this fire: “At Kildare which the glorious Brigid renders noble, many miracles deserve to be recorded, amongst which the fire of St. Brigid comes first: this they call inextinguishable, not that it could not be extinguished, but because the nuns feed it with fuel and tend it so care­fully that it has continued inextinct since the time of the Virgin.
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  Notwithstanding the great quantity of wood that has been consumed during so long a time, yet the ashes never accumulate. When in the time of St. Brigid twenty nuns had served the Lord here, she made the twentieth. After her glorious death, nineteen always remained and the number was not increased, and when each had kept the fire in order on her own night, on the twentieth night the last nun put faggots on the fire saying: ‘Brigid help your own fire. For this night has fallen to you.’ The fire being left so is found still burning in the morning, the fuel being consumed as usual. The fire is surrounded by a circular fence of twigs within which a male enters not.” In A.D. 1220, Henry de Loundres, Norman Archbishop of Dublin and Justiciary of Ireland, extinguished the fire which had been kept alight from early times by nuns of St. Brigid. Possibly it had been represented to him that the fire was of pagan origin. The fire, however, had any or all of three purposes (1) to provide for the wants of the poor pilgrims and strangers in accordance with the tradition founded by St. Brigid; (2) it may have been a sacred fire kept always burning before the shrines of the holy founders; (3) St. Brigid’s nuns may have been anticipating the now general rule of keeping a lamp before the Blessed Sacrament. At any rate, the fire was soon re-lighted and continued to burn till the 16th century when the monasteries were suppressed. The ruins of the Fire-house about 20 feet square are to the rere, between the Round Tower and the Nave.





[To celebrate the lighting of the flame as a permanent feature on the Market Square on St. Brigid's Day, Feb. 1st,  this week's chapter from the An Tostal Programme of 1953 (chapter 5) is indeed apt, as it is dedicated to St. Brigid's Fire House - Mario Corrigan]

Posted by mariocorrigan at 10:11 PM


HANDWRITTEN AT TOP – Written in June 1993
1993 Derby Festival Programme
St. Brigid of Kildare
Tadhg Hayden
By any standards that Kildare girl of one thousand five hundred years ago whom we call St. Brigid was a remarkable woman.
She founded a church, a convent and a monastery on the Hill of Kildare where the cathedral now stands. Such was her organising ability and the enduring impact of her personality that after her death her foundation became of major local, national and international fame.
At one stage the Kildare church was a rival of Armagh for the status of primacy. Apart from the Patrician basis of Armagh’s claim, the powerful political pull of the dominant Ulster O’Neill dynasty allied as it was with the Kings of Connaught and the High Kings at Tara weighed against Kildare. But the ecclesiastical lawyers at Armagh recognised the Kildare church as the chief church in Leinster and the Kildare Abbess as the chief Abbess of all the Abbesses in Ireland. The Brehon Laws also recognised her supremacy. She had a say in the appointment of bishops. Her death, up to the ninth century, was recorded with the death of Kings in the Annals.
Cogitosus writing in the seventh century described the church in Kildare as a large magnificent building with shrines laden with jewels, rich panel-work and sumptuous ornamentation. Kildare, he said, was a “city” —an implication not of population but of prestige. It was a wealthy centre. The King’s treasury was in Kildare — a hint of proto-­urbanity. Kildare had European contacts. It was a pilgrimage centre.
The glory that was Kildare in the era of the Celtic church was damaged by Viking attacks. It recovered. But it was destroyed by the arrival of the Anglo-Normans in the twelfth century. Their arrival was the kiss of death for Kildare and country as a whole.
The Kildare church was neither contemplative nor penitential. It was an out­going, practical church concerned with people and their material as well as spiritual needs.
St. Brigid founded this tradition. She would visit a pagan household and while talking to the farmer’s wife — in a friendly way — about christianity would at the same time show her how to make good butter and discuss poultry and bee-keeping.
Abbots and Abbesses of Kildare were usually members of the local ruling family. In its hey-day the Kildare church sent monks to Europe. Their mission does not appear to have been solely concerned with evangelical work. They were university professors invited to Europe by the Merovingian emperors to train native European teachers who were badly needed as Europe slowly recovered from the chaos caused by the collapse of the Roman empire.
In Ireland in the fifth century missionary work by St. Patrick and activists like St. Brigid happily produced no martyrs. Nobody was killed for being a christian or a pagan. The Irish were tolerant. Above all, people like St. Brigid were not confrontational. The attitude was live and let live — and the gradual, peaceful penetration of deeply-rooted pagan customs and cults and their gradual christianisation, bringing the people with them peacefully.
St. Brigid — a prime exponent of this strategy — infiltrated and took over the Cult of the Well, the Cult of the Fire, the Cult of the Oak (the sacred pagan tree) as well as the pagan Sun Symbol.
Before St. Brigid founded her religious complex on the Hill of Kildare (cathedral site), the oak-covered hill was a centre of pagan religious worship. Priestesses met there, lit their ritual fire and, encircling it, petitioned the pagan goddess, Brigid, for good crops and herds. St. Brigid took over the custom of this fire and set up a rota of nuns to maintain it, saying christian prayers. This fire was kept alight in the Fire Temple there, day and night, until the sixteenth century when Henry VIII expelled the nuns and demolished the convent and Fire Temple after a thousand years of existence. The foundations of the Fire Temple survived. They have been restored and an explanatory plaque has been put in place. When the present general restoration work is completed it is proposed to re-build the Fire Temple, re-light the flame and thereby provide a focal point of mind-boggling antiquity for pilgrims.
Wells were focal points for prayer in Celtic pagan theology. Priestesses gathered around them and prayed to Brigid, the goddess. Such wells were widespread in the Celtic world of Ireland, Wales and Scotland. St. Brigid moved in on some wells near her and christianised them. Ultimately all such wells, however distant, became associated with Brigid the saint, and attracted pilgrims. Druids gathered around their sacred oak tree on the Hill of Kildare. This oak has survived in the name of the town: Kildare — Cill Dara — the Church of Oak. A form of the traditional Celtic and Indo-European Sun Symbol has survived in christianised form as St. Brigid’s Cross. The festival of Brigid, the goddess, was Imbolc, the beginning of Spring, in our calendar February 1st. This date became the Feast Day of Brigid, the saint.
All this, and much more, underscore the astonishing ability of this Kildare girl of a millenium [millennium – sic] and a half ago to assimilate aspects of the past, adapt them and project them, alive and vibrant, into the future. As a person, Brigid was active, practical and generous. Her christianity could be described as applied christianity: people should be cared for. If they need help, help should be provided. She was a peace-maker. She was sensible and down-to-earth. Brigid’s father was Dubtoc (Dubhach — Duffy). His residence was at Knocknagalla just outside Kildare. Her mother was Broicseach (little badger), a member of a working class sept located in the Mountrice-Umeras district, a short distance from Kildare. Broicseach worked in Dubtoc’ s household.
There is no evidence that St. Brigid was born at Faughart, Co. Louth. No prime source authoritatively records her birth place. But the balance of probabilities comes down firmly in favour of Kildare. The Faughart claim raises more questions than answers. Brigid was genetically programmed to be a superb organiser of people. From her aristocratic father she inherited an autocratic, domineering attitude that got things done. She was at ease with the upper classes. From her working class mother she had the gift of the ability to communicate understandingly with the rank and file. She understood their problems and knew what practical help was needed.
If one strolls behind Kildare cathedral at twilight in the quiet of a summer’s evening near the remains of her Fire Temple on the actual ground where her convent once stood one can almost feel her presence and a faint echo of her spirituality.
And it is easy in Kildare to visualise her belting across the Curragh in her chariot, the hood of her cloak thrown back, her golden-brown hair streaming in the wind, in a hurry to help someone.
According to a Gaelic invocation in Scotland her hair was golden-brown. “Bríd nan or-chiabh donn”. [.” – sic] And in the Gaelic speaking islands of Scotland she is addressed by her full name “Bríd Ní Dhubhaigh” —— Brigid Dubtoc or Duffy — recalling her chieftain father and his Dun or Fort at Knocknagalla so long ago.
She was quite a person, this Brigid of Kildare. Her town remembers her. Hopefully she will remember her town!
[The townland Knocknagalla is spelled Knocknagalliagh on the 1837 Ordnance 6 inch maps; Dubtoc also Dubhtach or Dubtach – Mario Corrigan]





[Tadhg Hayden's article on St. Brigid for the 1993 Derby Festival Programme examines the enduring myth of Brigid and her role in pre-christian and christian Kildare. It also examines the strength of Brigid, the woman. It is reprinted here to commemorate St. Brigid's Day but also to honour the work done by Tadhg to promote the history and heritage of Kildare Town and his renowned scholarship.]

Posted by mariocorrigan at 10:11 PM

January 23, 2006



Round Towers in Ireland had a twofold purpose. They were used as belfries for Churches, and served also as keeps or places of strength in which the sacred vessels, books, relics or other valuables could be placed, and into which the clergy to whom they belonged could retire in case of sudden attack. For this purpose, the doorway was usually a certain height from the ground. There are ninety-eight round towers in Ireland, thirteen of them in perfect condition. The cloichteach of Kildare is 108 feet high. It has a solid base 50 feet in circumference. The doorway is 15 feet from the ground. The internal diameter at the door is 8½ feet. The wall is 5 feet in width. The tower stands near the west end of the nave of the Cathedral and is built of two kinds of stone, 13 feet being of white granite, and the rest of a darker stone. The chief feature is the fine Irish Romanesque doorway, built of a hard silicious sandstone of light colour, with ornaments in very low relief. There are four concentric arches, one recessed beyond the other and resting on round pilasters or semi-columns with flat imposts or capitals. The ornaments on the external arch have long been destroyed and were replaced with crude masonry early in the 18th century. The ornaments on the recessed arches are also much injured but the fourth or innermost is fairly well preserved. The tower was built probably at the close of the eighth or early in the ninth century. Giraldus Cambrensis tells of a beautiful falcon that used to nestle in its summit all alone and was on familiar terms with the monks and citizens, and was known as St. Brigid’s bird. Even in the time of Giraldus the Round Tower was a venerable building. It still points heavenwards as of old, marking out the sacred city of St. Brigid in the great plain of the Liffey.

Round Tower 72dpi.jpg

Chapter 4 of the AnTostal Programme from 1953 describes the Round Tower near St. Brigid's Cathedral. Fittingly next week chapter 5 contains a description of St. Brigid's Fire House, in time for the re-lighting of St. Brigid's flame as a permanent feature on the Market Square, Kildare Town. The lighting of the flame will take place on ST. Brigid's Day, 1st February 2006.

Posted by mariocorrigan at 09:48 PM

January 18, 2006


Cill Dara Historical Society – Calendar of Events
Talks Begin at 8 p.m. (unless stated)
The Education Centre Kildare
Friary Road, Kildare Town
Further Information: 086 1686236
Thursday 2nd February – THE ANNUAL CELTIC LECTURE in association with Feile
    Bhride & The Education Centre Kildare
Wednesday 1st March – THE LOCK HOSPITAL, KILDARE TOWN – with HUGH
 Details to follow
Wednesday 5th July – THE HAYDEN LECTURE – in association with Kildare Derby
Festival – Details to follow
Wednesday 4th October – 1918, THE SPANISH FLU & Co. KILDARE – with RONNIE
Wednesday 1st November – RECENT EXCAVATIONS AT GREY ABBEY – with
         EMER DENNEHY – AT 8.30 p.m.
Bring along a friend for an enjoyable night with your Local History Group

KD HIST 2852 72dpi.JPG

Posted by mariocorrigan at 12:31 AM

January 17, 2006



The Church erected in the time of St. Brigid and St. Conlaeth was probably of wood, like most of the churches of the period. The earliest description of the Cathedral is that of Cogitosus who, early in the ninth century, wrote as follows concerning “the Church in which rest the glorious bodies of Bishop Conlaeth, and the Virgin St. Brigid on the right and left of the decorated altar, placed in monu­ments decorated with various embellishments of gold and silver and precious stones with crowns of gold and silver hung above them.

For owing to the increase in the number of the faithful and their being of both sexes, the Church occupied a wide area and was raised to a towering height and was adorned with painted pictures. It has within three spacious ora­tories separated by plank partitions, under one roof of the greater house, wherein one partition decorated and painted with figures and covered with linen hangings, extended along the breadth of the eastern part of the Church, from one wall of the Church to the other, which partition has at its end two doors. Through the one door on the right the Chief Bishop entered the Sanctuary accompanied by his regular school, and by those who are appointed to the holy ministry of offering Sacred and Divine Sacrifices. Through the other door, on the left part of the aforesaid cross wall, enters the Abbess with her virgins and faithful widows to enjoy the feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Moreover another wall separates the floor of the house into two equal parts stretching from the eastward part of the cross wall. The Church has many windows and one ornamental door on the right by which the priests and faithful of the male sex enter the Church, and another door on the left by which the assembly of the virgins and faithful women are wont to enter. Thus in one very great temple, a multitude of people in different order and ranks separated by partitions but of one mind to worship God.”

Cathedral 72dpi.JPG

Thus in St. Brigid’s monastery at Kildare there was an establishment for each sex, the men under the bishop (later the abbot) and the women under the abbess. The rule was the same for both, but each section was probably autonomous, and the Church was used in common for Mass and other religious services. There was a distinct entrance by a side door for each sex, and a high partition running down the body of the Church which screened each off from the other’s view. This arrangement probably goes back to the great virgin founder.

The Church described by Cogitosus was probably of stone, and half of it was destroyed in 835 when the Danes of Wicklow invaded Kildare. They also carried away the costly shrines of St. Brigid and St. Conlaeth. The relics were saved from desecration, and those of St. Brigid were conveyed for safety to Saul. In 1185 in answer to St. Malachy’s prayer the relics of SS. Patrick, Brigid and Colmcille were discovered. Permission to remove the relics to Down was obtained from Pope Urban III, who sent as his Legate, Cardinal Vivian who, with fifteen bishops, together with abbots, deans, provosts and other clergy were present at the translation. The Shrine of the three great Patrons of Eire was desecrated in 1538.

In 868, Kildare Church was rebuilt by Queen Flanna, wife of Aedh Finliath, King of Ireland. In 1050, Kildare with its Daimliag (great stone church) was burned. They were burned again in 1067. In 1132, St. Laurence O’Toole son of Maurice O’Toole who lived in or near Castledermot, was baptised at Kildare. The Church was plundered in 1136. In 1138 and again in 1150, Kildare was burned. In 1223, when Ralph de Bristol became bishop of Kildare, he found his cathedral in ruins. He rebuilt and beautified it at great expense. Dr. Edmund Lane, Bishop from 1482 to 1513, continued the work of restoring and beautifiying the Cathedral, and built a college for the Dean and Chapter. In 1600, Kildare town suffered so severely that all the houses were in ruins, without a single inhabitant. The Cathedral shared in the general wreck. In 1641, the Cathedral again suffered severely, and its steeple was beaten down by cannonade. In 1643, the town was made a garrison post under the Earl of Castlehaven. Bishop Rosse McGeoghegan restored the ancient Cathedral and and [sic] in March 1643 reconscrated [reconsecrated - sic] it for Catholic use. The wars of the 17th century again left the Cathedral in ruins. In 1686, the choir portion was fitted up for Protestant service, the rest of the building remaining in ruins until 1871, when the restoration of the Cathedral was begun under the supervision of Street, the eminent architect. The work was completed in 1896. 

Cathedral 1871 72dpi.JPG


The third chapter of the An Tostal Souvenir Programme from 1953 explored the history of St. Brigid's Cathedral, Kildare.

Spelling and grammar retained - mispellings, mistakes in grammar, punctuation etc. identified by square brackets and sic - [sic]

Posted by mariocorrigan at 12:08 AM

January 09, 2006



 Closely associated with St. Brigid in the foundation at Kildare was St. Conlaeth, first Bishop of the See. Owing to the great and rapid increase of her community and to meet the spiritual wants of the new city that rose around this already famous monastery, St. Brigid asked that a bishop be appointed. Her request was granted and on her recommendation, St. Conlaeth, a holy recluse who lived in the south of the Liffey plain, probably the present Old Connall, was appointed. The date of his appointment is not certain, but it was probably not earlier than 490. St. Conlaeth no doubt had under him a body of clergy for the service of the Church. He was a skilled artificer in gold and silver. The Four Masters call him St. Brigid’s Brazier. An ancient crozier of St. Finnbhar in Connacht, now preserved in the Royal Irish Academy, is said to have been made by him. During his episcopate he made a pilgrimage to Rome. He brought back from Rome precious vestments for the use of his Church in Kildare. Cogitosus, a monk of Kildare, who wrote a life of St. Brigid early in the ninth century, recording St. Brigid’s great charity, refers to these vestments and states that “she gave to the poor even the transmarine and rare vestments of Bishop Conlaeth which he was accustomed to use when offering the Sacred Mysteries at the Altars, on the festivals of Our Lord and the vigils of the Apostles.” After governing his See for about twenty years, St. Conlaeth died on the 3rd. May, 519. Some authors say that he died a violent death having been killed by wolves. In 799 his relics were removed from his grave at Cinel Lugair, probably the present Killeen Cormac, and placed in a shrine of gold and silver.


 [There were no actual chapters but it is the easiest way to differentiate between the sections]

The second chapter of the An Tostal Souvenir Programme from 1953 recounted the life of St. Conleth, the reclusive hermit from Old Connell, who became the 1st Bishop of Kildare.


Scanned Image of Front Cover

Front Cover 72dpi.JPG

Posted by mariocorrigan at 07:12 PM

January 03, 2006


Cill Dara Brigde



Souvenir of An Tostal Festival







Historic Kildare with your ancient Abbeys, Castle, Round Tower, Cathedral: what memories you hold; memories above all of ‘Brigid, The Mary of the Gael,’ from whose humble church beneath the ‘Oak,’ ‘Cilldara,’ you owe your name. Home of St. Brigid, who founded her Convent here, lived here, worked here, prayed here and died here. How blessed we are in Kildare, under Divine Providence, to be privileged to live where she lived; to walk in her very footsteps; to know that the schools founded by her, still flourish under the direction of our devoted Sisters, Brothers and lay-teachers; that all her work is still being carried on as of old, under her sweet invocation, in her own Kildare.




The compilers of this Souvenir booklet are greatly indebted for the free use of matter from the following books of Reference: Comerford’s Collections; County Kildare Archaeological Journals; Brenan’s Schools of Kildare and Leighlin; Curtayne, St. Brigid of Ireland, etc.

Other historical matter was obtained from the following local historians—The Misses Cahill, Mrs. Jordan, Messrs Patrick McCormack, Thomas Daly, James Kelly, Thomas Dunne and others.

They gratefully acknowledge the kindness of Very Rev. R. E. Eaton, M.A., Dean of Kildare, for the use of the blocks of illustrations in the booklet.

The Tostal Committee will be grateful if readers will kindly point out any errors or omissions in description.



ANCIENT Kildare seems to have stood a little to the west of the present town. The place was formerly called Drumcree, (Dromcriadh) or ridge of clay. It received its present name from an ancient high oak beside which St. Brigid made her oratory or cell. St. Brigid established herself at Kildare about the year 470, and to this fact the town owes its origin. St. Brigid is the greatest of the daughters of Ireland. As St. Patrick is the father, so is St. Brigid the mother of the children of Ireland. She is the second of the three Patron Saints of Ireland: as St. Patrick is the Apostle of Ireland and as St. Colmcille is the Apostle of Scotland, so St. Brigid is the founder of female religious communities in Ireland.
The place of her birth is uncertain. Faughart near Dundalk claims her, but there is a strong local tradition that she was born either at Umeras or Shindela between Monasterevan and Rathangan; that she lived at Mullacharue an adjoining district; that St. Mel visited her there, and that she founded a church at Red Hills. “St. Brigid’s Course” from Mullacharue to Red Hills is still pointed out. From Mullagharue, Red Hills and Croghan Hill where she received the veil from St. Maccaille are clearly visible. She was born about 450 of noble Christian parents. She grew up to be a girl of singular grace and beauty. She was trained from childhood in letters, but this did not prevent her from performing ordinary farmyard duties such as the care of cows and the making of butter. Many suitors sought her hand but she turned them all away for her heart had already been given to a higher Spouse. The day came when with seven other maidens she betook herself to Croghan Hill where, prostrating themselves before the holy bishop, Maccaille, each of them received from his hand a white veil and a white dress. She travelled much over Ireland in a two horse-chariot, founding convents and working miracles. Owing to the fame of her holiness the people of her native place sent to invite her to found a convent among them. About 470 she came to Drumcriadh over looking the Liffey plain, and there built Cill Dara, the Cell of the Oak. Soon Kildare was famous as a monastic settlement. Crowds of men and women came from all parts of the country to consult the Saint, to benefit by her miraculous powers, or place themselves permanently under her guidance. By 480 what had first been a mere cell had grown to be a monastery of large proportions. She was noted for her hospitality, and for her charity to needy people. “The holy virgin loved constant piety, which was not prescribed, sheep herding and early rising, hospitality towards men of virtue.”


St. Brigid died about the year 524 at Kildare. She was then about 74 years of age. She received the Last Sacraments from St. Ninnidh, who is known in history as Ninnidh of the Pure Hand. St. Brigid had prophesied that he would assist her at the hour of death, and on this account he always wore a cloth on his right hand. The Brehon laws Prescribed special devotion to St. Brigid. The Kings of Leinster paid tribute to her convent. Through respect for her, the town and suburbs of Kildare were granted the privilege of Sanctuary, that is, an accused person who took refuge there was safe from immediate punishment.
She is the saint of pastoral life. Her visions as given in the Leabhar Breac are of ploughmen and sowers, clear shining streams, oats springing up, furrowed fields, all farm animals, sheep, swine, dogs. All her legends are about farm life, milking cows, making firkins of butter, calling home the sheep in the rain. She was an expert butter and cheese maker; her home-brewed ale was famous. Even when she was Mother-Abbess of thirteen thousand nuns, she spent part of each day at rural occupations. We find her tending sheep on the grassy slopes of Dromcree or on the Curragh plains, or supervising the reapers as they worked from dawn to sunset in the harvest fields about her convent settlement, or busy over her stores of honey, or home-made brews. She loved all animal life. The wild duck came at her call. Once she tamed a wild fox for [a – sic] pet. Yet she fostered learning equally with pastoral occupations. The Book of Lismore states: “Wherefore it came to pass that the comradeship of the world’s sons of reading is with Brigid and the Lord gives them through Brigid’s prayer every perfect good they ask. Everything that Brigid would ask of the Lord was granted to her at once. For this was her desire: to satisfy the poor, to expel every hardship, to spare every miserable man. None was ever more retiring, more modest, more gentle, more humble, more wise, or more harmonious than she. She was abstinent, innocent, prayerful, patient; she was glad in God’s commandments; she was firm, forgiving, loving; she was a consecrated casket for keeping Christ’s Body and His Blood; she was a temple of God. Her heart and her mind were a throne of rest for the Holy Ghost. She was compassionate towards the wretched; she was splendid in miracles and marvels; wherefore her name among created things is Dove among birds, Vine among trees, Sun among stars. She helps everyone who is in straits and danger; she banishes pestilence; she quells the anger and the storm of the sea. She is the prophetess of Christ; she is the Queen of the South; she is the Mary of the Gael.”


February is called in Irish the month of Brigid’s feast. St. Brigid’s Day, 1st. February, is the first day of Spring; the early flowers bloom that day, and the linnet, called the glasan Brighde, begins to sing. The country people rejoice in the gradual lengthening of the day, and although the rigours of winter are not yet entirely past, they feel that their faces are towards the long evenings and the summer’s heat. The Cros Bhrigde, St. Brigid’s Cross, made on the eve of the Feast is affixed to the back of the door in every home. In time of temptation her Irish children say: Brigid and her cloak, Mary and her Son between us and every evil. At night prayer and again at the raking of the fire and in every occupation the name of Brigid is invoked with the sacred names of Jesus and Mary.



[One of the best sources for the history of Kildare Town remains the An Tostal Festival Souvenir Programme published by the An Tostal Committee in 1953. Over the next few months this programme will be republished on this website chapter by chapter. It is intended to re-publish the material as it appeared in 1953. The original spelling and grammar will be retained with obvious mistakes highlighted by the use of square brackets and sic. The town is indebted to the original authors and the An Tostal Committee and this addition to the website is a tribute to their work and research. ]

Posted by mariocorrigan at 11:43 PM