CELT document T201005

The Life of St Féchín of Fore


The Life of St Féchín of Fore

The following Life of St Féchín of Fore is now for the first time published from the unique copy in the Phillips Library, Cheltenham, No. 9194, which is dated 1329. No other Irish Life of Féchín is now known; but in the seventeenth century Colgan had three, one taken from the Book of Imaidh in Connaught: another “stylo planè vetusto et magnae fidei”, but wanting the beginning and end: a third “vetusto et eleganti metro, 74 distichis constante, in quorum paenè singulis singula narrantur miracula.” Besides these three Irish Lives, he had a Latin Life by Augustin Magraidin, a canon regular of the monastery of Inis na Naemh in the county of Longford. This Life Colgan has printed in the Acta Sanctorum Hiberniae, Lovanii, 1645, pp. 130–133. It is followed in the same work, pp. 133–139, by a second Life —alia Vita seu Supplementum— in Colgan's own Latin, compiled from the three Irish Lives in his possession. From Colgan is derived all that Lanigan has written about St Féchín in his Ecclesiastical History of Ireland.

The following text represents the manuscript except in the following particulars: words have been divided from the article and other proclitics: the paragraphs have been numbered: marks of punctuation have been introduced: proper names have been spelt with initial capitals: contractions have been extended, the extensions being printed in italics; and lastly, eight sets of quatrains (41 in all) have been omitted, as they merely repeat what has been already told in prose.


Féchín or Féchíne “corvulus” was also called Mo-ecca, under which name he is commemorated in the Calendar of Oengus at Jan. 20. 1 His pedigree is thus given in the Book of Leinster, p. 352, col. 7: “Fechine Fabair Mac Cailchiarna, Maic Cillini, Maic Grillini Cillini, Maic Cail, Maic Aeda, Maic Saim, Maic Airt Chirb, Maic Niad Corb.” He died, according to the Annals of Ulster and the Four Masters, in the year 664 of the Yellow Plague, a pestilence said to have been brought on the Irish by the pitiless prayers of himself and other saints. His Life now printed is noticeable as to its form for the alliterative exordium and for the repetition in verse of the narratives already told in prose. 2 As to its substance, the stories of the leper, paragraphs 37, 38, and the drowned children, paragraph 43, and the incident of the water-horse, paragraphs 41, 42, will interest students of hagiology and folklore.

I will only add an alphabetical list of the rarer words in the following Life:

  • absoluid absolution 8,
  • aisicim I restore, s-pret. sg. 3 asiges, 21,
  • bronn-ór gift-gold, 48,
  • bronnseng slenderbellied 1,
  • caraiste carriage 46,
  • coltur coulter 40,
  • combuaidrim I disturb 43,
  • comchinél joint-kindred 46,
  • comcungnad co-operation 37,
  • cruimlinn ale-liquor 31,
  • cumann fellowship 31,
  • cumthanus assistance 31,
  • duib-gréim dark profit 31,
  • erlainn (erlann?) a green or lawn 41, 43,
  • facbála nóib a saint's leavings, i. e. his curse or his blessing 3, 41, 42,
  • faris along with him 22 (see Revue Celtique, tome 8, p. 360, lines 9–17),
  • greslebrach having illuminated books? 1,
  • gribda active? 1,
  • imain playing hurly 43,
  • laemda radiant? 2,
  • macnus wantonness 37,
  • pairilis palsy 25,
  • rogu choice, sg. acc. rogain 39,
  • selbathóir owner 34,
  • taidbrim I behold 18,
  • terlam ready 39,
  • tritach triadic? 27.

Whitley Stokes.London, 13 September 1890.

Unknown author

Betha Féchín Fabair

English translation

Edited by Whitley Stokes


The Life of Féchín of Fore


  1. A Man, abstinent, pleasant, charitable,
    powerful, emaciated 4, just-worded,
    honest, pious, rich in sense,
    godly, affectionate, discreet,
    opportune, wise, prayerful,
    skilful, righteous, holy-worded,
    active (?), chaste, possessed of illuminated books,
to wit, a man of a bright, summery life, an abbot and an anchorite, fair-worded Féchín of Fore, from the delightful borders of Luigne, from the loveable province of Connaught.


Son was he of a man valiant, hardy, triumphant, Cailcarna 5,—and Grillin was another name for him—of the race of Art Corb son of Cairbre. And his mother was Lasair 6 the radiant 7, full-long, of the royal race of Munster. And long before his birth he had often been predicted.


For a chief prophet of heaven and earth, even Colombcille, after coming from Finnén's monastery 8 to the place called Fabar 9, predicted him a long time before 10, and Colombcille beheld the ministration of the angels above that glen, and greatly did he rejoice at the ministration of the angels. And Colombcille left that place after he knew that not unto him was it granted (by God). And when the lord of that land, even Sellán 11, heard that Colombcille had gone past him, he  p.323 followed the saint to offer himself and his place unto him. And after Colombcille knew this he waited for Sellán. When Sellán came up to the saint he flung himself on his knees, and bowed down to Colombcille's feet, and offered himself and his place unto him. And Colombcille said: “Offer not this place to me,” saith he; “for a son of bright eternal Life, even Féchín, will come and build a place in thy neighbourhood, on the east of us, and unto him it behoves thee to offer thyself and thy place.” And after that Sellán saw a fiery pillar of vast size, from earth to heaven, standing up in the glen aforesaid. And he beheld a multitude of radiant birds filling the glen from heaven to earth.


Often did the saints and the righteous foretell Féchín's birth before it occurred. Wherefore (a poet) sang:
Colomb of the battles beheld, etc.


Forsooth, it was no wonder that every sign of sanctity should be there: for his birth was a marvel and his infancy was marvellous. For when his parents used to go asleep, they would put him between their breasts, and when they awoke they would find him on the bare floor, with his hands stretched out in the form of a cross! And his companionship with them was like the companionship of light with darkness. And from that age till the appointed (time) he endured not the tasting of flesh.


Now at the beginning of the proper age to learn, he was taken to Nathi 12 a noble distinguished priest, to be taught.


So one day his father, for some cause, struck him on the head in Nathi's presence. Said Nathi: “Unjustly hast thou stricken the head of the Great King.” “Why do you say that?” says his father. [Nathi answered:] “I see a crowd of angels over his head, for many a son of Life 13 will be serving him, since these kindreds 14 will be subject to him altogether”; and (this) has been fulfilled.



Of a time when Féchín was learning with Presbyter Nathi in Achad Conairi, he is set one day to keep the meadow lest it should be stript bare by strangers' cattle. Thereafter the king's horses and herds are put into it in spite of Féchín. Féchín cursed them, and struck his bell at them, so that they found death forthwith. When the king heard that, he comes before Féchín, and flung himself on his knees, and sought forgiveness of his sins. Féchín gives him absolution, and brought his horses and his herds (back) to life; and God's name and Féchín's were magnified by that miracle. And the king made an offering of that land to Féchín for ever, and Féchín gave it to his master, even Presbyter Nathi. Wherefore (a poet) sang the Lay:
A goodly marvel of him as an infant, etc.


After that holy child was perfected in age and in wisdom and in holiness, his tutor told him to take holy orders 15 (so as to be able) to offer the King of Heaven and Earth. So Féchin quitted his tutor, and after taking orders, went, by the angel's command, to Fore. And his mind rejoiced at that place, and he prayed and fasted there for three days and a night. And the angel came unto him in that night, and said to him: “Build an abode in this place, for it is there that thy resurrection shall be, and many of Ireland's saints along with thee.” For Nathi had long before predicted that Féchín's resurrection would take place in Fore.


Thereafter comes Sellán, the lord of that land, to Féchín, and made an offering of that land to Féchín; and Féchín blessed Sellán. And Sellán found death afterwards, and Féchín buried him in the place where the altar of the monastery is set afterwards.


Now after that monastery was built 16 by Féchín, he edified a congregation therein, and instructed them duly in  p.327 his Rule; and he chastised 17 himself by fasting for three days, and by prayer, and by vigils, and by labour, and by great cold. And God made him bright with abundance of miracles and marvels, and (a poet) uttered the lay there:
Three days he fasted in the sea, etc.


On a certain day a man of learning, having a little boy along with him, came to the place, to Féchín. Sillenius 18 was the name of the man of learning, and Féchín made him welcome, and said with a prophetic spirit: “It is this little boy in thy company, O Sillenius, who shall erect the temple of this monastery.” And afterwards this came true, and God's name and Féchín's were magnified thereby.


A monk in that monastery had for a long time been in ill health, and afterwards he died. This was told to Féchín, and he goes above the head of the dead body, and flung himself on the floor on his knees, and earnestly entreated God to bring the corpse to life. And (then) he arose from his crossvigil 19, and lifted up the cloth that lay on the face of the dead body, and said to it: “In the name of the Trinity, arise !” And the monk arose at once at Féchín's word, and Féchín took his hand, and he was long alive afterwards. And God's name and Féchín's were magnified thereby, and so forth. 20


A cleric whose name was Ronán son of Guaire had been suffering from a disease in his head, and he visited the leeches of Ireland in order to be cured, and he got no health from them. Thereafter he goes, in search of his cure, throughout the world, and he visited many of the countries of the world, and was no whit the better. And in Britain he met a holy hermit, who said to him: “In a glen in the midst of Ireland is the man who will cure thee, and (his) monastery is on the northern side of the lake which lies in that place.” When Ronán heard that he goes back to Ireland, and he understood that it was Féchín who would heal him. And Ronán  p.329 came where Féchín dwelt, and Féchín gave him forgiveness of his sins, and he was every whit whole afterwards. And (a poet) uttered the lay:
Came (one) day Sillenius, etc.


Once upon a time Féchín went on a visitation to his native land, and he came to Nathi's church, which is now called Achad Conairi; and when he went inside, the shrine in the church shone forth so that the multitude who were without saw light over the door and over the windows of the temple. And God's name and Féchín's were magnified thereby.


One day, when Féchín was preaching to the tribes in front of the monastery 21, a godly (but) unshapely man came to the sermon, and he entreated Féchín to help him from his unshapeliness; and for very shame he could not bear to sit near the monks, so he sat down at a distance from them. Now it happened that Féchín cast his spittle on the ground, and the unshapely man mixed clay with the spittle, and rubbed it on his face, and thenceforward he was comely, so that in his time there was no one comelier than he. And God's name and Féchín's were magnified by that miracle. 22


That is the hour and time at which the angel appeared to Féchín in his sleep and said to him: “The inhabitants of the island named Imaid 23, and the rest of the people of that country, are in darkness as to the divine law; and get thee to preach to them. For God hath granted to thee their tribute and their due, and it is thou who shall be unto them a lord and counsellor and bush of protection and judge of doom.” At the angel's command Féchín goes into the west of Connaught to Imaid, and he blessed it, and built a cloister therein, and brought those tribes under a yoke of belief and piety, and baptised them in a well which brake forth for him from the ground through the miracles of God and the powers of  p.331 Féchín. And God's name and Féchín's were magnified therein. And (a poet) uttered the lay:
Féchín came into his own country, etc.


A monk of Féchín's monks was one day praying, and his mind was not in the prayer. The Evil Spirit entered his heart and tempted him. That was beheld by Féchín (in a dream), so he desired the monk to be brought to him. And Féchín sained his month, and then he became whole every whit. 24 And God's name and Féchín's were magnified by that miracle.


At another time a leper came to Féchín, and sought of him for God's honour, to be in his company in his monastery, and at dinner and in his bed. Féchín granted that for God's sake, and when they rose on the morrow the leper was whole every whit, and he believed fervently in God and in Féchín; and God's name and Féchín's were magnified thereby.


At another time a certain secular rude man came to Féchín to learn the divine faith, and remained in his company throughout the Lent. When Easter had come he was proceeding to his own house. Féchín heard that and said to him: “Stay”, saith he, “along with me, and confess and repent; for not far from thee is the hour of thy death.” And that was true. After confession and after repentance the warrior found death; and then he goes to heaven through the grace of God and Féchín. And God's name and Féchín's were magnified thereby. 25


Once upon a time Blathmac 26 son of Aed Sláine seized three hostages who were under Féchín's protection. Féchín goes to demand the hostages from Blathmac, and he obtained them not. Féchín cursed the fortress which is called Inis Calgaig, and a fiery bolt came out of the air so that the fortress, with all its goods, burst into flame, and Blathmac goes fleeing  p.333 the fire, and he was not the better, for the fire burnt him terribly. He sends messengers to all the leeches of Ireland to help him, and it was no profit to them, for none of them were able to cure him. He sends to summon Féchín. So Féchín came to him, and Blathmac threw himself on his knees to Féchín, and restored his hostages, and gave him his own absolute ownership with all his goods. And Féchín blessed Blathmac, and he became whole afterwards. And God's name and Féchín's were magnified thereby.


During the Lent, Féchín was accustomed to go and pray at midnight in the stream at Es-dara 27 A monk named Pastól went along with him into the stream, and when he was on the side below Féchín he could not endure the water for heat. And when he was on the side above (Féchín) he could not endure (it) for exceeding cold. When Féchín understood this he called him beside him and moderated the water for Pastól so that it was endurable. And Féchín told him not to relate this to any one. So that it was after Féchín's death that he related it. And God's name and Féchín's were magnified thereby. 28


On a certain day, when Féchín was with his monks in Imaid Féchín in the west of Connaught, on a Sunday evening, a little before vespers, he was seized by a desire to go to Fore, and he earnestly entreated God to help him in that difficulty. An angel of God comes to him and told him to enter the chariot at hand. So Féchín with his monks entered the chariot, and they came before vespers to Fore; and God's name and Féchín's were magnified thereby.


Now Diarmait son of Aed Sláine had a warrior of noble race in custody. He was a friend of Féchín's, and his name was Aedán. Féchín came along with a band of his monks to ask the king, even Diarmait, for his captive. When Féchín was seen coming to the fortress, Diarmait, for fear of being  p.335 asked for the captive, ordered the gates of the fortress to be closed. Féchín came to the fortress, and the locks and the gates open of themselves, so that Féchín came to the house wherein were the kings, even Diarmait and Blathmac, and many other persons of noble race. He asked the kings to let Aedán go forth, and all entreated that he should be delivered to Féchín, save only one man, who gave his counsel against the saint and forthwith died. The kings besought Féchín to restore him to life and (promised) that he should have Aedán. So it is done, namely, Féchín resuscitated the dead man and Aedán is let go with him. And Féchín came with his people happily and joyously to Fore, and Aedán was with them, and he asked Féchín to put him to reading, and so it is done. God and Féchín's prayer bestowed upon him the grace of wisdom, and he afterwards lovingly took holy orders. And through Féchín's powers God lessened Aedán's appetite. 29 For he previously used to consume a dinner for seven, and thenceforward he would make (only one) monk's dinner. 30 It was not strange that he consumed a big dinner, such was the greatness of his body and his strength. For he was stronger and stouter than any (other) man of his time. And the measure of his girdle would go under Féchín to the ground on the outside of his raiment. And great was the body accordingly, as we have found in the books. And God's name and Féchín's were magnified by those many miracles which God wrought for him.


God wrought other wonderful miracles for Féchín. Of them was the healing of the man who had suffered from palsy and deafness from the hour he was born, even as Jesus helped the man who was suffering from a mortal palsy, and who could not be healed by a human leech. God's name and Féchín's were magnified (thereby).


It was not strange, indeed, that many miracles and marvels were wrought by that godly man, even Féchín: for he was chaste in body, and diligent in mind, and eloquent  p.337 in speech. He was rich in cunning: he was clear in moderation: he was sure in belief: he was firm in correcting sinners: he was clement in humility: he was an unwearied chastiser of his own body; he was beneficent in charity: he was loving to guests: he was vigorous in helping the feeble ones of God: he was poor and lowly to himself: he was rich to every one else. Wherefore the poet sang this below:
Mochua asked, etc.


After Féchín had come to his final days, the angel revealed to him the appointed time of his death. His monks and his disciples were summoned to him, and he began teaching them, and told them to follow the rule of the patriarchs and the apostles, and that they should battle with body and soul against their enemies, the Devil and the World and the Flesh. Then Féchín received Communion and Sacrifice from Mo-Chaemóc's hand, and sent his spirit to heaven. And at the same hour Mo-Chua despatched his messenger to look westward to know whether he could see the sign or token which Féchín had promised to him. And the messenger beheld a huge column, in the likeness of the colours of the rainbow, stretching from Féchín's monastery up to heaven. Back comes the messenger to Mo-Chua and tells him all he had seen. “It is true”, says Mo-Chua: “that is the sign which Féchín promised to me.” And Mo-Chua partakes of Communion and Sacrifice, and instructs his monks and his disciples, and sends his spirit along with Féchín to heaven, 31 wherein there is the one triadic (?) God of the three Persons, to wit Father and Son and Holy Ghost, for ever and ever, amen.


After Féchín's death, Moling 32 asked the Satan: “Do ye disturb the souls of the saints at the time of their death?” The Satan said: “We come to disturb them, and we can do nothing to them.” Said Moling: “Did ye go to disturb my  p.339 friend Féchín at the time of his death?” The Satan answered: “Not only were we unable to do aught to him, but until the end of seven days after his death we durst not visit Ireland because of the splendour of the Holy Ghost which surrounded it.” 33 Hereby is declared the sanctity of the man of whom his Enemy gave that description. For he as to whom his enemy bears favourable witness is all the more deserving of praise. Wherefore a poet sang the lay concerning him:
Knowledge of his age, etc.


And in the possession of Cathal Ua Conchobhair is this Life of Féchín now, the year of the age of the Lord 1731. And great is the change in the world since the time when this Life was written, and I do not know whether it is for the better.


vos fratres, etc. O you dear brethren! I have heard many of the mighty deeds and marvels of holy Féchín, who was (both) an abbot and an anchorite. These are the words of Eruran the sage 35 in his own compendium of the Life of Féchín. For Eruran 36 said that Féchín by his word alone gave sight to the blind, and tongues to the dumb, and hearing to the deaf, and health to the lepers and to sufferers from every disease besides. And he was skilled in every science and especially in the Rules of the Saints.



Féchín goes to seek a place wherein he might serve God. He goes to Critán the merchant, to Áth Eochaille, and asks that a place for serving God in might be given him. And Critán refuses his request. Then Féchín curses him and says: “If one of thy two feet reaches land, the other foot reaches it not !” And that became true. For the wind arose against Critán (when he was) at sea, and he was drowned, with all his goods.


It is he, Féchín, that never obtained fellowship or help of king or lord for fear of worldly arrogance. As saith (the poet) in the stave:

  1. I ask not
    Of kings the choice of a portion.
    Woe to him who sets his heart
    On converse and on ale-liquor 37!
    That is the slippery satisfaction
    Out of which the Devil gets a dark profit.


Thereafter the angel spake to Féchín and told him this, to go to the Glen of the Bird, which is now called Fore: as Columcille said

  1. O Baithin, wait for us here, etc.


Féchín came with his monks to Fore. Critán son of Rethe, whose other name was Sellán, was then the owner of Fore, and it was he that bestowed it on Féchín. And Becán son of Rethe at first gave a meal to Féchín. And neither Féchín nor his three hundred monks had any separate property, and they sold nothing and bought nothing. 38 They all partook of their meals together, and none of them ever went out of his cell save to the church for prayer or for doing service.


Once upon a time when Féchín was in the hermitage guests came to him. The cook declares that he had no food for them unless God should give it. Then from the Lord wheat was brought, and butter and milk, to help Féchín's  p.343 hospitality and charity; and God's name and Féchín's were magnified by that miracle.


At another time, when Féchín went at the angel's command to preach to the folk of Imaid, (he and his monks) lost their way, and Féchín got from them neither food nor drink, because of their envy and jealousy towards him. And they threw the servants of the monks, and their books and their garments, into the neighbouring sea. And the divine power brought them to land, every whit whole, without suffering loss of garment or book or human being. 39


A sore famine attacked Féchín and his community, and two of them perished, and Féchín brought those two back to life. Guaire son of Colmán heard that Féchín and his community were suffering this famine, so he sent them a hundred men's meal of food and of ale; and Guaire sent his cup to distribute that ale to them; and that is still (called) Féchín's Cup, and out of it Féchín afterwards baptized Guaire. And God's name and Féchín's were magnified thereby. 40


One day, when Féchín was in front of the church in Fore, he saw coming towards him, a leper full of disease from sole to crown —from him Cros in Chlaim “the Cross of the Leper” is named today. And the leper entreated Féchín to assist him as to food and drink and all his other wants. And he required a well-born woman to sleep with him, and he was wanton to Féchín, as is the manner of lepers. And Féchín carried the leper on his back to the guest-house, and then he goes to the island of Loch Lebinn 41, to the fortress of Diarmait son of Aed Sláine. And he said to the queen, even the wife of Diarmait son of Aed Sláine, “Come with me”, says he, “to relieve the misery and want of my leper, and thou shalt have a reward therefor.” “There is nothing on earth”, says she, “for which I would do that, unless, indeed,  p.345 thou give me heaven in lieu of it.” “(That) shalt thou have”, says Féchín; “and every queen who shall succeed thee shall have heaven so long as she does my will.”


Then the queen goes with Féchín to the guest-house, wherein the leper was biding; and the saint leaves the queen along with the leper. And the leper desired the queen to suck his nose, and the queen sucked the leper's nose, and the matter sucked from the nose was put on a fair linen cloth, and a chain of gold was made of that matter. And he told the queen that she would get every thing that Féchín had promised her. And on the morrow Féchín went to the house, and beheld a fiery bolt 42 rising from the roof of the house till it reached heaven. Then Féchín understood that it was Jesus who had come in a leper's form to test his charity and his goodness. And Féchín asked the queen for tidings of the leper, and she told him that it was Jesus who had been there, and that He had left His blessing with Féchín and his community. And she gave Féchín the crozier which had been left with her, and she gave him the mucus which had become the material of the golden chain. And with that gold Féchín bought much land for the church. And God's name and Féchín's were magnified thereby. 43


Once upon a time, because of the great labour of the monks in grinding their rations with a quern, Féchín proceeded to build a watermill. The mill was built and was ready (to work). But the millwright said that he would deem his life long enough if he lived until water came to the mill. 44 “God is able”, says Féchín, “(to cause) water to come to it.” Féchín went to Loch Lebinn, and cast his crozier into the lake, and the crozier went through the mountain, and the water came in rivers on the track of the crozier and  p.347 drowned the wright who was asleep in the place of the mill-pond. Caemán the Speckled, the wright's lord, came to expostulate with Féchín about the wright, and Féchín brought him back to life, and gave him his choice, to go with Caemán the Speckled or to remain at Fore. The wright declared that he would stay: “for”, says he, “if the world's men were chosen out of Fore, heaven would be granted to them all.”


One day, Pastól, Féchín's cook, went to a forge to get a coulter made. He took with him a piece of bacon (as payment) for making the coulter. Howbeit the smith's lad made of the bacon a mock coulter, and put it into the wallet on Pastól's back, and told him that the coulter was ready in his wallet. When Pastól came to Féchín, {} and they found nothing in the wallet but the coulter of bacon. When Féchín saw that, he blessed the bacon, and a coulter of iron was made thereout. And that coulter remained till these recent 45 times, and so forth. 46


At another time Féchín was at Fore, and he heard that the king of Leinster had seized a hostage who was under Féchín's protection. Féchín went with his monks to ask for the hostage, and one of the two horses that were under his chariot died. Said Féchín: “There is a horse in this riverpool to the west, and I permit him to come under my chariot.” The water-horse came to them and was harnessed to the chariot, and it was tamer and gentler than any other horse. And Féchín goes to the Fair of Carman 47, where were the kingfolk of Leinster including their king, Ailill son of Dunlang. 48 He asked Ailill for the hostage who was under his safeguard. The king replied that he would not deliver him unless he got the horse that was under Féchín's chariot, and Féchín said that he would not give the horse. The king goes to partake of the feast that was laid before him. Féchín follows him. The king told the doorkeeper not to let Féchín in, and to shew disobedience  p.349 to him. The angel said to Féchín: “I will open the lock of the heavenly kingdom and of the fortress before thee.” The angel goes before Féchín to the fortress. Then there came a great earthquake, so that the whole city was made to tremble, and the bonds of the captives in the fortress were broken. Féchín comes with his hostages out on the green 49, and he “left leavings” on the fort of Naas (namely) every hostage therein to be kept without escaping: for neither locks nor gyves remain upon them. When Féchín went out to the place wherein is Fechin's Cross, before the fortress, then the king died in the house after him. And the dead king was taken to Féchín. And Féchín brought the king of Leinster from death to life. 50


It was then that Ailill son of Dunlang gave, in guerdon for his resuscitation by Féchín, Telach Fabra (the Hill of Fore?) to Féchín, and complete freedom from his tribute to Féchín and his mill, and Féchín's tribute for ever upon Leinster from one sea to another. Féchín “left leavings” with the king of Naas, to wit, a dead man's hue upon him every day continually, in sign of the miracle. Then he frees the captives and goes in his chariot to Fore, and permitted the water-horse to enter the same river-pool, and said: “Do thou meet no one, and let no one meet thee hence for ever.” And God's name and Féchín's were magnified thereby.


At another time Féchín was in his cell praying, when he heard the noise of the children hurling on the green beside the cell, and they disturbed Féchín at his devotions. Says Féchín: “I permit you to go and be drowned in the lake, and your souls will be free (to ascend) to heaven.” Then the children went into the lake, and they were drowned and they obtained a reward for their souls. Wherefore from them Loch Macraide “Children's Lake” is (so called) for ever; and God's name and Féchín's were magnified thereby. 51



At another time, Domnall son of Aed, son of Ainmire, came with a great hosting of northerners concerning the change of the two Nialls: the Hosting of the Measure was its name. 52 When the hosts reached Raith Droma Nó, the sons of Aed Sláine went to Féchín to ask for food. He was then at Tibraid in Cenél Maine. The cook said that he had no food save a single sieve of oats. Féchín directed that half of the sieve should be put on water so as to make ale thereout, and that its other half (should be) for food. Thereafter the sons of Aed Sláine with their troops were sated for three days and a night with the ale and the food (made) of a single sieveful.


A certain man came to the house wherein the sons of Aed Sláine were staying, and this is what he said: “Ye have forsaken your country and your land for the cleric's food and ale; and ye are not the better of the injury which you inflict on the cleric, for ye would obtain from him your fill of food and ale so long as he pleases. It were better for you (to give) respite and peace to our country than to stay here feeding your troops.”


After that Féchín went with the sons of Aed Sláine to Raith Droma Nó. 53 In that place Féchín fasted for the space of thirteen days and thirteen nights, in order that he 54 should not be deprived of the change of land; and that change was not obtained from the king of Ireland. Thereafter snow fell as far as men's shoulders and killed a horse for every carriage in the men of Ireland, and (even) for that the king did not grant him respite. Then from heaven came a fiery sword between the king and the queen, and entered the ground between them, and burnt every way it went. “It is time”, says  p.353 the queen, “to do the saint's will.” The king prostrated himself to the cleric, and the cleric put his foot with its shoe upon the king's neck, and the wizard said to Féchín: “Take that foot from the king's neck, or thou wilt repent it.” The earth straightway swallowed up the wizard. Wherefore it was proclaimed in the presence of the men of Ireland that Féchín should have forever their truce and their joint-kindred and their free sanctuary. And hence it is aill aill(?) with Féchín's stewards from that time to this. And God's name and Féchín's were magnified thereby.


Once upon a time seven cows and a bull were brought to Féchín from Rónán as an offering. Pastól went to milk them, and by God's grace and Féchín's, he milked from the bull as much as from the seven cows. 55 And God's name and Féchín's were magnified thereby.


At another time Maenach son of Fingen, king of Cashel, seized the captive whose name was Erloman. The captive's mother came to Féchín to ask the ransom of her son; for it was Féchín's continual habit to ransom captives. Féchín gave her a necklace of gold (wherewith) to ransom her son. When the king beheld the necklace he uttered the stave:

  1. Ni coe comoil na cuillte
    Since thou hast brought refined gift-gold.
    To Féchín out of the glens,
    Take his captive and his necklace.


Her son was then let go with her to Féchín, and he was preparing food for her son 56

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Title (uniform): The Life of St Féchín of Fore

Title (supplementary): English translation

Title (original): Betha Féchín Fabair

Editor: Whitley Stokes

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Based on a Latin translation by: Nicol Óg, son of the abbot of Cong

Electronic edition compiled by: Beatrix Färber

Funded by: University College, Cork, School of History

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1. First draft.

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Extent: 8165 words

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Date: 2012

Date: 2018

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CELT document ID: T201005

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Manuscript source for Irish text

  • Dublin, National Library of Ireland, MS G5; formerly Cheltenham, Phillips 9195 (see Nessa Ní Shéaghdha, Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in the National Library of Ireland, fasc. 1 (Dublin 1967) 31–34.


  1. Augustine mac Graidin, Latin Life of St Féchín, ed. John Colgan, Acta Sanctorum Hiberniae (Leuven 1645).
  2. John Lanigan, Ecclesiastical History of Ireland, 4 vols. (Dublin 1822).
  3. Eugene O'Curry, Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish. Vol. 1–3 (London 1873).
  4. George Thomas Stokes, 'St. Fechin of Fore and his monastery', Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 22 (1892) (ser. 5 vol. 2) 1–12.
  5. Charles Plummer (ed.), Vitae sanctorum Hiberniae, 2 vols. (Oxford 1910; repr. Oxford 1968).
  6. John B. Coyle, The life of Saint Fechin of Fore, the apostle of Connemara; preface by the Archbishop of Tuam (Dublin: Gill 1915).
  7. James F. Kenny, The Sources for the Early History of Ireland: ecclesiastical. An introduction and guide (Shannon I.U.P., 1968. Repr. of 1929 ed., corrections and additions, and preface, by Ludwig Bieler).
  8. Pádraig Ó Riain, Corpus Genealogiarum Sanctorum Hiberniae. (Dublin 1985). Paragraphs 315, 421.
  9. Thomas Charles-Edwards, Early Christian Ireland (Cambridge 2000).
  10. Dorothy Ann Bray, 'Malediction and benediction in the Lives of early Irish saints', Studia Celtica 36 (2002), 47–58.
  11. Jane Cartwright, (ed.), Celtic hagiography and saints' cults (Cardiff 2003).
  12. Conchubhar Ó Crualaoich, 'Saint Vogues of Carne revisited: a possible link between the 'familia' of 'Feichín' of Fore and South Wexford?', The Past 26 (2005) 42–45.
  13. Donnchadh Ó Corráin, 'Ireland c. 800. Aspects of Society', in: Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, A New History of Ireland (Oxford 2005) 549.
  14. Pádraig Ó Riain, A dictionary of Irish Saints (Dublin 2011), 309–311 (with bibliography).

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‘Life of St Féchín of Fore’ (1891). In: Revue Celtique‍ 12. Ed. by Whitley Stokes, pp. 318–353.

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  editor 	 = {Whitley Stokes},
  title 	 = {Life of St Féchín of Fore},
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  volume 	 = {12},
  date 	 = {1891},
  pages 	 = {318–353}


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This document represents pp 318–319 and odd pages 321–353 of the published edition. The editorial introduction is included. The Irish text is available at CELT in a separate file, G201005. Notes, glossary and index have been omitted. Eight sets of quatrains (i.e. 41 quatrains) have been omitted by Stokes as being repetitive of material already in the prose. The omissions have been marked with gap.

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Creation: English translation by Whitley Stokes

Date: c. 1891

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  • The text and editor's introduction are in English. (en)
  • A few words are in Latin. (la)
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Keywords: religious; prose; medieval; Saint's Life; Féchín; Fechin; Fore; translation

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  1. 2018-04-19: Changes made to details regarding author and translator. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
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  1. So in the Martyrology of Tallaght. But in the Calendar of Marianus Gorman St Féchín's day is the 19th January. 🢀

  2. See Revue Celtique, tome 5, p. 364, lines 19–24 and note. Such repetitions are found in the Voyage of Snedgus and Mac Riagla, Revue Celtique, tome 9, p. 14, and two copies of the Voyage of Mael duin, ibid. 🢀

  3. See Three Fragments of Irish Annals, p. 186. 🢀

  4. Lit. slender-bellied. 🢀

  5. “patre Koelcharnano,” Colgan Acta Sanctorum Hiberniae, p. 130. Coelcarna, ibid., p. 135. 🢀

  6. “matre ... Lasreá”, ibid. p. 130. 🢀

  7. Cf. “laom”, a blaze of fire, O'R. 🢀

  8. at Clonard. 🢀

  9. now a village in the co. of Westmeath. 🢀

  10. “Triginta annis”, Colgan🢀

  11. Stellanus, Colgan A. S. Hib. 133. 🢀

  12. “Praesbytero nomine Nathineo”, Colgan A. S. Hib., 130. 🢀

  13. i. e. a religious person, the opposite of mac báis “son of Death” = filius perditionis, Vulg. Hence the name Mac-beth. 🢀

  14. i. e. the people of Lugne. 🢀

  15. Literally “to go under the consecrated grades.” So infra paragraph 24. 🢀

  16. See a drawing of the cyclopean doorway of the church in Petrie's Round Towers, p. 173. The oratory (durthech) was burnt in the year 815, according to the Annals of Ulster. 🢀

  17. Or corrected. 🢀

  18. Sellinus, Colgan, A. S. Hib. 134, col. 2. 🢀

  19. See Revue Celtique, 4, 392, s. v. croisfhigill. 🢀

  20. Cf. Elijah's miracle, 1 Kings, c. xvii, vv. 17–22. 🢀

  21. Of Easdara, Colgan A. S. Hib., 134, col. 2. 🢀

  22. There is nothing corresponding to Colgan's cc. 14–21. 🢀

  23. An island, now called Omey, on the coast of Connemara, Co Galway. See the Four Masters, A. D. 1362, note d. 🢀

  24. This seems the equivalent of c. 16 of the first Latin Life, Colgan A. S. Hib., p. 132. 🢀

  25. This corresponds with c. 26 of the second Latin Life. 🢀

  26. Joint-king of Ireland, from A. D. 657 to 664, when he died of the Yellow Plague. 🢀

  27. Ballysadare. co, Sligo; see Colgan's note 3, A. S. Hib., p. 140. 🢀

  28. A similar story is told in c. 17 of the first Latin Life (Colgan, A. S. Hib., p. 152), a tub (dolium) taking the place of the stream. 🢀

  29. Literally “his sufficiency”, i. e. the amount of food which was enough for him. 🢀

  30. This paragraph corresponds with c. 27 of the second Life, Colgan, A. S. Hib., p. 156. 🢀

  31. This corresponds with c. 49 of the second Life, Colgan, A. S. Hib., p. 139. 🢀

  32. i. e. S. Moling Luachra, of Tech Moling, a famous saint, commemorated on the 17th June. 🢀

  33. This is cap. 50 of the second Latin Life, Colgan, A. S. Hib., p. 139. 🢀

  34. the Young, son of the abbot of Cong, put this Life of Féchín out of Latin into Gaelic, and O'Duffy took and wrote (it); and this is the year of the age of the Lord today, 1329, etc. 🢀

  35. This is cap. 50 of the second Latin Life, Colgan, A. S. Hib., p. 139. 🢀

  36. Otherwise called Aileran, as in the Latin Life, c. 12. See Colgan's note 12, A. S. Hib., p. 140. 🢀

  37. I take cruimlinn to be, by metathesis, ior cuirm-linn. 🢀

  38. Compare the Homily on S. Martin, paragraph 22, Revue Celtique, 2, p. 392. 🢀

  39. A similar tale is told in the first Latin Life, c. 12 (Colgan, A. S. Hib, p. 135, col. 2. 🢀

  40. So Colgan, A. S. Hib., p. 135, col. 2 (c. 22). 🢀

  41. Now Lough Leane, in Westmeath, about one mile south of the village of Fore, Four Masters, A. D. 864, 1094. 🢀

  42. “igneum globum”, Colgan, A. S. Hib., p. 136, col. 1. 🢀

  43. This corresponds with c. 23 of the second Latin Life, Colgan, A. S. Hib., p. 135. 🢀

  44. Which was, as appears from the first Latin Life, c. 14, situate on the top of a hill. The idiomatic phrase “nar beg lais”, etc., is thus rendered by Colgan: “sufficit mihi vivere donec videam istud molendinum aqua abundare”. 🢀

  45. Literally “final”. 🢀

  46. This silly story is in the second Life, c. 31, Colgan, A. S. Hib., p. 36, col. 2. 🢀

  47. See as to this fair, O' Curry's Manners and Customs, II, 38; III, 313, 526. 🢀

  48. He was killed by the Norsemen A. D. 869, more than 200 years after S. Féchín's death. 🢀

  49. Cf. “forsan erlainn”, infra paragraph 42: urlainn “a lawn, yard or green”, O'Donovan, Supp. 🢀

  50. This story is told in the second Life, cc. 32, 55 — the incident of the waterhorse being almost suppressed. 🢀

  51. Compare the remarks of Giraldus as to the proneness of the Irish saints to revenge (prae aliarum regionum sanctis, animi vindicis esse videntur, Top. Hib. dist. 2, c. 55. The story told in the Life of S. Gerald of Mayo (A. S. Hib., p. 601, c. xiii) throws another lurid light on S. Féchín's character. 🢀

  52. This is more intelligibly told by Colgan (A. S. Hib., p. 137, col. 1): Domnaldus filius Aidi, Rex Hiberniae, quodam die venit cum ingenti exercitu in partes Midiae, volens antiquam, quae erat inter regiones utriusque gentis O Nellorum, divisionem mutari et regiones illas denuo mensurari, mutari et aequius dividi. Unde expeditio illa Scotice vocatur sloigheadh an mheich .i. expeditio mensurae seu aequalitatis. 🢀

  53. Rath Droma Nua, Colgan, A. S. Hib., p. 157. 🢀

  54. i. e. as representing the sons of Aed Sláine. 🢀

  55. This is c. 36 of Colgan's second Life. 🢀

  56. Here the story breaks off. According to the Latin Life, c. 37, Féchín tests Erloman's obedience by ordering him to leap into a fiery furnace, from which, of course, he escapes unhurt. 🢀


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