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Life of St Senan, Bishop, Patron Saint of West Clare
 

In Retrospect

The extent of the island at the present time is about one hundred acres. Three hundred years ago it contained a hundred and eighty acres; and considering the continual coast-erosion over fourteen centuries, the Island in the days of St. Senan must have been many times greater.

A monastic settlement in the sixth century was little better than the rath or dun of the local chieftains. A high mound of earth, the rath, encircled the enclosure which contained the cells of the monks, the buildings in which they prayed or worked. With the advance of time more solid and enduring buildings of stone were erected. But even these must have sustained considerable damage during the invasions of the Danes, and especially when they held it for ten years and fortified it against the avenging Dalcassians.

More than a century later, when a collegiate church succeeded the monastery, substantial edifices must surely have been raised to accommodate the canons and priors who lived there for three hundred and fifty years. No trace of such buildings now remains. Have they fallen into the tide? Have they been used by the pervert landlord to fence his pastures? Or, (which is not unlikely), used in the building of the Martello tower which was built at the end of the island in the panic of a Napoleonic invasion of ‘Scattery’?

The descendants of Nicholas Cahane, mentioned above continued as landlords of the island until the end of the last century.

When our native language was suppressed and faded in West Clare, many of the legends, traditions, salutations, blessings, and religious practices faded with it.

Not a few faithful people continued in devotion to their patron saint. And even though the church of Kill-na-cailleach disappeared and that of the native Mullogha fell into ruin, the generous people of West Clare have raised edifices far more beautiful than these in the parishes of Kilrush and Knockerra.

Churches such as these are not just symbols of Catholic worship. They are eloquent proofs of those virtues without which faith dies - unswerving fidelity, enduring patience and generous self-denial.

 

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