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Ordnance Survey Letters by John O'Donovan and Eugene Curry, 1839

Parish of Carron (c)

In this Parish, in the Townland of Cael-Choille and within half a mile of the boundary of the Co. of Galway, are situated the celebrated Boher na Mias and Hermitage of St. Mac Duagh. What a dismal and gloomy spot! I walked thither on the 15th inst. from Corofin, and I never felt so fatigued, after having walked for miles across the country on the uneven surface of the lime-stone rocks. What an enthusiastic recluse St. Colman, the son of Duach must have been, to have retired from the busy scenes of life to contemplate eternity and the uncertainty of human fate in this dismal valley, then thickly wooded and haunted by wolves!

The story about Boher na Mias and the dishes of Guaire Aidhne, the Hospitable, has already been given from various authorities in my letters on Dun Guaire in the Parish of Kinvara, and it is not, therefore, necessary to repeat it here. It will be sufficient to state that Boher na Mias or the Road of the Dishes is situated in the townland of Keelkilly in the Parish of Carron and Barony of Burren, and at the foot of a high cliff called Kinn-Aillé.

This is the very name it is called in the Life of Mac Duach published by Colgan. “He fixed his dwelling near a pleasant fountain “(now Tobar Mac Duagh - J.O’D.)” in the great wood of Boireann, and in that part of it which is called Kinn-Aillé, about five miles from Durlus, the Palace of Guaire”.
The tracks of the feet of men, horses and dogs, said to have been impressed in the rock by the miracle of Mac Duagh, are holes of various sizes and shapes naturally worked by water in the surface of the lime-stone flag. These natural impressions, however, are sufficiently remarkable to have suggested the ground-work of the legend about Boher na Mias, which, though a very wild one, is nevertheless not without interest to the antiquary and lover of legendary lore. But if the tracks in the level lime-stone rock be natural and uninteresting to the antiquary, the Hermitage of Mac Duagh and the grave of his servant are not. The little oratory of Mac Duagh in this wild valley, though much dilapidated, is still easily recognised to be a Church of his time. It was very small, and only one gable and one side wall remain. The gable faces the cliff and is featureless, and the side wall contains a small, rude, quadrangular window, measuring on the outside ten inches by five, which looks to the east.

This is certainly the original oratory of St. Mac Duagh, (“They built there an oratory surrounded with trees.” - Scholiast of Aengus.) and the very one in which Guairé Aidhné, King of Connaught, discovered him when induced him to remove to Kilmacduagh where he built a sumptuous Monastery for him.

Immediately to the east of Templemacduagh at Kinallia is Tobermacduagh, at which Stations are performed and a “Pattern” held on St. Mac Duagh’s Day, said to be last day of summer, but this must be an error, as St. Colman Mac Duagh’s Day is the 3rd of February.

There are also here two altars or penitential Stations at which pilgrims perform their turrises or rounds on the “Pattern Day” or on any day they wish.

Over the little Church to the northwest is a cave in a rock called Mac Duach’s Bed or Leaba Mhic Duach, in which he was accustomed to sleep every night before King Guaire discovered him, and about twenty perches to the south of it is shewn the grave of his servant (Leacht - ?) who died after partaking of the dinner which flew hither from Guaire’s table! The poor man had been so emaciated from eating herbs in the wilderness that when he swallowed a piece of substantial food he died on the spot! His grave is a curious one and could be very easily explored.