Dallan (DNB00)

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DALLAN, Saint (fl. 600), commonly called in Irish writings Forgaill, in Latin Forcellius, was of the race of Colla Uais, and was born about the middle of the sixth century in the district of Teallach Eathach, which was then included in Connaught, but now forms the north-western part of the county of Cavan. He was famous for learning in the reign of Aedh mac Ainmere, who became king of Ireland in 571, and he survived St. Columba. Three poems are attributed to him, a panegyric on St. Columba, one on Senan, bishop of Inis Cathaig, and one on Conall Coel, abbot of Iniskeel in Donegal. The two first are extant in manuscript, and the ‘Amhra Choluimcille,’ as the first is called, has, been printed with a translation by O'Beirne Crowe from an eleventh-century text in ‘Lebor na huidri,’ an edition which has been severely criticised by Whitley Stokes (Remarks on the Celtic Additions to Curtius' Greek Etymology, Calcutta, 1875).

The legend of the composition is that Dallan had composed the panegyric and proceeded to recite it at the end of the folkmote at Druim Ceta. Columba was pleased, but Baithene, his companion, warned him that fiends floating in the air were rejoicing over his commission of the sin of pride. Columba accepted the reproof and stopped the poet, saying that it was after death only that men should be praised. After the saint's death in 597 Dallan made public the panegyric. The text in ‘Lebor na huidri’ has a copious and very ancient commentary, the obscurity of which shows that scholars in the eleventh century found parts of the ‘Amhra’ as unintelligible as they are in the present day. It was in verse, and several metres were probably used, though an exact recension of Dallan's part of the text as it stands is required before there can be any certainty about the rhythm. The poem begins with a lament for Columba's death, his ascent into heaven is told next and some of his virtues set forth; then his learning, his charity, his chastity, and more of his virtues are recounted, and the poem ends as it began with the words, ‘Ni di sceuil duæ neill,’ a history worth telling about the descendant of Niall. The feast day of St. Dallan is 29 Jan., but the year of his death is unknown.

[O'Beirne Crowe's Amra Choluimcille of Dallan Forgaill, Dublin, 1871; Colgan's Acta Sanctorum, Louvain, 1645; Lebor na huidri, facsimile Royal Irish Academy.]

N. M.