Gerald (DNB00)

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GERALD, Saint and Bishop (d. 731), of Magh Eo, now Mayo, was, according to the life published by the Bollandists, and attributed by Colgan to Augustin Magraidin (1405), a monk from the neighbourhood of Winchester, who, with some companions, migrated to Ireland, in order to lead a solitary life. Another account connects his leaving England with the defeat of St. Colman, bishop of Lindisfarne, at the conference at Whitby on the Easter question. The party landed in Connaught and made their way northward to Sligo. Gerald built a church in Mayo which he called Cill n-ailither, or the Church of the Pilgrims. Parties of West- and East-Saxons having from time to time joined him there, the district acquired the name of Tech Saxan, which is still preserved in the prebend of Tagh Saxan in the cathedral of Tuam. He is also said to have built an oratory for his adherents in the plain of Mayo, on land given by Raghallach, king of Connaught (640–5), but it must have been a later king, as the best authority places his own death in 731. Here he was buried and his memory was venerated. This has been confounded with the monastery built in the same neighbourhood by St. Colman of Lindisfarne for his Saxon followers. It has been suggested that St. Colman placed his followers under the charge of Gerald as their countryman, but Bede distinctly states that St. Colman's monastery was a new one, and Dr. Petrie holds that St. Colman's abbey church was founded in the seventh century, and this of St. Gerald, also known as ‘Tempull Garailt,’ in the beginning of the eighth. Another story connects him with St. Fechin of Fobhar, who belonged to the second order of Irish saints (542–99). Fechin approved a proposal of the rich to pray for a pestilence to diminish the numbers of the lower orders on occasion of a famine, that there might be enough for the survivors. Gerald opposed the wicked proposal, which is said to have been punished by a plague. These anachronisms show that little value can be attributed to the details of the life. His fame was probably due to the later prosperity of his monastery. Ussher quotes from the ‘Book of Ballymote’ a statement that there were a hundred Saxon saints at Mayo in the time of Adamnan, St. Gerald's successor, and the Litany of Oengus in the ‘Book of Leinster’ has an invocation of ‘3,300 saints with Gerald the bishop, and with the fifty saints of Leyney in Connaught, who are [buried] at Mayo of the Saxons.’ Local names and traditions also attest the reality of this English mission. Gerald is termed in the ‘Annals’ the ‘Pontifex of Mayo of the Saxons,’ and more distinctly ‘episcopus’ in the extract from the Litany of Oengus. The date of his death is given by Ussher as 697, and by the ‘Four Masters’ as 726, but the ‘Annals of Ulster,’ which appear to be the best authority, place it at 731. His day is 13 March.

[Bollandists' Acta Sanct., 13 March, ii. 290, &c.; Calendar of Oengus, p. clxxxi; Petrie's Round Towers, pp. 143, 144; Book of Leinster, p. 373, b. 59; Lanigan's Eccl. Hist. iii. 166–8; Ussher (Works), vi. 607–10.]

T. O.