Ruadhan (DNB00)

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RUADHAN (d. 585?), Irish saint, son of Fergus, was a native of the south of Ireland, and seventh in descent from Eoghan Mor, son of Oilioll Olum, king of Munster. He studied at Clonard, co. Meath, in the school of St. Finnian [q. v.], and his chief fellow-students were Ciaran [q.v.] of Clonmacnoise, Ciaran [q.v.] of Saigir, Columba [q. v.] of Iona, Brandan of Birr, and Cainnech. Ruadhan's place was after Cainnech (De Tribus Ordinibus Sanctorum Hiberniæ e codice Salmanticensi, col. 164; Acta Sancti Finniani, col. 200). After wandering for a time, he settled in a wood from which a wild boar had darted out on his approach, and there founded the religious community of Lothra. The ruins of a Dominican abbey which succeeded his foundation may still be seen there, about three miles from the Shannon, in the barony of Lower Ormond, co. Tipperary. St. Brandan of Birr was so near that each saint could hear the other's bell, and Brandan consented to remove. Ruadhan perambulated the country bell in hand, and was reported to have raised the dead (cap. 5), healed the sick (cap. 6), discovered hidden treasure (cap. 6), fed his community miraculously (cap. 11), imparted a knowledge of medicine by his blessing (cap. 9), and performed many other wonders. His protection of a fugitive who had slain, after just provocation, the herald of Diarmait Mac Cearbhaill, king of Ireland, led to a dispute with the king, who carried the malefactor to Tara from Lothra, where he was in sanctuary. Ruadhan and his community followed, and the king and saint entered upon a disputation, in which each cursed the other four times. The saint's second imprecation was that Tara should, after Diarmait's time, be abandoned for ever. In the end the king agreed to give back the fugitive to Ruadhan on payment of an eric for his herald of thirty horses. All the Irish chronicles agree that Tara was never occupied after the time of Diarmait Mac Cearbhaill, while the extensive earthworks still visible there, as well as the universal agreement of Irish literature on the point, prove that up to that period it had long been the seat of the chief king of Ireland. The reign of Diarmait Mac Cearbhaill was the time of the first epidemics of Cron Chonaill, afterwards called Buidhe Chonaill, which was probably the oriental plague. Great multitudes died of it, and its ravages may account for the abandonment of Tara at that time. In later literature it is generally attributed to the curse of Ruadhan. Dramatic accounts of the proceedings of Ruadhan and the other saints at Tara on this occasion, and their fasting against the king, are to be found in the story of Aedh Baclamh in the ‘Book of MacCarthy Riach’ (Lismore), a manuscript of the fifteenth century, and in the ‘Life of St. Molaissi,’ in a sixteenth-century manuscript (Addit. 18205 in the British Museum), both of which are printed, with translations by S. H. O'Grady, in ‘Silva Gadelica.’ The life of Ruadhan in the ‘Codex Salmanticensis’ represents him as in occasional communication with his contemporary, Columba. He died at Lothra, and its abbots were known as his successors. His feast is kept on 15 April.

[Martyrology of Donegal, ed. O'Donovan and Reeves, 1864; Acta Sanctorum Hiberniæ ex codice Salmanticensi, ed. De Smedt and De Backer, 1888; S. H. O'Grady's Silva Gadelica, 1892; Lives of Saints from the Book of Lismore, ed. W. Stokes (sub. Findian), 1890; Book of Leinster, facsimile, Dublin, 1880; Book of Ballymote, photograph, Dublin, 1887; Annala Rioghachta Eireann, ed. O'Donovan, vol. i.; G. Petrie's History and Antiquities of Tara, 1839; Colgan's Acta Sanctorum Hiberniæ, vols. i. ii. Louvain, 1645 and 1647.]

N. M.