Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Comman

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Commán mac Fáelchon in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

COMMAN of Ross-Commain, Saint (fl. 550), was son of Faelchu and descendant of Fiacha Araidhe, of the family of Rudhraighe, and race of Ir, king of Ulster, A.D. 236. He was one of the students at the famous school of Finnian of Clonard in the county of Meath. St. Finnian sent him to Connaught to evangelise the heathen inhabitants. Here his labours were crowned with success. The king of the territory seeing his devoted life bestowed on him the fertile valley of Ross. In a short time he constructed a monastery, after the temporary fashion of the country, which was soon filled with zealous monks, and was named from him Ross-Commain (Roscommon). Another church founded by him was that of Ceann Mara, now Kinvarra, in the barony of Kiltartan and county of Galway. In the ancient tale of the ‘Navigation of the sons of Ui Corra’ a passage occurs relative to this church and St. Comman. The Ui Corra were three brothers who with several other desperate characters plundered and destroyed the churches of Connaught and slew the clergy. Terrified by a vision of hell which one of them beheld, they abandoned their evil life and sought admission to Clonard, where, after a period of probation, they were pardoned by St. Finnian. He imposed on them, however, the duty of rebuilding all the churches they had destroyed. When they returned to St. Finnian he asked them if they had finished their work. They answered that they had repaired all the churches but that of Kinvarra. ‘Alas!’ said the saint, ‘that was the first church you ought to have repaired—the church of the holy old man Comman of Kinvarra. Return now and repair all the damage you have done in that place.’ They obeyed, and on completing the work took counsel with St. Comman, and by his advice built a great curach, or canoe, covered with hides three deep and capable of carrying nine people, in which they went forth on their famous navigation from the port of Kinvarra, celebrated by Mocholmog in a poem beginning, ‘The Ui Corras of Connaught, undismayed by mountain waves, over the profound howling ocean sought the lands of the marvellous.’ St. Comman has been confounded with St. Coeman of Annatrim in Upper Ossory, but their pedigrees are different. Again, in an entry in a later hand, in the ‘Annals of the Four Masters,’ he is mistaken for another Comman who died A.D. 746.

The ‘Calendar of Oengus’ notices him under the name of Commoc. ‘Let us pray to bless us my Commoc with splendour: a fair sun that warms thousands.’ The names of Irish saints undergo many changes owing to the habit of adding particles expressive of affection or dignity to them, such as the prefix mo, my, and the termination an, noble, and oc or og, young, a term of endearment. In the present case the name Commai becomes Comm-an or Comm-oc, according to the fancy of the writer. St. Comman belonged to the second order of Irish saints. His day is 26 Dec.

[O'Curry's Manuscript Materials of Irish History, pp. 289-92; Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 746; Calendar of Oengus at 26 Dec.; Martyrology of Donegal, p. 349; Ussher's Works, vi. 532, 533.]

T. O.