Fechin (DNB00)

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FECHIN, Saint (d. 664), was born in the north of Connaught. Of his genealogy no more is known than that his father's name was Coelcarna, his mother's Lassair. In some lists of saints he is named Ecca or Mo-Ecca. Prodigies are recorded of his gestation, birth, and childhood, resembling those of other saints of his time, and even the successful milking of a bull which is attributed to him is not without parallel. When he grew up he converted pagans, defeated devils, raised the dead, and boiled water without fire. Most of his miracles have no local colouring or individual propriety, and are merely part of the composition of his biographers; but some fragments of genuine history seem contained in his lives, the best being that in which he bids Themaria, queen of Diarmait, king of Meath, find the way of her salvation in dressing the sores of a leper. The drainage of wounds and sores was not then understood, and in bidding the queen clean the leper's ulcers with her lips Fechin was not intentionally adding unnecessary horror to her task, but was merely indicating the best method then known, and one of which traces existed till recent times in Ireland. After many wanderings Fechin settled in a remote hollow in the Connaught portion of the kingdom of Meath. A few houses with an encircling wall and ruined gates, still called the borough of Fore, because the place was represented in the Irish parliament, a ruined monastery of the later middle ages, a great earthwork attributed to Turgeis the Dane, and two very ancient churches with megalithic portals mark the importance of the saint's settlement in successive ages subsequent to his time. The oldest of the churches, if not built by him, at any rate approaches very nearly to his century. Near it are the remains of a very old mill, the successor of one built by Fechin, and known as muilin gan sroth, because worked by a spring which comes out of the hillside close to the mill. Above the church is the steep rock of Fore, and on the opposite side of the valley rises the Ben of Fore, a hill visible from remote parts of Meath and of Breifne. A great tribe of monks lived with Fechin in this lonely spot, and here he is remembered to this day and commemorated on 20 Jan., the day upon which he died of the plague called buidhe chonail in 664. Ecclefechan in Dumfriesshire preserves his name in Scotland; and in Ireland besides Fore (now in co. Westmeath) he is said to have founded the abbey of Cong in Galway, and that of Eas-dara in Achadoe, co. Kerry, and nine other churches or religious settlements.

[Colgan's Acta Sanctorum Hiberniæ, Louvain, 1645, p. 130. Two lives are given, both are long subsequent to St. Fechin, but the second, taken from several Irish lives, is based upon some ancient materials. See also Dunraven's Irish Architecture; Petrie's Round Towers; Annala Riogachta Eireann, vol. i., ed. O'Donovan; local knowledge.]

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