History

St Manchan, our Patron Saint

Our school is called after our local saint, St. Manchan. The Parish (Kilmonaghan) and the old cemetery and church in Kilmonaghan all get their names from him. The saint originally hailed from Mohill, where he founded his first monastery. During a visit to that great centre of learning, Clonmacnoise, Manchan was granted lands at Leamonaghan in order to establish a monastery there. He did this, and died there of the ‘Buidhe Chonailp’ – the great plague, in 664. After his death the place was called Liath Manchain – Manchan’s Grey Land. Some of his bones are preserved in a Shrine in Boher Church. Tradition has it that St. Manchan was a tall man who walked with a limp and this was verified some years ago when the Shrine, with its contents, was sent to the British Museum for refurbishing. The bones were examined by experts, who pronounced them as belonging to a tall male, who suffered from arthritis. Many stories and legends exist about the saint’s life, whose feastday is on 24th Jan.

St. Manchan’s Cow

St. Manchan had a cow – a wonderful cow which used to give milk to the whole countryside for which no charge was ever made. (It is still said that the people of Leamonaghan will never charge for milk in the memory of St. Manchan!). The fame of this cow grew and grew. Then the people of neighbouring Kilmonaghan got jealous, and one fine day, when St. Manchan was absent, they stole the cow and drove her along the path back home to Kilmonaghan. The good cow, suspecting something was wrong, was most uncooperative and on her journey she deliberately stalled and slipped and managed to leave her track on many stones between Leamonaghan and Kilmonaghan. The marks are there to this very day – hoof marks, tail marks, hip marks etc. In spite of her gallant resistance, the cow was finally driven to Kilmonaghan where she was killed and skinned. When the Saint returned he immediately started in pursuit and suc ceeded in tracing the thieves by the marks on the stones. He arrived just at the moment she was about to be boiled. He carefully picked the portions out of the cauldron, pieced them together on her hide, struck them with his stick, and immediately the cow became alive again. She was every bit as good as ever, but was a little lame on account of a small portion of one foot which the saint had failed to retrieve from the cauldron.

The Shrine of St. Manchan

Some time after St. Manchan and many of his followers died of the great plague in 664, some men came and stole his cattle, for in those days, whoever was strong did what he liked and cared nothing for law or justice. The Saint’s herdsmen, who were unable to prevent the theft, called on St. Manchan for help. The saint immediately appeared to them, but one herdsman was so overjoyed to see his master that he threw his arms about the saint, who thereupon fell into a heap of dry bones, for no mortal sinner should have touched him. The herdsmen (or ‘Bohooly’ – from which the name Ua Buachalla – Buckley – is derived) having taken courage from the appearance of their saint, recovered the cattle and the robbers lost their lives through the power of St. Manchan. The clergy of the place gathered up the bones of the saint and a Shrine was made in Clonmacnoise to hold the relics. The Shrine may have originally been kept at Mohill, St. Manchan’s first monastery. When Mohill Abbey was destroyed in the twelfth century, the holy Shrine would have been carried back to Leamonaghan. It was kept in a small thatched cottage, which served as a chapel. When the little chapel was burned, the Shrine was miraculously preserved. It was then passed into the keeping of Mooney of the Doon, and was subsequently handed over to the parish of Boher, where it may be seen to this day. The Shrine itself has been described many times. It belongs to what is known as the church-shaped class, which were intended to be representations of Solomon’s temple. St. Manchan’s is the largest Shrine of its kind in existence. The framework is of yew and it is covered with bronze and some tracery of gold. On each of its sloping sides is a large Greek cross. The most striking feature of the Shrine is a number of kilted figures, which are separately nailed on. They were originally about fifty-two in number, but now only about ten survive.