Celtic and Old English Saints          8 March

* St. Senan of Scattery Island
* St. Felix of Dunwich
* St. Beoadh
* St. Duthac of Ross
* St. Rhian

St. Senan (Senames) of Scattery
Died c. 560. Senan was the principal of the numerous Irish saints with
this name, and is credited with making a remarkable succession of
monastic foundations on islands at the mouths of rivers and elsewhere,
from the Slaney in Wexford to the coast of Clare. The stories that have
survived about St. Senan suggest a man of considerable complexity of
character. He is said to have visited Rome and on his way home stayed
with St. David (f.d. March 1) in Wales. On his return to Ireland, he
founded more churches and monasteries, notably one at Inishcarra near
Cork. He finally settled and was buried on Scattery Island (Inis
Cathaig) in the Shannon estuary, where there is still a fine round tower
and other early remnants. There are indications that he spent some time
in Cornwall, but appears to have had no connection with the Land's End
parish of Sennen (Attwater, Benedictines).

* * *

Senan was born at Kilrush in County Clare where his parents, Erguid and
Comgella, owned land and were well to do farmers. In his youth he had to
do some fighting for his overlord but it was while he was about the more
peaceful occupation of looking after his father's cattle that the call
came to forsake the world and devote himself to religious study. His
conversion was caused by a great wave that broke at his feet as he was
walking on the sea shore, then ebbed leaving a clear path for him across
the bay, and finally closed behind him. He saw this as a sign that his
lay life was over and, breaking his spear in two, he made a cross of it
and set out for the monastery at Kilnamanagh in County Dublin.

Senan was obviously a resourceful man for he miraculously automated the
mill at the monastery so that it ground the grain without him having to
leave his books. He made great progress in his studies and after his
ordination he visited other centres of learning before returning to his
home country to found a number of religious houses. The most famous of
his foundations was on Scattery Island, Iniscathaigh, and before he
could build his monastery there he had to rid the island of a ferocious
beast after which it was named, the Cata. The monster is described as
exceedingly fierce and breathing fire and spitting venom which make some
believe that it was a tribe of wild cats. However, Senan protected by
his faith, expelled it with the sign of the Cross, ordering it never to
harm anyone again.

The Archangel Raphael is said to have aided him and there was an
incident when Senan was searching for water for his monks that the
Archangel directed the holly stick with which he was probing and water
gushed out of the dry ground. Senan left his stick in the hole and on
the next day he found that it had grown into a tree. Raphael also helped
S. Senan to ensure safe crossing to the island for his monks.

The ruins on Scattery include those of six churches, the Saint's grave
which provides miraculous cures in the church known as Temple Senan and
a spectacular round tower, the tallest in the whole of Ireland. He died
on March 1st but his burial was postponed to the octave day of his death
to enable those from the neighbouring communities to attend, so his
festival is observed on March 8th (Flanagan, Neeson, Baring Gould).

* * *

Manuscript Live of St. Senan:

The several versions of Senan's Life differ considerably in content. The
metrical Latin version is probably the oldest, but it seems to be a
monastic composition having no very direct connection with Inis-Cathaig.
On the other hand the Irish Life, which, though quite fabulous, is also
very interesting, seems to depend directly on legends of the lower
Shannon, and probably on a Life written at Inis-Cathaig when that was
still a flourishing monastery, that is, not later than the tenth
century. The imposing array of miracles, the list of famous saints with
whom the subject of the Life is brought into contact, and the records of
church foundations made by him, all indicate an origin in a monastery of
his community.

The extraordinary inconsistencies of the chronological setting may
reject the absence of historical data: Senan is, while still in his
mother's womb, foretold by Patrick (d. 461); he succeeds Maedoc (d. 626)
as abbot of Ferns; he makes a league with Martin of Tours (d. 397 x
403); he associates with various Irish saints of the middle and second
half of the sixth century; and he dies on the same day as David of Wales
(544 x 547, or 601). But the biographers were capable of a wonderful
recklessness in these matters, even when dealing with saints whose
records were well founded.

The establishment of many different churches by Senan is recorded: they
represent, doubtless, the paruchia claimed by the abbots of

Much curious and interesting matter is contained in the several texts.

Amra Senain.........
This eulogy of Senan is written in language of intentional dignity and
obscurity similar to that of the Amra of Colum-cille (no. 212) which it
closely resembles. It too is ascribed to Dallan Forgaille.

Miorbuile Senain: The Miracles of Senan........
This is an account, written probably in the fourteenth century, of
happenings during that and the preceding hundred years which the author
considered to be due to the intervention of St. Senan. It has value for
the history and social conditions of the age; and the information
regarding Senan's churches and their inter-relationships can doubtless,
be used in part for earlier epochs. The text ends with a poem giving a
long list of famous saints with whom Senan had made alliances, and who
were bound to avenge any injury to his churches.

For a photograph of Scattery Island and descriptions of the remains of
the holy places, go to

Troparion of St Senan tone 3
As a true believer thou didst confess Christ,/ as a monk thou didst
surrender unto Him/ and as a pilgrim thou didst honour His righteous
ones, O Father Senan./ Wherefore we implore thy help to reform our
lives,/ that Christ our Cod may have mercy on our souls.

Kontakion of St Senan tone 1
By thy travels, O Father Senan, thou dost teach us the value of
pilgrimages/ and the virtue of putting Christ above all earthly cares./
Shining brightly through the centuries thou day star of orthodox piety,/
we sing praises in honour of thee.

St. Felix of Dunwich, Bishop
Born in Burgundy; died in England in 648. St. Felix was a Burgundian
bishop who brought about the conversion of Sigebert
(f.d. September 27), king of the East Angles, when that prince was in
exile. Felix was summoned by the restored Sigebert and sent by St.
Honorius of Canterbury (f.d. September 30) to preach the gospel in East
Anglia. In 631, Felix established his see at Dunwich, a town on the
Suffolk coast that has been almost wholly washed away by the sea. He
laboured with much success for 17 years in Norfolk, Suffolk, and

With the help of King Sigebert, Felix established a school for boys,
obtaining teachers from the school at Canterbury. St. Felix was buried
at Dunwich, but later on his shrine was at Ramsey abbey. This saint
gives his name to the town of Felixstowe. He is venerated as the
apostle of the East Angles (Attwater, Benedictines).

St. Beoadh (Beatus), Bishop
Died c. 518-525. Aeodh (Aidus), an Irish saint, acquired "Bo" on
account of the greatness of his virtues, and was appointed bishop of
Ardcarne (Roscommon). The "Bell of St. Beoadh," a beautiful work of
art, was long in veneration as a relic of this saint (Benedictines).

St. Duthac of Ross, Bishop
Died 1065. An Irishman by birth, St. Duthac became bishop of Ross in
Scotland, where his memory is preserved in several place names, e.g.,
Kilduthie (Benedictines).

There is a ruined chapel in Tain in Easter Ross which is believed to
have been built over the place of Duthac's birth. He was of a good
Scottish family but went to Ireland for his education returning to his
native land as a Bishop, working in the districts of Moray and Ross. An
Irish chronicler describes him as "Primus anamchara, praecipius
confessarius", first among soul friends and chief among confessors, and
he is honoured for his devotion to hearing confessions and giving
spiritual direction to his people.

Bishop Elphinstone who was Bishop of Ross before going to Aberdeen is
responsible for adding a number of stories about the saint to the
Aberdeen Breviary. When he was quite young his mother sent him to the
smithy to ask for coals as the fire in their house had gone out. The
smith scornfully threw a shovel full of coals at the boy who calmly
gathered up the glowing embers in his apron and carried them home
without suffering any harm.

Once when he was dining with a noble a drunken guest ordered one of
Duttac's disciples to take a gold ring and a lump of meat to his house.
While the young man was on this errand he stopped at a churchyard to
pray for the dead and a kite flew down and took the ring and the meat
from the tombstone on which they had been laid. When Duthac was told of
this calamity he prayed to God and the bird flew down to the saint and
deposited the stolen articles at his fleet. The ring was restored to the
young man but the kite was allowed to consume the meat as a reward for
his obedience.

There is another story concerning meat, this time it is about a portion
of meat sent by a Canon of Dornoch to the Bishop. He had just killed an
ox and dispatched a piece as a present, the bearer being guided by a
light like a lamp going before him so that Duthac received the gift the
next day still fresh.

When he died in 1065 he was buried at Tain which is called in the Gaelic
Baile Duich, Cuthac's Town, and his tomb became a place of pilgrimage,
James IV making three visits. Among his relics were his bell and a shirt
which was believed to give the wearer miraculous protection. He has a
holy well at Cromarty (Barrett, Forbes, Towill).

St. Rhian (Ranus, Rian), Abbot
Date unknown. The saint who has left his name to Llanrhian in
Pembrokeshire. He is described as an abbot, but there are no details of
his life available (Benedictines).


Attwater, D. (1983). The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, NY:
Penguin Books.

Barrett, Michale Dom. A Calendar of Scottish Saints

Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate.
(1947). The book of Saints. NY: Macmillan.

Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate.
(1966). The Book of Saints. NY: Thomas Y. Crowell.

Forbes, A.P. Kalendars of Scottish Saints

Towill, E.S. The Saints of Scotland

For All the Saints:

An Alphabetical Index of the Saints of the West

These Lives are archived at:

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