The story of St Barrainn

St Adomnán

In the 1532 Manus Uí Domhnaill (O’Donnell) King of Tír Connaill, wrote a book on the life of St Columcille called “Betha Choluim Chille” The book relies on a much earlier manuscript written by St Adomnán (St Eunan) in the 7th Century called “ Vita Columbae” St Adomnán is patron saint of the Diocese of Raphoe and Columcille’s successor as Abbot of Iona.

In the Betha Choluim Chille there are references to St Barrainn  when St Columcille visited  Tír Aedha (Tirhugh) and Eas Ruaidh (Assaroe) where Columcille undone a curse place by St Patrick on the south bank of the Erne where no fish could be caught

“And it is thus Assaroe was at that time: the fish could not cross over it up the river. And Padraig had cursed the south side thereof long while afore, by reason of a grudge against Cairbre son of Niall of the Nine Hostages that would not take the Faith from him, and because Cairbre did not suffer Padraig to make churches or dwellings there- abouts. (For from Drobais to Assaroe the land to that side thereof belonged to Cairbre, having been given him by Conall Gulban as largesse, along with his allotted portion.) But he blessed the north side

Of the blessing that Columcille laid upon the south side of Assaroe, that Padraig had cursed, and upon the north side, that Pádraig in his honour had blessed but partly. And of the staff of Barrann macMuredhaigh that was returned to him by a miracle of Columcille, and of the Trough of Barrann. its name from that day till now.

St Columcille

And by reason of Pádraig ‘s blessing there had been caught no fish in that place save on the north side only, and there not many. And Pádraig had prophesied at that time, and had said that it was to honour Columcille that he had blessed that side, and that Columcille himself should come to bless it after him, and from that time there should not be a place in Erin where more fish should be caught than there.

‘Columcille went then towards Assaroe. And he made a stay at the mouth of a little river called the Fuindsennach that issueth into the sea to the north thereof. And he spoke to a certain holy man that was in his fellowship, one Barrann mae Muiredhaigh son of Echaidh son of Conall Gulban, that was a kinsman to him by blood, and he inquired of him where his staff was.

Barrann made answer and said to him, “I cast it at the demons as they went into the sea when we were driving them from Senglenn,”” said he, “and I have not chanced upon it since that time.””

“It is my will if it be God’s will,” saith Columcille, ““for thy staff to come to thee to this place.””

With that they saw the staff coming up to them from a rock before them. And a stream of water gushed forth in the track thereof, so that there is a well of fresh water in that place to this day. And Columcille said that he would give as an honour to Barrann that, the well should be named from him. So that the Stone Trough of Barrann hath been its name from that day till noirighw.

Abbey Riv

The Fuindsennach is now commonly called the Abbey River which flows past the ruins of the later 12th Century founded Cistercian Abbey Assaroe.