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  • Writer's pictureHugh MacMahon

Chasing after the Pioneers



I started visiting Celtic (ie pre-Norman) historical sites out of mild curiosity. Admittedly, the fact that they were in scenic location was an attraction. Gradually I became aware of the significance of what I was looking at and the possibilities they opened. My trips became more focused.


I started visiting Celtic (ie pre-Norman) historical sites out of mild curiosity. Admittedly, the fact that they were in scenic location was an attraction. Gradually I became aware of the significance of what I was looking at and the possibilities they opened. My trips became more focussed.

Each place introduced me to people and events I felt I should have known more about. Connections and patterns began to emerge. I began encountering a past (our past!) that we had heard about but had never understood.

For example, how did Christianity really come to Ireland? I soon discovered that attributing everything to St Patrick was a mistake. There was the mysterious figure of Palladius. He was the first ‘sent’ missionary. Did he soon leave because of his lack of success or was he the original Patrick?

By chance I found the traces of Palladius not far from where I live. He had come ashore near Wicklow town in 431 or 432 with at least two companions, Sylvester and Salinus. Together they went to Tigorney (House of the Romans) in west Wicklow where they built the first church in Ireland. Then they continued on to Donard on the other side of the mountain. Palladius left Sylvanus and Salinus there and pushed on to Killeen Cormac in south Kildare where he founded a community that was to become a centre of pilgrimage. He left the relics he had brought from Rome there.

What happened next? When Palladius was sent to Ireland, three assistants -- Auxilius, Iserninus and Secundus -- were supposed to accompany him. Auxilius was slow about going and they did not arrive till six years after Palladius. Did they contact him immediately? I found Auxilius’ foundation in Killashee (Kildare), Iserninus’ in Aghade and Kilcullen and Secundus’ in Dunshauglan, Co Meath.

That is as far as I have got. Did they act independently of each other? Did they have a common strategy in mind?

You can follow the progress of my visits in Facebook posts under ‘Hugh MacMahon’ (fortunately there are not too many of us).

In the meantime, I will continue trying to traces the steps of those heritage ancestors.

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