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  • Writer's pictureHugh MacMahon

On the Banks of the Boyne

One reason for visiting Trim was to walk along the Boyne were Lomman, the nephew of Patrick, met Fortchern, son of the local chieftain, and started a discussion that changed lives.

That was around the year 433. Today the impressive ruins of Hugh de Lacy’s 12th century Norman fortress dominates the river bank and make it difficult to visualise where the two met.

I had come across the account of their meeting when tracing Fortchern’s  journey from Celtic warrior to Christian monk and celebrated teacher. 

One of the early annals relates that Lomman was with Patrick when he arrived in Ireland and they made their way up the coast as far as the mouth of the Boyne. Patrick continued on north to the area where he had been held captive and told Lomman to push up the Boyne in the direction of the seat of the High King at Tara.

Lomman stopped at the Ford of the Elderflowers at Trim and early the following morning when he was reading by the river he met the youthful Fortchern, son on the local ruler, who wanted to know what he was studying.  A conversation began that went on until Lomman’s family came looking for him. They brought the two home for breakfast and the rest is history.

Lomman became the first bishop of Trim and Fortchern, his disciple, went on to be the teacher of, among others,  one of the Irish Church’s great educators, Finnian of Clonard.

However when I visited Trim I noticed the emphasis was on Patrick who, it is said, on his eventual arrival took over in Trim but left Lomman in charge when he moved off again.

Today there are three major churches in Trim. The COI Cathedral is dedicated to St Patrick, as is the Catholic Church on the other side of the river. When the Normans came they built their own cathedral in 1206, dedicating it to Saints Peter and Paul. They had little respect for Irish saints.

Of the three churches the COI Cathedral seems to stand closest to the foundation of Lomman and indeed it is on ‘Lomman’s Street’ which has a covered well where ‘Patrick and Lomman’ baptised.

Was Patrick ever in Trim?  Some modern scholars doubt it and claim that he was inserted into the Lomman story to bolster the claims of Armagh. My exploration of the narrative was discouraged by the complexity of the written sources, they exposed me to the over-rich throve of historical material we have in Ireland.      

Yet the story of Lomman’s meeting with Fortchern is so detailed and vivid I would like to believe at least the part about their meeting by the river. 

If you go to Trim, enjoy the impressive Norman remains and when you stroll along the river remember that others walked there long before the Normans came.        



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