Senán mac Geirrcinn
|Saint Senan of Inis Cathaigh|
Moylougha, Kilrush, County Clare, Ireland
|Honored in||Roman Catholic Church|
He was born in 488 in a place once known as Moylougha, about four miles east of present day Kilrush, County Clare, Ireland. According to the prose life, his mother entered labor while walking through the woods; when she grasped a tree branch for support, it is said to have blossomed to foretell the virtues of the saint. While still only a child, Senan began to practice and preach self-denial, once even reproving his mother for gathering blackberries. God, he reminded her, made time for abstinence as well as for eating. The boy promised his life to God after the miracle at the estuary, where a path opened for him and the cattle he was driving at high tide.
St. Senan was well read and an exceptional traveller in such times, travelling to Britain (see the village of Senan in Cornwall), France (Plouzane in Brittany being translated as the town or church of Senan) and Rome. Studying in many monasteries in Ireland, including Glendalough and Kerry, he founded a monastery of five churches and a round tower on Inis Cathaigh or Scattery island in the bay on the estuary of the river Shannon just 3 km out from Kilrush. Legend has it that he slew a huge sea creature that inhabited the island and terrorised the locals.
From his childhood he surely would have heard about the ‘Cathach’, the beast that roamed and occupied the island, so fearful and so dangerous that neither man nor beast dared to come near the place. Since it had been revealed to the man of God that this was the place where he should work and pray, he went there, trusting in the power and protection of the Almighty. Facing the ferocious animal, the saint made the sign of the cross and commanded him to depart.
Since only men were allowed on Scattery Island while Senan was there, legend has it that when his sister, St. Ibie died, she willed it that she would be buried near Senan. To stay true to his own edicts, Senan waited till low tide to bury her in the inter-tidal zone, which was not officially the "island", thus fulfilling his sister's wish, while not breaking his own rules.
Saint Senan also founded the abbey on Inishmore (or Deer) Island, leaving Saint Liberius to preside over it.
He was a stepbrother of Conainne.
It is thought that Senan may have got his name from an earlier river god whose name gave rise to the river Shannon. The Chief Ollam of Ireland Dallán Forgaill was his friend and wrote a eulogy about Senan entitled "Amra Senáin"
The translation of "Senan" from old Gaelic means "little old wise man."
He is sometimes confused with Saint Senan of Laraghbrine
The surname 'Gilsenan' in present day is thought to have been the name for the followers of saint Senan.
- Félire Óengusso ("The Martyrology of Óengus"), ed. and tr. Whitley Stokes (1905). The Martyrology of Oengus the Culdee. Henry Bradshaw Society 29. London. (PDF here)
- Johnston, Elva. "Munster, saints of (act. c.450–c.700)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, Sept 2004, online edition May 2008. Accessed: 14 Dec 2008.
- Hedderman, Fr. Senan. "Life of St Senan, Bishop, Patron Saint of West Clare". Clare Library. City: Ennis, Co. Clare, Ireland. Retrieved November 10, 2005.