Dallán Forgaill

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Saint Dallán Forgaill
Born c. 530
Magh Slécht, County Cavan, Ireland
Died 598
Inniskeel, County Donegal, Ireland
Venerated in Catholic Church (Roman Rite)
Feast 29 January

Eochaid Mac Colla (c. 530 – 598), better known as Saint Dallan or Dallán Forgaill (Old Irish: Dallán Forchella; Latin: Dallanus Forcellius), was an early Christian Irish poet known as the writer of the "Amra Choluim Chille" ("Elegy of Saint Columba") and, traditionally, "Rop Tú Mo Baile"[citation needed] ("Be Thou My Vision").

Personal history[edit]

Saint Dallan's given name was Eochaidh (Old Irish: Eochaid); his father was Colla, a descendant of the legendary High King Colla Uais, and his mother was Forgall (Old Irish: Forchella).[1] His nickname, Dallán ("little blind one"), was earned after he lost his sight,[2] reputedly as a result of studying intensively.

He was born in Maigen (now Ballyconnell), at the eastern edge of the territory of the Masraige of Magh Slécht in modern County Cavan. He was not a member of the Masraige but belonged to a branch of the Airgíalla called the Fir Lurg, who were in the process of spreading southwards into Fermanagh and Cavan. (The barony of Lurg in County Fermanagh was named after them)[3] His was a first cousin of Saint Mogue and was a fourth cousin of Saint Tigernach of Clones.

He died in 598 when pirates broke into the island monastery of Inniskeel, County Donegal, where he is buried. He was reportedly beheaded, and it is also said that God reattached his head to his body after he was martyred.[4] He was acclaimed a saint in the early 11th century, during the reign of the High King Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill.[3] A medieval poem entitled "On the breaking up of a School" composed by Tadhg Og O Huiginn, c.1400, refers to the death of Dallán which caused his school to break up and the students to disperse as they would accept no other master.[5] In a list of ancient Irish authors contained in the Book of Ballymote, Dallán is called “grandson of testimony”.[6]


Saint Dallan was a poet, Chief Ollam of Ireland, as well as a scholar of Latin scriptural learning.[3][7] He helped to reform the Bardic Order at the Convention of Drumceat.[8]

The following works are attributed to Dallán, although some may be later works by other poets who credited Dallan with authorship in order to make their poems more famous.

1. Amra Choluim Chille[9]

2. Amra Senáin[10]

3. Amra Conall Coel

4. Dubgilla dub-airm n-aisse[11]

5. Fo réir Coluim cén ad-fías[12]

6. Conn cet cathach a righi (This is the final poem in the tale "Aírne Fíngein")[13]

7. Rop tú mo baile[14]

Preceded by
Dubhthach moccu Lughair
Chief Ollam of Ireland
Succeeded by
Senchán Torpéist


  1. ^ According to the Life of St Dallán in the Acta Sanctorum Hiberniae
  2. ^ Dictionary of the Irish Language, compact edition, Royal Irish Academy p. 178
  3. ^ a b c T. M. Charles-Edwards, ‘Dallán Forgaill (fl. 597)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 27 June 2009
  4. ^ “Dallàn's death and burial" on page 37 of 'The Bodleian Amra Choluimb Chille' in Revue Celtique. Vol. 21 (Paris 1900), pp. 133-136.
  5. ^ Studies Journal, Volume XXV (1924). Edited by Osborn Bergin.
  6. ^ Book of Ballymote, p. 308, 26, "Dallán hua Forgaill in fil ut .i. Dallan mac Alla meic Eirc, meic Feradaigh gan tinii ardollam Erenn gan on, is e ro mol Cohan cille." ('Dallán son of Alla son of Erc son of Feradach without fear, Chief Ollam of Ireland without disgrace, it is he that praised Columba.')
  7. ^ J. O'Beirne Crowe, The Amra Coluim Cilli of Dallan Forgaill, Dublin, 1871
  8. ^ according to Geoffrey Keating's History of Ireland
  9. ^ http://vanhamel.nl/codecs/Amra_Choluim_Chille
  10. ^ http://www.vanhamel.nl/codecs/Amra_Senáin
  11. ^ http://www.vanhamel.nl/codecs/Dinnshenchas_of_Lumman_Tige_Srafáin
  12. ^ http://www.vanhamel.nl/codecs/Fo_réir_Coluim_cén_ad-fías
  13. ^ http://www.vanhamel.nl/codecs/Airne_Fíngein
  14. ^ http://www.vanhamel.nl/codecs/Rop_tú_mo_baile

External links[edit]