Mo Chua of Balla

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Saint Cronan Mochua
Born 6th century
Died (637-03-30)30 March 637
Venerated in Roman Catholicism
Feast 30 March

Mo Chua or Crónán mac Bécáin (died 30 March 637) was the founder of Balla, whose diocese was subsequently merged into that of Tuam, Ireland. He is not to be confused (though he often is) with his contemporary Crónán of Roscrea (died 640). His death in 637 is included in the Annals of the Four Masters.


He was the son of Becan and descended from Lugaid (from whom were the úi Luigdech) son of Dalann of Ulaid. His mother, Cumne, was daughter of Conamail of the Dal Buain, also of Ulaid. Their family consisted of three sons and three daughters, the least esteemed of the children being Mochua, the hair of whose head, owing to disease, fell out in patches. Saint Comgall of Bangor happening to visit his father's house, and finding him neglected by the family, took him with him to Bangor to educate him. There a woman, who sought Mochua's intercession with the Lord that she might obtain offspring, found him absorbed in prayer and bathed in tears, but catching his tears in the hollow of her hand she drank them and obtained her desire.[1]

On the completion of his education at Bangor, Mochua collected a party of his friends, and guided, it is said, by a marvellous moving fountain, which recalls the 'Arabian Nights' Entertainment,' passed through the town of Gael, in the territory of the Fir Hois in the south of Oriel, a territory which included the present county of Armagh. There he visited Bishop Gabren, and then passed on to Fobar (Fore) in Westmeath, where St. Fechin received him enthusiastically. Mochua is said to have miraculously pierced a mountain which lay between Lough Leane and Fore, and thus to have brought water to Fore to work a mill erected there by Fechin, but hitherto without means of propulsion. Travelling from Fore by Tech Telle (now Tehelly), near Durrow in King's County, and over the Shannon into Connaught, Mochua was welcomed by the chiefs of Hy Many.[1]

Subsequently at Lough Cime (now Lough Hackett in the barony of Clare, co. Galway), he is reported to have subdued a monster which dwelt in the lake. Crossing the river Robe to the barony of Ceara, he arrived at Ross Darbrech, where the miraculous fountain, which is said to have hitherto accompanied him, became stationary. It was at once surrounded by a wall of massive stones—a mention of stone buildings rare in the seventh century. The well thus obtained the name of Balla or 'The Wall.' The ruins of a church and round tower attest the ancient importance of the place. Mochua seems to have lived there as a hermit, for when Eochaidh Minnech, a chieftain of the Clan Fiachra, came to expel him, he was 'in a prison of stone,' that is, apparently walled up in a stone cell. Eventually this chieftain and his nobles conferred the site on him, with certain lands and revenues, describing him as 'Mochua of the narrow prison.'[1]

He then appointed three bishops to consecrate his graveyards and his great churches and to allot the land to his monks. When the great pestilence called the Yellow Plague raged in Connaught, he effected many cures, and was believed to have transferred the yellow colour from his patients to his crozier, which was thenceforth known as the Bachall Buidhe or 'Yellow Crozier.'[1]

Among the wild heathen people of the neighbourhood were two amazons named Bee and Lithben, who usually stationed themselves by a long, narrow creek, with precipitous rocks on either side, and swung every passer-by in a basket over the awful precipice. Mochua reclaimed them from barbarism, and both they and their fathers received baptism. He is further said by the miraculous shaking of his crozier to have created a road connecting Inis Amalgaid (now Inishlee), an island in Lough Conn, with the mainland. This mention of a causeway, combined with the stories of his bringing water to Fore and of the fountain attending Mochua, doubtless indicates possession of some engineering skill. According to the 'Lebar Brecc' he also brought 'bags of water from Ulster.' Mochua was thirty-five years of age when he came to Balla and after labouring twenty-one years, or, as another reading has it, thirty-one, he died on 30 March 637.[1]

His feast is celebrated on 30 March, though, through a misconception, his acts are given by the Bollandists under the date of 1 January.


  1. ^ a b c d e Olden 1894.