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Old church ruins at Freynestown
Old church ruins-Freynestown
Old church ruins at Freynestown, County Kilkenny
Born 6th century
Residence Freynestown - County Kilkenny
Died 7th century
Venerated in Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholic Church
Feast 2 January
Patronage Castlewarren County Kilkenny
Influences St. David of Wales
Tradition or genre
St. Scuithin monastery, Johnswell hills, County Kilkenny

St. Scuithin (fl. 6th/7th century) also known as Scolan, Scothin or Scuitin was a medieval Irish saint with strong Welsh connections. Sometime in the 6th century Scuthin left Ireland to pursue a life of cenobitic monasticism at Tyddewi[1] in Wales founded by St. David, whom at a later date he is reported to have saved from poisoning.[2]

According to the "Irish Ecclesiastical Record" [3] St. Scuithin, having attained advanced ascetic virtues, returned to Ireland c. 540 to live the life of a hermit monk, building himself an austere and isolated cell.[4] This cell was located at Freynestown, on the Johnswell hills in the ancient barony of Slieve Margy,[5] Kingdom of Ossory.[6] This habitat would become known in Irish as tigh scuithin and evolve into Tiscoffin monastery as noted in the List of monastic houses in Ireland.

In the Irish language tigh scuithin means the house/abode of Scuithin. This has been anglicised as Tiscoffin and preserved as one of the Civil parishes in Ireland within the Kilkenny Barony of Gowran.[7] The county Kilkenny town of Castlewarren in the Diocese of Ossory also preserves his name with the church of St. Scuithin. The townland of Freynestown is closely associated with St. Scuithin.[8]

St. Scuithin of Bed-Yscolan[edit]

There exists an apparently significant historical reference to St. Scuithin in the ancient annals of Wales. William Forbes Skene, in the Four Ancient Books of Wales, (Edinburgh, 1868) while reviewing poems in the Black Book of Carmarthen makes reference to this saint. There is a poem in which St. Scuithin, described as Yscolan, is confronted by the figure of Myrddin Wyllt. A portion of the poem reads:

Black thy horse, black thy cope, black thy head, black thyself, Yes, black art thou, Yscolan.
I am Yscolan the scholar, slight is my clouded reason, there is no drowning the woe of him who offends a sovereign....[9]

Skene further states that the same name occurs in the lives of St. David, when he is said to have met an Irish ecclesiastic called Scuthyn, at a place later called Bed-y-Scolan.

William Jenkins Rees[10] in his Lives of the Cambro-British Saints, states:

St. Scothin had also another name, that is Scolan and on a certain Easter Day and on the spot where he conversed with St. David, an oratory was erected which in after times was called Bed-y-Scolan, i.e., St. Scuithin's cell.[11]

Carmarthen Fan

Asceticism of St. Scuithin

It is recorded that St. Scuithin led a life of austere self-discipline and on being quizzed by his contemporary - St. Brendan,[12] how he was preserved from temptation, he responded that whenever he slept, two heavenly virgins, i.e., divine hope and charity, kept watch by his side to protect him from evil attack. He was so spiritualized by his constant penance, and so unconcerned with worldly attractions, that he is said to have been able to walk on water.

Legend states that once while performing this act on the waters between Ireland and Wales he met St. Finbar in his boat. St. Scuithin grasped a variegated flower - a scuitliin from the water and threw it to St. Finbarr[13] saying: “See how, by the mercy of God, it is in a flowery meadow that we are journeying." To which St. Finbarr replied: “This is not a flowery meadow, but the sea;" and plunging his hand into the water, he caught a salmon which he tossed to St. Scuithin, saying: "See how richly it is supplied by God to minister to our wants."

The note in the Felire of St. Oengus adds, that it was on account of that variegated flower that our Saint received his name of Scuithin.[14]

St. Scuithin of Slieve Margy and St. Gobban of Old Leighlin[edit]

Location map for St. Scuithin's and St.Gobban's monasteries.

The ancient habitat and personae of St. Scuithin is often confused with that of St. Gobban[15] of Old Leighlin which is some seven kilometres distant. St. Gobban founded his monastery in the early 7th century: it would later evolve into St. Laserian's Cathedral, Old Leighlin, County Carlow. Confusion exists regarding the various holy men named St. Goban.

The close proximity of these two ancient ecclesiastical sites, plus the passage of time, distortion of language and dialect has entwined and confused the true identities of these saints]] of early Celtic Christianity. St. Scuithin and St. Goban were two distinct historical persons.

St. Scuithin in the Annals

Described in the "History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory." as:

Scothin, son of Setnae. son of Trebthach, son of Dal, son of Laidir (Cu-corb's charioteer), son of Imrossa Nith, son of Fertlachtga, son of Fergus mac Roig.[16]

He is also entered January 2, in "The Martyrology of Donegal" as:

Sguithin of Tech-Sguithin, in Sliabh Mairge, in Leinster.[17][18]

Two ancient manuscripts in the Bibliothèque Royale, Brussels preserve St. Scuithin's memory in poetry:

And on Scoithin of great Slieve Margy – known for his holy rigour.[18]


  1. ^ James Henthorn Todd. St. Patrick: Apostle of Ireland:. pp. 91–. 
  2. ^ J. Wyn Evans; Jonathan M. Wooding (2007). St David of Wales: Cult, Church and Nation. Boydell Press. pp. 135–. ISBN 978-1-84383-322-2. 
  3. ^ 10 (1874), 141-161.)
  4. ^ John Stevens; Herman Moll (1722). Monasticon Hibernicum:. pp. 381–. 
  5. ^ Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (1871). Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. pp. 130–. 
  6. ^ Kilkenny and South-East of Ireland Archaeological Society (1862). The Journal of the Kilkenny and South-East of Ireland Archaeological Society. pp. 254–. 
  7. ^ Ireland Population:. 1833. pp. 42–. 
  8. ^ Kilkenny and South-East of Ireland Archaeological Society (1860). The Journal of the Kilkenny and South-East of Ireland Archaeological Society. pp. 297–. 
  9. ^ William Forbes Skene (1868). The four ancient books of Wales. pp. 318–. 
  10. ^ //
  11. ^ Thomas Wakeman (1853). Lives of the Cambro British Saints:. W. Rees. p. 10. 
  12. ^ Jude S. Mackley (2008). The Legend of St. Brendan:. ISBN 90-04-16662-9. 
  13. ^ Richard Caulfield (1871). Annals of St. Fin Barre's cathedral, Cork. pp. 4–. 
  14. ^ Saint Oengus (the Culdee) (1905). Félire Óengusso Céli Dée. Harrison and Sons, printers. 
  15. ^ Martin M'Dermot (1820). A new and impartial history of Ireland. 4 vols. [in 2]. pp. 1–. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ O'Donovan, John, James Henthorn Todd and William Reeves (1864). The Martyrology of Donegal: A Calendar of the Saints of Ireland. Dublin.
  18. ^ a b Bourke, Angela (2002). "The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing". ISBN 9780814799062.