By: Kuno Meyer
This work, whose full title is Life of Colman, son of Luachain, or Betha Colmain maic Luachain, is a thirteenth-century Life of a seventh-century saint Colman (who first gave Mullingar its name, ‘the wry mill’, An Muileann gCearr), written originally in Irish at Lynn monastery south of Mullingar, preserved at the Rennes Municipal Library in Brittany, and translated and published by Kuno Meyer in 1911. This Life provides one of the most important sources for the ecclesiastical, topographical, social and political history of life in the midlands during the Early Christian era. Next to the Tripartite Life of Patrick and the biographies of Colum Cille, it is the richest and fullest among the lives of Irish saints that have come down to us, replete with details of the daily life of the monasteries, their royal patrons and subjects, dwelling among miracle-workers, saints and demons in a land subject to the vagaries of plague, famine and war.
Meyer’s translation and introduction to the Life form the core of the book, added to which is a preface by Leo Daly, an original essay review by J.C. MacErlean from Studies, and commentary by Father Paul Walsh and others, correcting and amending the original document. A glossary, an index of personal names, places and tribes, and bibliographic essay make up the text. Pages from the original manuscript, topographical photographs showing monastic remains and associated sites, as well as more recent iconography, furnish illustrations.
LEO DALY, a native of Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, is a distinguished writer, broadcaster and photo-journalist. His books include James Joyce & the Mullingar Connection (1975) and a guide-book, Oileain Arann (1975), Titles (1981), a collection of essays, and The Rock Garden (1984), a novel.
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