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History of St. Mogue’s Island and Templeport


Taken from Bawnboy and Templeport, History Heritage Folklore, By Chris Maguire

Templeport = Teampall a Phoirt, the church of the landing place.

It was on Inis Breachmhaigh, now known as Port, Inch or Mogue’s Island, that St. Mogue, the illustrious bishop of Ferns was born. Mogue’s ancestry is traced back to Colla Uais, one of whose leading families was the ‘Fir Luirg’ of Loch Erne. The father of Mogue was Setna, son of Eric, and his mother was Eithne who belonged to the Ui Fhiachrach, so that paternally and maternally Mogue was of noble origin.

One night while his parents were sleeping, the vision of a star descending from the heavens and falling on each, betokened the future greatness and sanctity of their yet unborn son. Owing to this circumstance, many persons afterwards called him ‘Son of the Star’. The day following, a report of this miraculous vision spread abroad, and many wise persons predicated, that as a star led the Magi to adore Christ, so in like manner did this same sign portend, that a son should be born to his parents, full of the Holy Spirit. and shortly afterwards while travelling in a chariot, Eithne was met by a Magus on the way. Having heard the sound of the vehicle, this magician said to his companions: ‘This chariot runs under a King’. On meeting the chariot and finding it occupied by Sentna’s wife and her companion, he said to the former; ‘Woman, thou hast conceived a wonderful son, and he shall be full of God’s grace’.

The beautiful legend of St Mogue’s birth is very well preserved in the Parish of Templeport, and here we give its outlines.

St. Killan or Caillin of Fenagh, on awaking one summer morning finds the ground covered with a miraculous fall of snow. His herd of cattle had stampeded during the night and tracking their hoof-prints in the snow he finds them on the shore of Templeport Lake gazing towards the island. At the same time there was a house on the island inhabited by a weaver, and in answer to the saint’s enquiries, the weaver’s wife informed him that a strange woman who craved shelter the evening before, had during the night given birth to a son, and that a hazel distaff which she had held in her hand had burst fort into blossom. The weaver had taken his boat with him to look after his nets on the lake and there was no means of sending the infant over for baptism. Urged by St. Killen, the weaver’s wife seeks for something flat on which to float the child over to the mainland, and told that anything will do. All she can see is the enormous flagstone which forms the hearthstone in the cottage, and this she cannot move. She is told to place the child on it, and she does so, when lo! The stone moves to her touch and the infant is miraculously wafted to the other side of the lake. Having been baptised, the infant is brought back in the same miraculous manner, and with him on the flagstone the wonderful bell – Mogue’s Bell – which was for centuries afterwards to be venerated in the island church.

The subsequent history of the flagstone is interesting. For centuries afterwards it plied to and fro from mainland to island whenever any of the Teallach Eathach were to be buried in the island graveyard, the coffin being placed on the stone which then without human agency, conveyed it to the burial grounds. One day a pair of young lovers endeavoured to test its powers. They took up positions on the stone which conveyed them out onto the lake. Midway on the journey the stone cracked. One half sank to the bottom bringing with it the irreverent pair, and the other half completed its journey to the island, where some say it may yet be seen. The holy water font in Kildoagh Church and now in St. Mogue’s Church, Bawnboy is said to be made from part of it.

St. Mogue founded many monasteries the first of which was on the island, Inis Breachmhaigh (now St. Mogue’s island) in Templeport Lake. This church was the chief religious centre in Templeport throughout the whole medieval period, at first on the island itself and then jointly on the island and the mainland pier, leading to the island and sanctuary. Port - meaning the landing bank or pier. We do not know the date of the foundation on the island, but Roman documents of 1414 and 1426 show that the church on the mainland had been built. The original site - the one on the island – was not dropped and forgotten. Its name was preserved and incorporated in the joint title, St Mogue’s of Inis Breachmhaigh and St. Mary’s of Templeport. There are carved stones on St. Mogue’s island as well as the ruins of a church. It can be said that throughout the whole Penal Times, Mass was furtively celebrates, intermittently on the island. The mainland church was confiscated in 1590 under the terms of the 3rd Inquisition of Queen Elizabeth and transferred to the State Church of King James 1st in 1609. The present church on the mainland, St. Peter’s, was built or reconstructed in 1815.

St. Mogue’s island has been used as a burial ground for hundreds of years, it is now officially closed except for a few families whose ancestors are buried there. It is easy to understand why people should wish to be laid to rest in such a peaceful spot. Twenty five graves are marked there with headstones and crosses. St. Mogue’s clay(or mortar) which can be collected inside the ruins of the old church on the island is said to be an insurance against fire of drowning. It features in the story of the Titanic disaster when Mary McGovern, Corlough, attributed her rescue to the St. Mogue’s clay which she carried on her person.


 
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