Pestilence in Ancient Ireland

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XI

In 656 the country was once more visited by the fatal Crom Chonaill, and again holy prelates and sainted religious were foremost amongst its victims. Many orphans were of necessity thrown on the mercy of those to whom charity was their only claim. Nor was the call unheeded. The venerable Bishop of Ardbraccan, St. Ultan, whom we may perhaps term the St. Vincent of Ireland, gathered these hapless little ones into a safe asylum, and there, with a thoughtfulness which in such an age could scarcely have been expected, sought to supply by artificial means for the natural nourishment of which they had been deprived.

Venerable Bede mentions this pestilence, and gives honorable testimony to the charity of the Irish, not only to their own people, but even to strangers. He says: "This pestilence did no less harm in the island of Ireland. Many of the nobility and of the lower ranks of the English nation were there at that time, who, in the days of Bishop Finan and Colman, forsaking their native land, retired thither, either for the sake of divine studies, or for a more continent life. The Scots willingly received them all, and took care to supply them with food, as also to furnish them with books to read and their teaching gratis."[1]


[1] Gratis.—Ven. Bede, cap. xxviii.