A Legend of St. Mogue of Ferns

Patrick Kennedy
1891 (2nd Edition)

In Keightley’s Fairy Mythology of Scandinavia, saints are frequently assisted by the trolls in the erection of their churches, subject to be dealt with severely by the said trolls, unless they can discover their names before the keystone is inserted.

The Patron of Ferns, St. Aidan (or Mogue), knew better than to employ such dangerous assistants.

He raised the walls of the cathedral to the wall-plate in one night, without any unholy aid.

The peasantry of Wexford delight to boast how a late Protestant Bishop paid a hundred pounds to an Italian sculptor for repairing the nose of his statue.

The dwellers under Mount Leinster, who have had no personal experience of the matter, are, or were some time ago, firmly persuaded that the bells in Ferns Cathedral could not be heard across the neighbouring stream.

We ourselves have seen the statue of St. Mogue lying as described, and believe that the care of the Bishop in having it restored has been in the main correctly reported.

There is a strong desire through the neighbouring country for interment in the cemetery of Ferns, owing to a supposed promise of the saint, on his deathbed, that he would take five hundred times the full of the churchyard to Paradise along with himself.


When St. Mogue was Bishop of Ferns, he had a wild brother that gave him a great deal of trouble, and at last ran away from him altogether.

Well, the saint wasn’t to be daunted.

After waiting for a long time to see if he would come back, he took a short stick in his fist, and searched the European world all over for him, and at last found him playing ball again’ the walls o’ Jerusalem.

So he over-persuaded him to return, and help him to build his cathedral; but a figary took the young fellow again, and, instead of assisting the saint, he took it into his head to make a church for himself the other side of the river Bann.

St. Mogue was mighty incensed at this, and says he to his brother, “The bells I’ll put up in my steeple,” says he, “will be heard seven miles on every side; but for all that, not a jangle of them will ever reach across the stream to your parish.”

And sure enough, the finest day that ever came down in Ferns, not a sound of them is ever heard in the next parish, where the brother’s church was built.[2]

So after all the bother the saint got with his brother and that, he thought he might as well set about the work at last.

So they began to clear out the foundation at sunset one harvest evening, and the cars to bring down the stones from Slieve Bui, and the stonecutters to square them, and the masons to fit them in the wall, and others to pitch in the pebbles between the inner and outer layer, and spill in the hot lime mortar.

Up went the walls like anything, and they were very near the eaves, and a grey horse was bringing down the last load along the side of the hill.

The sun was within a foot of rising, when the devil bewitched a red-haired woman that was sleeping in the upper room of a house not far from the churchyard to put her head out of the window to see what was going on.

“Oh, musha, St. Mogue, asthore!” says she, “is that all you done the whole night?”

The saint was so moidhered with the assurance of the bosthoon that he couldn’t say a word.

He let his two arms fall by his side, and every workman stopped his work, as if he was shot.

The grey horse stood fast on the hill-side; up went the car, and down tumbled the load.

If any one doesn’t believe me, let him go up Slieve Bui any day he has time, and he will see it lying among the heath, the size of three houses.

And that’s the reason the cathedral of Ferns was never finished.

All that’s left of the old building is the statue of the saint, and the nose of it was broke about fifty years ago.

The Bishop, although he was a Protestant, got an Italian man that used to make images, and paid him a hundred pounds to come over and repair it.

The next time that there’s a funeral, any of you will be welcome to go inside and look at it.


[1] Mogue, erroneously supposed an equivalent to Moses, is an abridgment of Mo-Aodh-Oge, “My Lord, young Hugh.” St. Mogue, otherwise Aidan, spent some time with St. David of Wales. He died A.D. 632.

[2] This legend prevails in the Duffrey, few of whose inhabitants ever resort to Ferns on Sundays, to verify or disprove the assertion.