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St Senan

During St Patrick's travels around Ireland on his mission to convert the people from paganism, he was asked about the future. St Patrick replied that a child named Sanus would succeed him as bishop and that he would convert the whole island.

It is believed that St Senan was born in 488 AD in Magh Lacha, four miles north east of Kilrush. At the age of fourteen, Senan refused to fight for his tribe the Corca Baiscinn in a local feud against the Corkamoroe. He hid in a haggard and fell fast asleep. The haggard was set ablaze and Senan was found by the Corkamoroe. He was set free, however, as they believed that God was with him.

Senan worked on the family farm as a young man and was driving cattle home one evening for his father when his way was blocked by the tide. Senan looked for food and lodgings from a man called Mieger but he was refused. Senan began to pray to God for help and the water receded long enough for him to get the cattle across the peninsula at Traught-Fannon. That night Mieger's place was destroyed by fire and all the menfolk were killed.

Senan entered the religious life under the tutelage of the holy Casidanus at Irrus before studying at Kilmanagh in Ossory under St Natalis. While here, St Senan performed a miracle by restoring life to an only son on the pleadings of a grief-stricken mother. Senan's popularity now increased and he decided to leave the monastery. For a number of years, Senan wandered the country and finally settled in at Ferns, Co.Wexford under Malachy. On Malachy's death, Senan became the abbot of the monastery.

On the way home from a pilgrimage in Rome, Senan received his Bishop's Staff. On his return to Ireland, he founded a monastery at Inniscarra in Cork. Senan was looking for "His place of Resurrection". He finally discovered it at Scattery Island when an angel showed him the island from a hill overlooking the Shannon. Prior to Senan's arrival, a sea monster called "the cathach" guarded the island. The monster rushed to devour Senan but he blessed the creature and asked him to depart in the name of Jesus. The angel promised Senan that none of his monks would drown in the sea crossing. From this story, a legend has grown claiming that pebbles from the island would protect against shipwreck.

Many people came to Scattery Island seeking a monastic life, including St Ciaran of Clonmacnoise and St Brendan from Kerry. On many occasions, the crowds were so great that Senan was close to leaving the area but he always stayed on the island. His private retreat was at Bishop's Island, which is a sea-stack on the West Clare coast. Senan lived in a beehive hut while on the island, which was surrounded by vertical cliffs on all sides.

It is believed that Senan died in 544 AD and is buried on Scattery Island in a place called 'St Senan's Bed'. Senan's feastday is celebrated on the 8th of March. As St Senan was a bishop, he created the diocese of Inis Chathaigh. The diocese survived until the Synod of Rathbrassil in 1111 AD when it was divided up amongst the dioceses of Ardfert, Killaloe and Limerick.

Senan also formed a community in Plouzané in northwest Brittany. Although the exact date when Senan visited here is unclear, Noel O'Shaughnessy claims that he visited Tours on his homeward journey from Rome. Jean Francois Simon, an historian, discovered the link between Plouzané and Kilrush in 1978. Plouzané, when translated, means 'Senan's Parish'. The 'Life of St. Senan' was written in 1629 by Albert Le Grand and translated in 1993 by Jean-Michel Picard.

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