Irish language

St Patrick might be our favourite but Ireland has a myriad of saints

CHICAGO GOES GREEN: The world turns green for St Patrick but will there ever come a time when we dress up for Maelmhaedhoc Ó Morgair, Blathmac, Mo Chóe of Nendrum or Sillán moccu Mind?
Robert McMillen

Go mbeannaí Dia daoibh and sure aren’t you all welcome to the Bluffer’s Guide to Irish, the land of saints and scholars edition.

Well, it’s just four days until Lá Fhéile Pádraig - St Patrick’s Day when the world turns green to commemorate the Briton who made Ireland great again. No, not Jackie Charlton, but Naomh Pádraig - Saint Patrick. Thug sé an Chríostaíocht go hÉirinn - he brought Christianity to Ireland, invented an tseamróg - shamrock and ethnically cleansed the nathracha nimhe - snakes from the Emerald isle. 

In Irish we talk about oileán na naomh is na mbard - the island of saints and poets but it seems Ireland has more saints per square mile than anywhere else in the world.

Canónú or naomhainmniú means canonization and until the good old 10th century ba iad na heaspaig - it was the bishops who decided who should be venerated ina ndeoisí féin - in their own dioceses, but then an Pápa - the Pope began taking control.

But did you know that Pátrick was never canonised? 

Níor ainmníodh é mar naomh ag Pápa - he wasn’t canonised by a Pope because Popes only took over the role much later. 

The first saint officially canonised by a Pope was Maelmhaedhoc Ó Morgair aka Archbishop Malachy who lived between 1094 and 1148.

(As Michael Caine would say: “Not many people know that”)

We Irish love our saints.  

We have three patron saints, with Naomh Colmcille (St Columba) and Naomh Bríd or Brighid (St Bridget). However, there is a plethora of other Irish saints that few of us will have heard of.

The village of Locronan - it means place of Rónán - in Brittany is named after St Rónan - who in the ninth was an oilithreach - a pilgrim and a díseartach - a hermit, great attributes on your CV if you are aiming to be sanctified.

Or there is Naomh Aodhán - St Aidan of Lindisfarne - no, he didn’t sing The Fog on the Tyne because he died in 651.

Instead, the manach - monk spread the gospel to both the Anglo-Saxon nobility and the socially disenfranchised, a wee bit like Gary Lineker.

Saint Brónach was a disciple of Saint Patrick who built a refuge for sailors who were shipwrecked in Carlingford Lough.

Her church was at Cill Bhrónaí from which Kilbroney in County Down is named.

Naomh Comgall - Saint Comgall was the founder and ab - abbot of the great Irish monastery at Bangor.

Indeed, Bangor has much more to recommend it than the Picky Pool.

It was from Bangor  in around 590 that Columbanus left to found monasteries and promote Christianity all over Continental Europe.

His ideas about European unity even influenced those who set up what is now the European Union 1,400 year later.

It’s hard to know, however, how  much of the information we have about our saints is real and what is mythical but in the meantime, have a great St Patrick’s Day. 


Lá Fhéile Pádraig (laa ela padreeg) - St Patrick’s Day

Naomh Pádraig (neeoo padreeg) - Saint Patrick 

Thug sé an Chríostaíocht go hÉirinn (hug shay un creesteeakht gaw herin) - he brought Christianity to Ireland

an tseamróg (un chamrawg)- shamrock

nathracha nimhe (nahraha nyiva)- snakes

oileán na naomh is na mbard (ilaan ne neeoo is na mard) - the island of saints and poets

Canónú (canonoo) - canonization

naomhainmniú (neeo-anyimnoo) - canonization

ba iad na heaspaig (ba yade ne haspeeg) - it was the bishops

ina ndeoisí féin (ina nyoeesa hane) - in their own dioceses 

an Pápa (un paapa) - the Pope

Níor ainmníodh é mar naomh ag Pápa (neer anyimneeoo ay mar neeoo eg  paapa) - he wasn’t canonised by a pope

Maelmhaedhoc (mwaylwaywog) - Malachy 

oilithreach (ilihrakh) - a pilgrim 

díseartach (jeesertakh) - a hermit 

manach (manakh) - a monk

Cill Bhrónaí (kil wronee) from which Kilbroney

ab (ab) - an abbot ()