Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
Bethada Náem nÉrenn (Author: [unknown])

Life 3


{folio 71a}

The Life of Berach


Ego sitienti, etc., i. e. to him who desires righteousness I will give freely of the fount of living water. Qui uicerit, etc., i. e. to him who defeats (the enemy), to him shall these things be given. Et ero, etc., i. e. and I will be God to him. Et ille, etc., and he shall be a son to me. Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, the Lord of all creation, one of the three Persons of the Deity, the Mediator between the family of heaven and earth, the Saviour of the human race, it is He who said these words to show the great good which He bestows on His saints and righteous men, and on all those who bear great love to Him in the Church on earth.

And John the son of Zebedee, the heir of virginity, one of the twelve apostles whom Jesus chose to His apostleship, one of the four who wrote the gospel of the Lord, the man who sucked the fountain of true wisdom from the breast of the Saviour, he it was who wrote these words, and left the memorial of them with the Church to the end of the world, and says in this passage: Ego, etc. To him who desires righteousness, I will give freely of the fount of living water.

Now the context of these words is the passage in John contiguous to the place in which Jesus says in words which precede the text: Ego sum alpha, etc., i. e. I am the beginning of all creatures, and I am the end. So that (following) in the track of his Master Jesus (he says): Ego sitienti, etc. (repetition as above). {folio 71b}

It is from this fount then, that is from Jesus Christ, who is the fount of true wisdom, that all the saints were filled with the grace of wisdom and prophecy, with mighty works and miracles, with powers unspeakable in driving away demons and heretics, in trampling down persecution and idolatry, and the children of perdition, as he was filled whose festival and commemoration fall at this time and season, namely the shining flame, the bright lamp, the brilliant sheen, the precious jewel, and the fruitful bough with shoots of virtues, Berach son of Nemhnall, son of Nemargen, son of Fintan, son of Mal, son of Dobtha, son of Aengus, son of Erc the Red, son of Brian, son of Eochaid Muigmedon. And Finmaith daughter of Carthach, sister of Fraech the Presbyter, was Berach's mother. And hereafter are related some of the mighty works and miracles of this same St. Berach.

Great then was the honour and distinction which God gave


to St. Berach, as was shown by the prophecy which Patrick prophesied when preaching to the men of Connaught, and baptizing them. Now Patrick chanced to come to the house of Dobtha the son of Aengus; and Dobtha gave great welcome to Patrick, as did his wife and children.

Then his wife told Dobtha to go and hunt. {folio 72a} So Dobtha went a-hunting with his sons. And the Lord sent three stags and a wild pig to Dobtha and his sons forthwith. And they took them with them to their house where Patrick was with his clerks.

And when the day was ended, and the darkness of night came on, no lamp or candle could be found in the fort or dwelling of Dobtha by (the light of) which the game might be cut up and dressed. And Dobtha and his household were sad thereat. And then Patrick worked a great miracle; the sun shone back across the western colure, and gave light to the men of Erin; and so Dobtha and his household prepared the supper for the clerks; and the clerks and Dobtha with his household ate the supper, and gave thanks to God, and greatly praised the Lord, both clerks and laymen. And from this (the place) is still called Achad Gréine (the field of the sun).

Now when the cauldron was on the fire, and the sons of Dobtha were around the fire, then Dobtha arose to kindle the fire, and he set light to it forthwith. Then said Patrick to Dobtha: ‘There shall not be one headship of thy own seed over thy race till doom.’ ‘That is a pity, O clerk,’ said Benén, ‘for it is well that Dobtha did what he has done by way of service to us.’ Then said Patrick that every noble layman of his seed should be a head and chief by reason of his substance, and that it was because of the number of their good laymen that they would not be {folio 72b} under a single head.

So on the morrow Patrick preached to Dobtha the Catholic faith from the Incarnation of the Son of God to His Resurrection. When the preaching was over, Dobtha said to Patrick: ‘Let me now be baptized, and my household.’ ‘Not so’, said Patrick. ‘Why so?’ said Dobtha. ‘A son who shall be born of the fourth man of the fruit of thy loins at the end of sixty years,’ said Patrick, ‘he it is who shall baptize thee, and all Erin and Alba shall be full of his fame, and of his mighty deeds and miracles. He will be a virulent serpent, a fearful terrible burning flash of lightning, he will be a wave of doom to slay, burn, and drown persecutors; he will be submissive, lowly, gentle, forgiving, loving to the household of the Lord; he will be a chosen golden vessel, full of wisdom and honour and purity, and of all virtues and good deeds.’

Although Dobtha was fain of this prophecy, he was sorrowful and murmured greatly against Patrick. Patrick said to Dobtha: ‘Murmuring shall follow thee till doom.’ Benén said to Patrick: ‘It was with good intent towards thee, that


Dobtha murmured.’ Patrick said: ‘If it be a warrior (layman) that the murmur helps (there shall be) pre-eminence of valour on him; if a woman, prosperity of storehouse; if a clerk, pre-eminence of learning and devotion. And moreover, Dobtha shall not depart this life till the child of promise have baptized him.’ Great was Dobtha's joy thereat, and it is from this murmur that the murmur of Berach's household (monastery) is derived to-day; and it is better and better that it turns out for them.

Patrick then left many good bequests to Dobtha and his descendants. He left to them in the {folio 73a} near future pre-eminence of hospitality and prosperity on their women, pre-eminence of valour on their warriors, pre-eminence of hospitality and asceticism and learning on their clerks, pre-eminence of dutiful sons and daughters and foster-children, if only they would do the will of the child of promise; and he left (to them) that there would be distinguished laymen and clerics of their seed till doom.

Then said Dobtha to Patrick: ‘What services51 (or dues) leavest thou to this child?’ Patrick said: ‘A log from every fire about him on his fire; and a log from my fire on his fire’; that is Id the son of Aengus, for it was Patrick who baptized Id; and he left this to Berach as a beginning of services.52Then Patrick ordained that it should be in the meadow on the brink of the lake that the son of promise should build his city (monastery). And he ordered that its sanctuary ground should be all that lies between the bog and the lake, that is the plain with its wooded meadows and boggy oak-groves. And he left (as a bequest) that there should be prosperity in this city, and a living fire in it to the end of the world; and that this should be one of the three last fires that would remain in the west of the world (Ireland).

Then said Dobtha: ‘Difficult is the place of abode.’ Patrick said: ‘That which is difficult with men, is easy with God; and His care will accompany the child, and His saints will be united in protecting his city; and his city (monastery) will be the head of many cities; and whoever shall resist this child shall be deprived of heaven and earth, as shall be his children and his posterity, unless he repent speedily.’

Patrick bade farewell to Dobtha then, and left a blessing on him, and on his children, and on his posterity, and on his land, and on his ground, and on the child of promise above all, {folio 73b} and with all, and after all. And he proceeded on his tour of preaching.

Dobtha then lived a life of distinction to the end of sixty years. He had a son named Mál, whose son was Fintan, whose son was Nemhnall. It was this Nemhnall who took to wife Finmaith, the daughter of Carthach. And she at the end of sixty years from


the prophecy, bore to Nemhnall this child of whom Patrick prophesied, namely St. Berach.

Now St. Berach was born in the house of his mother's brother, Fraech the Presbyter, son of Carthach, in Gort na Luachra (the Close of the Rushes), near Cluain Conmaicne. And in that place there is (now) a mother-church and a cross, and the stone on which St. Berach was born. And Presbyter Fraech subsequently offered this estate to Berach. Presbyter Fraech too it was who baptized St. Berach, and fostered him till he was old enough to study. Now Berach's baptismal name was Fintan, as the learned man said in the verse:

    1. Fintan a man pre-eminent, acute,
      Though he were proud at Cluain Coirpthe
      (Yet) he suffered, &c.
Berach (pointed, acute) however was the name he acquired by reason of his acuteness and the sharpness of his mighty works and miracles.

Finmaith moreover bore a daughter to Nemhnall, the holy, noble, and honourable virgin Midabair. She is the patron of Buimlinn (lit. she blessed at B.). And Berach was the one person in all the world who was dearest to Presbyter Fraech of all who ever received human nature, save Christ alone. And it was for this reason that Presbyter Fraech gave (him) the three blessings which Columcille had given to himself, on his dutiful sons, and nephews, and foster-children because of Berach.

When St. Berach had completed seven years, he was taken to Daigh mac Cairill to study; and he learned the wisdom of the Son of God, {folio 74a} so that he became a sage, and the grace of God accompanied him day by day increasingly in mighty works and miracles. And he did service to his tutor Daigh son of Cairell.

On one occasion distinguished guests came to Daigh, and neither the monks nor the servants were in the monastery at the time, nor any one else but Daigh and Berach only. And Berach waited on the guests and washed their feet. And there were no provisions in the monastery except two measures of wheat. And Berach was bidden to go to the mill in Magh Muirthemne, to grind these two measures. And Berach proceeded to the mill on this service.

Then did the Lord perform very mighty works and miracles through Berach; that is to say, there was a certain woman at the mill, and a boy with her; and he was the son of a man of good family, of the Conaille Muirthemne, and the mill and the land on which it stood belonged to his father. And the woman had a bag of oats (being ground) in the mill, and Berach said to the woman: ‘Stop


the mill, and take away thy corn till this small amount be ground, for distinguished guests are waiting for us, and they have no food.’

But not only did the woman refuse to let Berach grind his corn, but reproached him grievously, and reproached (also) the elder from whom he came. Berach arose quickly and put his corn into the hopper of the mill, and the woman and Berach were working the mill together, for neither of them would give it up to the other. Then the divine powers separated the wheatmeal to one side of the mill, and the oatmeal to the other side.

Then the boy fell into the millpond and was drowned; and a sudden plague came upon the woman, and her soul and her body parted asunder. The other persons then that were at the mill arose, and the household of the woman and of the boy who had died came, and were for killing Berach. Then their feet and hands dried up and withered, and their strength was taken from them, so that no one of them was stronger than a woman in child-bed.

News of this reached the father of the boy, and he came and submitted unconditionally to Berach. He prostrated himself at his feet, and wept bitterly. Berach healed his household, and brought to life again the boy and the woman. Then the father of the child offered his mill to Berach and the place with it. So this is Raen Beraigh (Berach's Road) in Magh Muirthemne and the Mill Eilend. So the name of God and of St. Berach was magnified through these mighty deeds and miracles.

Afterwards Berach went to Inis Cáen, and his ground corn with him. And the guests and the monks and the poor were satisfied (therewith). The mighty deeds and miracles which Berach did were revealed to Daigh. Then said Daigh to Berach: ‘O Son, thou shalt not be nurtured here any longer for the multitude of thy miracles and mighty deeds; but go some other way.’ And Daigh gave to Berach the Bachall Gerr (short pastoral staff), and gave him a little bell, the last (lit. the remains) of a hundred and forty-seven relics; and Daigh left the graces of all these relics on the little bell, and this is Berach's bell (which is preserved) to this day in Glendalough. Daigh blessed Berach greatly and sent him to Coemgen.

Berach therefore proceeded across Magh Muirthemne {folio 75a} into Crich Rois across the Boyne in Bregha. At that time a great feast was being prepared at the house of the king of Bregha for the king of Tara. Berach came to the place where the feast was, and went into the banqueting hall. There were fifty vats of beer in the banqueting hall, settling. Berach asked a drink of the steward of the liquor, and it was refused him. Berach said: ‘The feast would not have been the less, though a drink were given to one of the Lord's household.’

He went on his way, and forthwith the king of


Tara arrived at (the scene of) the feast. Straightway the king said: ‘Let a taste of the liquor be brought to us.’ They went into the hall where the vats were, and there was not found one drink for the king in the fifty vats, and no trace of the liquor was found in any of the vats, nor on the floor, nor in any vessel in the hall; and this was reported to the king. And the king asked who had touched it; and the steward of the liquor said that it was impossible (that any one could have done so); ‘but there did come to us into the hall a student with a little bell and staff, and asked for a drink in the name of the Lord, and it was refused him; and he went away in sadness.’

Said the king: ‘He it is who has ruined the feast. Take horses and go after him quickly, wheresoever he be overtaken. And let no violence be done to him, but let him be adjured by the name of the Lord, and he will come back.’ This was done, and Berach came back, and the king prostrated himself before him, and gave him his full desire; and Berach went to the banqueting hall and {folio 75b} blessed the vats, and made the sign of the cross with the bell and staff over the vats, and they were filled forthwith with excellent liquor. The name of God and of St. Berach was magnified through this mighty work and miracle.

Then the king offered the place with its district and land to the Lord and to Berach; and this is Disert Beraigh (Berach's Hermitage) in Bregha. And he gave his own suit, and a suit from every king of Erin after him till doom every third year, and a scruple from every city of Clann Colmain every third year thenceforth till doom.

After this Berach proceeded into Leinster to Glendalough, and went into the guest-house; and his feet were washed there. At this time Coemgen's cook had died. Coemgen was troubled thereat, for he did not know who would be fit to superintend the monks' refection. And the angel said to him that he should entrust the task of preparing it night by night to the guests, till God should grant him some one suitable for it. And thus it was done by Coemgen; and that night the duty was entrusted to Berach. And Berach divided the refection in two, and prepared one-half that night; and the monks were much better served that night than any night in the year.

The next night the refection of the monks was entrusted to Berach to prepare. Then said Berach to the attendant: ‘Here is the half of last night's refection ready for the monks; take it with thee.’ And he did so. And though (the refection) was good the first night, it was better far the last night.

{folio 76a} So on the morrow St. Berach was taken to Coemgen. Coemgen gave him welcome, and asked him whether he were willing to superintend the monks' refection. And Berach said that he would do anything which Coemgen


enjoined him. And he undertook to superintend the monks' refection. And Coemgen gave great thanks to the Lord for the good success which he gave to the monks' refection through the grace of Berach. So that it was of this that Coemgen said:
    1. Better than any refection is moderation,
      When one comes to eat;
      Better is pain than the abundance
      Which obtains eternal destruction.

At this time there were many legions of demons in Glendalough fighting against Coemgen and his monks, and they caused trembling and terror to weak men, and hurt them, and caused plagues and many sicknesses in the glen; and they could not be cast out till Berach came. Then Berach went round the city (monastery), and rang his bell, and sang maledictory psalms against the demons, and cast them out of the glen. And it was of this the poet sang:

    1. The little bell of Berach, lasting the treasure,
      Does battle against a perverse hundred;
      It was heard as far as Ferns of the hundreds;
      It chased demons from its sacred path.
And hence it is that the bell of Berach is carried daily round Glendalough and no power of demons, nor plague, nor punishment shall be there so long as Berach's bell shall be therein. And the name of God and of Berach was magnified through this mighty work.

Coemgen had a foster-child, Faelan son of Colman, a son of the king of Leinster; {folio 76b}and the boy was crying to the clerk, that is to Coemgen, wanting milk; and this was a difficulty to Coemgen. And as he was speaking, Berach sained the mountain and said: ‘Let the doe with her fawn that is on the mountain come hither.’ And the doe came at once with her fawn following her; and she was milked every day for Faelan.

One day, however, there came a wolf, and killed the doe's fawn and ate it; and the doe did not give her milk without the fawn. Coemgen was troubled at this. So Berach sained the mountain, and said: ‘Let the animal who did the disservice, do service.’ Thereupon the wolf came and settled himself on his paws before the doe; and the doe licked the wolf, and gave her milk at (the sight of) him. And the wolf would come at every (milking) time; and the doe would be milked in his presence.

On one occasion in the winter Faelan was crying, and asking Coemgen for sorrel. This was a difficulty with Coemgen, and he consulted Berach about it. Berach sained a rock near the monastery on the top of the mountain, and abundance of sorrel grew up through it, and this was given to Faelan. And sorrel is still found


every winter on the top of the rock, and will be found till doom, as a sign of this great miracle.

On another occasion Berach and Faelan were passing a beautiful willow-tree which is in Glendalough. And Faelan cried, and asked for apples to be given him {folio 77a} off the willow-tree. ‘God is able to do even that,’ said Berach; and he sained the willow-tree, and it produced a heavy crop of apples; and some of the apples were given to Faelan. And whenever the fruit trees bear fruit, there is still a heavy crop of fruit on the willow, and so it will be till doom, as a sign of this great miracle.

But when Cainech, the step-mother of Faelan, heard that Faelan was a child of special promise, she was seized with envy and jealousy of him; for she feared—what afterwards came about—that the kingdom would be conferred on Faelan to the exclusion of her own children. She came (therefore) with her band of witches (lit. women of power) to Glendalough, to ply druidism, and (magic) craft, and paganism, and diabolic science upon the boy to destroy him.

And an angel revealed this to Coemgen; and Coemgen bade Berach go and stop these devilish powers; and Berach went on this errand. And he saw Cainech on the summit of the mountain, worshipping the devil, and practising druidism. And Berach made prostrations and prayers, and said to Cainech and her band of women: ‘Get you under the earth.’ The earth forthwith swallowed up Cainech and her band of women; and therefore (the place) is called Cainech's Swamp in Glendalough. And on her head the dogs of the monastery void their excrement from that time forth till doom.

After this Berach came to where Coemgen was; and Coemgen asked him what had befallen him and Cainech. Then said Berach to Coemgen:

    1. Thou didst send Cainech, O glorious believing clerk,
      With her pernicious crew, down under the grassy (lit. hairy) earth.
{folio 77b} So in this way Faelan was delivered, and Cainech was overcome by the grace of God and Berach and Coemgen.

One night the monks were in the refectory asking for hot water. Berach put a stone for every monk on the fire to heat the water; and he put on two extra stones. Coemgen asked the meaning of the (extra) stones. Berach said: ‘Two monks are on their way here (who are included) in this refection reckoning, and these two stones will be wanted to heat water for them.’ And the water was made hot, and a stone for each monk


was put into the water.

And the two (other) stones were burning in the fire. Coemgen said: ‘Take down the stones’; and Berach did not take them. A second time Coemgen ordered the stones to be taken out of the fire; and Berach did not take them. A third time Coemgen repeated the same thing. Thereupon came two monks from distant lands attracted by the fame of Coemgen (lit. to seek the fame of C.); and their feet were washed, and the hot water was given to them, and the two stones were put into it for them. And Coemgen admired Berach greatly for this.

Too many to number or relate are the mighty works and miracles which Berach did in Glendalough. Seven years did he serve Coemgen. Coemgen went with Berach to Bishop Etcen. And Bishop Etcen conferred orders upon Berach, and they made an agreement and covenant together, to wit, Bishop Etcen and Berach.

After this Coemgen and Berach proceeded to Glendalough. And every time that Berach attempted to go {folio 78a} to his own land to fulfil the word of Patrick, Coemgen and his monks detained him. So an angel appeared to Coemgen one night, and said: ‘It is full time for Berach to go to his land to fulfil the word of Patrick.’ And Coemgen gave permission to Berach to go to his land; and they afterwards made a firm agreement, Berach and Coemgen. And Coemgen spoke this verse:

    1. The monks of Berach, welcome are they to me,
      Whether young or old;
      Though they come to me, men, women and children,
      I will not go to heaven till they come.

Berach left (as a legacy) good institutions in Glendalough. He left pre-eminence of learning and devotion therein; he left freedom from plague and punishment therein, as long as his own bell should be there; and he left the hospitality of the holder of a ploughland with the hospitaller there, on condition that he wash his hands from the (River) Casan. Hence the poet said:

    1. Berach the sweet-lipped left
      In the glen of the unbelieving monks
      Hospitality of a true lord of meat
      To the hospitaller (lit. man of warming) in the sacred glen;
    2. Whether they be foreigners, or buffoons, or jesters,
      Till the judgement come of the crashing din,
      He will not be without ample hospitality,
      If only he wash out of the Casan.

Then Coemgen put Berach's books on his chariot, and sained the mountain, and brought a stag (thence) to draw the chariot. And


Coemgen said that wherever the stag should lie down under the chariot, there Berach should build his monastery. And he said that whatever necessity should befall Berach, he would help him in enduring it. And he blessed him greatly.

Berach then proceeded to his land taking Maelmothlach with him as his servant, who was of the Ciannachta by race. And the {folio 78b} stag was yoked to the chariot carrying the books. And the stag did not lie down under the chariot till it reached the place which Patrick foretold; and there the stag lay down. Berach said to Maelmothlach: ‘Here it was ordained for us to stop. Go and explore the meadow.’ Maelmothlach went on this errand, and explored the meadow.

Now on that day a great slaughter had taken place there; two royal princes had fought a battle there that day, to wit, Donnchad of Tara, and Tipraite son of Tadg, of Cruachan; and both had fallen in the middle of the fort which is in the meadow, with great slaughter about them. Tipraite was slain at once; the life was still in Donnchad, but he could not rise from the field of battle. When then Maelmothlach saw the slaughter, he was seized with a great terror; and he came hurriedly to the place where Berach was. Berach asked him: ‘What kind of meadow is it?’ ‘No pleasant meadow indeed,’ said Maelmothlach, ‘but all one meadow of corruption.’ ‘This shall be its name henceforth,’ said Berach, ‘the Meadow of Corruption’ (Cluain Coirpthe). And he told the story of the meadow from that time forth. Till then it bore the name of Cluain mac Lilcon (meadow of the sons of Liliuc).

Berach then went to the battlefield, and brought to life again all who had been slain in the battle. And he healed Donnchad; and hence it was that the poet said:

    1. Donnchad and Tipraite,
      And the great forces of them both,
      Fell in their great enclosure,
      In the very middle of the fort;
      Every mantle torn,53 every shirt red (with blood),
      Every wound inflicted,
      Unless the defence of the collars
      Were on their necks;
      A host of fair equipments would be smitten without shame

      Unless, &c.

Then Tipraite gave his service {folio 79a} in life and death, and the service of his seed to Berach till doom, and commended his soul and


body to his protection, and gave them to him in the day of doom and after doom. And he related to Berach the great torment which he had seen in hell, and gave thanks to God for his delivery therefrom; and he said that never since Patrick had there come to Erin any one more wonderful or more humble than Berach. And he said: ‘Woe to the man who incurs the wrath of one who brings souls and sets them to live in their bodies again; for heaven and earth shall be taken from him and from his seed till doom and after doom, unless he do earnest penance.’ And they gave great praises to the Lord there, that is Berach with his clerks, and Donnchad and Tipraite with their numerous forces. And Donnchad and Tipraite parted there, and each of them went to his own land. And though their encounter had been eager, their parting was harmonious through the might of the Lord and the miracles of Berach.

After this Presbyter Fraech and Daigh son of Cairell came to Berach, and consecrated the monastery, and constructed it. And they said that whoever should persecute any one of them, all three of them would be his enemies, and so would the Lord be, and the company of heaven. Then said Presbyter Fraech: ‘This (monastery) shall be the western part of the meadow, and my church its eastern part.’ And these holy elders left their blessing with Berach, and each of them went to his own church.

Then Berach went to the place where Dobtha was living in a remarkable old age. And he preached to him and to his children, and the rest of his kin; and he baptized Dobtha with his children and his descendants, both men and women. And then was fulfilled the {folio 79b} prophecy which Patrick foretold to Dobtha. So Berach returned to his monastery.

Now at this time there dwelt at Rathonn Diarmait the poet and his seven brethren (really, who was on of seven brethren), to wit, Diarmait, Tromra, Belech, Colum Derg (the Red), Cruinnicen, Brandub, and Duban, who was (afterwards) a clerk. They were of the Ciarraighe Luachra (or the Ciarraighe Connacht) by race. Now Diarmait was a goodly man, and head poet and chief master of druidism to Aedh son of Eochaid Tirmcarna, who was king of Connaught at that time. He it was who had given Rathonn to Diarmait in payment for a panegyric which he had composed for him.

And Berach told Diarmait to quit the land which Patrick had bequeathed to him (Berach); and Diarmait would not quit it. Much vexation therefore did Berach encounter, in contending for the possession of the land for the Lord's household, and for the young churchmen who should succeed him in the monastery in the service of God. So Berach


and Diarmait went to the king of Connaught, Aedh son of Eochaid, that he might decide between them. And Diarmait said to Aedh that if he adjudged the land to Berach, he would satirize him, so that three blisters would arise on his face, and that shame, blemish, and reproach would be upon it. Therefore Aedh would not decide between them, for he was afraid of being lampooned by Diarmait, and he was also afraid of Berach because of the multitude of his mighty deeds and miracles.

And Berach and Diarmait searched Erin through three times, and could not find in Erin any one to decide between them, for the same reasons. ‘Let us go to Alba’, said Diarmait. ‘By all means,’ said Berach. They proceeded therefore to Alba, to Aedan son of Gabran, king of Alba, that he might decide between them.

It happened that a great feast was being held at that time by Aedan and the chief men of Alba; and a great number of youths were engaged in sports on the lawn of the fort. Diarmait moreover was {folio 80a} elaborately arrayed, and made a very fine figure; while Berach was adorning his soul, and not his body, and looked but meanly. And Diarmait hurried on before the clerk and said to the youths: ‘The impostor is coming; attack him with dung and cudgels and stones.’ The youths undertook to do so; and made a rush towards the clerk. The clerk looked at them. ‘May you be unable,’ said he, ‘to do what ye would attempt.’ Their feet clave to the earth, and their hands clave to the stocks and to the sticks which they held. And their form and visage changed, and God fixed them on that wise.

And Berach and Diarmait proceeded to the entrance of the fort. And great cold seized them at the entrance, and there were two great heaps or mounds of snow in front of the fort. ‘O impostor,’ said Diarmait, ‘if thou wert a true clerk, fire would be made of yon two mounds of snow, that we might warm ourselves thereat.’ ‘Let fire be made of them,’ said Berach, ‘arise and blow them.’ Diarmait went and blew the two mounds of snow, and they blazed up like dry wood, and Diarmait and Berach warmed themselves at them.

These mighty deeds and miracles were reported to Aedan; and Aedan said to his druids: ‘Find out who has done these mighty deeds and miracles.’ And the druids went on to their hurdles of rowan, and new beer was brought to them. Four was the number of the druids and the first one of them said:

    [Druid 1]

    1. Berach with unfailing triumphs,
      A mass of gold is his forefront;
      Erin, in her royal forts
      In her glorious sepulchres
      In her glorious sepulchres.


Said the second one of them:

    [Druid 2]

    1. There is no noble shining saint,
      Nor wondrous sacred virgin,
      Who could attain such wondrous deeds
      As {folio 80b} Berach the ever triumphant
      From fair Badhgna.
Then said the third druid:

    [Druid 3]

    1. Berach, the son of Nemhnall,
      Son of Nemargen of the heroic strength;
      It is no landless man,
      (But) one weighty, strong, vigorous, generous,
      Against whom he puts forth his wrath.
Said the fourth druid:

    [Druid 4]

    1. His swiftness is revealed,
      His quickness turns away evil,
      The son55 of Oengus,
      Son of Erc the red.

And the druids said to Aedan: ‘Berach, a noble and honourable saint, has come from the lands of Erin, namely from Badhgna, from the regions of Connaught, and a poet with him, to seek of thee a decision concerning an estate. He it is who has done these mighty deeds and miracles; and they are in front of the fort.’ And he was brought into the fort forthwith; and Aedan gave Berach his whole desire, and prostrated himself before him. And Berach cured the youths.

And Aedan offered the fort to Berach; that is Eperpuill, a monastery of Berach's in Alba. And the king offered to Berach and to his convent after him his own royal suit, and that of every king after him, and dues from all Alba. And the youths offered their own service to Berach, and that of their offspring and seed till doom, and their districts and territories. And Aedan said that it was Aedh, son of Brenann, king of Tethba, and Aedh Dubh (the black), son of Fergna, king of Breifne who should decide between them in Erin.

And Berach and Diarmait returned to Erin. And they came to Aedh Dubh son of Suibhne, king of Ulster. Aedh Dubh received St. Berach with great joy, and showed great honour to them and he offered the fort in which he was to Berach. This is Cluain na Cranncha (Meadow of the Ploughgear) in Ulster, and there are numerous monks in it. Too many to relate here are the mighty works and miracles which Berach did therein.

Afterwards they went to Aedh Dubh son of Fergna, {folio 81a} and to Aedh son of Brenann to decide between them. And they arranged an assembly for a fixed day; and the place


for the assembly was Lis Ard Abla (the High Fort of the Apple-Tree) in Magh Tethba. And Berach and Diarmait each went to his own territory the night before the assembly. And they held a preliminary assembly on the morrow at the thorn-tree that is in Tir Tromra (Tromra's land) at Rathonn. And Berach did not go to the preliminary assembly, but went direct to the assembly at Lis Ard Abla.

There was a great multitude in the assembly, Aedh Dubh son of Fergna, and the forces of Breifne with him; Aedh son of Brenann and the forces of Tethba with him. There were a great number of saints at the meeting, Daigh son of Cairell, and Presbyter Fraech, Mancan and Ciaran, Mael and Failbe Finn (the Fair) the pilgrim, Dachua, Samthann, and Arnáin, and many other saints.

Berach then did many mighty deeds and miracles in the assembly; and then Diarmait came to the assembly, and began reviling Berach, and said: ‘Thou impostor, there is not (here) the thorn-tree under which we held the assembly in Rathonn.’ Then said Berach: ‘God is able to bring it hither.’ And the divine power raised the thorn-tree aloft in the air with a cloud about it, and brought it so that it overhung the assembly. And Berach said to Diarmait: ‘Look aloft’; and Diarmait looked and saw the thorn-tree, and ceased reviling. Afterwards the thorn-tree was let down slowly to the earth, till it lighted on the mound on which Aedh son of Brenann was sitting, and stood on the mound as if it had grown out of the earth there.

And a deep flush came over Aedh son of Brenann. {folio 81b} And the hosts were terrified at this, and glorified the Lord and Berach; and it was of this the poet said:

    1. Berach raised the thorn-tree (and bore it)
      in its course to the plain on which were the hosts,
      to the fair mound
      on which was Aedh son of Brenann of enduring fame.
    2. A blush came over noble Aedh
      at the gracious unsullied wonder,
      the countenance of the king of Tethba (with his) back to the ground,
      became all one red mass.

Hereupon an intense drowsiness came over Aedh Dubh son of Fergna, the king of Breifne. ‘O Samthann,’ (said he, ‘let me put) my head in thy bosom, O nun, that I may sleep.’ Samthann said to Aedh: ‘Go to Berach, and ask him to change thy complexion.’ Aedh went then to Berach, and said to him that he would perform all his desire, if he would change his complexion. ‘God is able (to do that),’ said Berach, ‘come and put thy head under my cowl, and sleep.’ Aedh put his head under Berach's cowl, and slept; and a shower of rain fell forthwith; and Aedh drew his head forth from the cowl, and he was the fairest of the warriors of the world. Then said one of his household: ‘Meseems he is Aedh Finn (the Fair) now, who was Aedh Dubh (the Black) a while ago.’ Berach said:


‘This shall be his name and the name of his seed till doom.’ So it is from this is named the Slicht Aeda Finn (progeny of Aedh Finn), of whom are the royal family of East Connaught. And Aedh Finn offered to Berach his own royal apparel and that of every king after him till doom, and a scruple from every city from his seed and offspring till doom.

And the hosts invoked the Trinity (praying) that the true God would give righteous judgement between Berach and Diarmait. Then said {folio 82a} an angel above the hosts: ‘To Berach his inheritance from now till doom.’ Then said Aedh son of Brenann: ‘Ye hear that an angel has given the decision; his land to Berach till doom.’ Diarmait was wroth with Aedh son of Brenann for this, and (said he) ‘Meseems thou art saying this after him’ (i. e. at his dictation). And Diarmait opened his mouth to make an extempore lampoon on Aedh. Aedh said to Berach: ‘Under thy protection I place myself, O clerk, against the poet.’ Berach went up to Diarmait, and put his palm over his mouth, and said: ‘Neither satire nor panegyric shall cross these lips for ever, and I declare that this day year (lit. the namesake of this day at the end of a year) will be (the day) of thy death.’ And from that day forth he could make neither satire nor panegyric. So Aedh son of Brenann was delivered thereupon through the grace of Berach.

And Aedh offered his own royal apparel to Berach, and that of every king after him, and a scruple from every city from East Tethba and from his seed and offspring till doom. Then said Berach: ‘Let the thorn-tree return to its place.’ And the power of God raised the thorn-tree (and bore it) back to its place in Rathonn. And on this wise the assembly was dissolved.

Berach then went to his monastery. Diarmait went to Rathonn in great heaviness. On the morrow Berach went to the place where Diarmait was, and told him to leave the land. And he abandoned the land to Berach, and so did Cruinicen, and Dubán the clerk. Berach went to the place were Tromra was, and told him to leave the land. And Tromra said that he would never leave it. {folio 82b} Berach said to Tromra: ‘Get thee under the earth.’ Straightway the earth swallowed up Tromra. Berach went to Belach and told him to leave the land. Belach said that he would never leave it. ‘Get thee under the earth in front of thee.’ Suddenly the earth swallowed up Belach. Berach went to Colum Derg (the Red), and told him to leave the land. And he would not. And Berach put Colum under the earth. Berach went on to Brandubh and told him to leave the land, and he would not. Brandubh too was put under the earth.

Diarmait went then to Baislec under the protection of Bishop Soichill, and remained there to the end of a year. On the day year Diarmait began to revile Berach, and said: ‘This is the day the


impostor promised me death.’ Bishop Soichill rebuked him: ‘Thinkest thou that there is not time (from now) to nightfall for death to come to thee? Go into the church, and shut thyself in.’ Diarmait went into the church and shut himself in.

Now a stag appeared to the folk of the western part of the land; and they pursued it, horse and foot, dog and man. The beast took the road to Baislec, and halted east of the church opposite a window; and all (the pursuers) set up a great shout at it. Diarmait got up hastily to see what was the matter, and came to the window and looked out. And one of the people who were pursuing the beast made a cast at it with his hunting spear; and the spear went through the window and hit Diarmait in the throat, and he fell on the floor of the church {folio 83a} and died, according to the word of Berach, on the anniversary of the assembly. But the beast escaped unhurt.

Now when Cú-allaid (i. e. wolf) the son of Diarmait heard this, he went to overlook Rathonn and curse it, that no corn might grow from the land there, and that the cows might give no milk, nor the trees in its woods mast, as far as his eye could see. And he had nine robbers with him.

Berach happened to be at Dun Imgain in Magh na Fert (Plain of the Tombs), and Concennan with him. It was revealed to Berach that Cú-allaid was coming on this errand. And Berach sent Concennan after him; and said to him: ‘Challenge them first of all.’ Concennan then went in pursuit of the robbers, and overtook them on the chariot road; and he did not challenge them there, but discharged at them (the weapon) that was in his hand. And Cú-allaid turned his face and (the weapon) hit the arch of his forehead, and pierced his head, and he fell in the midst of his household. And he said: ‘Carry me up quickly to the summit of the mountain, that I may overlook the land of Berach, and curse it speedily from the summit of the mountain.’ And they carried him up to a bluff of the mountain, and Cú-allaid died there; and he could see nothing from it but a worthless oak grove, and that has been unfruitful ever since; and his company fled from him.

And Concennan went up to him and cut off his tress of hair, and carried it off as a trophy, and he was afraid of (meeting) the clerk, for he had not bidden him to slay a man. He cut a rod and arranged the tress upon it on the meadow after coming out of the wood. And hence {folio 83b} (the place) is called Achad Cullebar (the Field of the Long Hair). Concennan then went to the place where Berach was. And the deed which he had done was revealed to Berach; and Berach was greatly displeased that a man should have been slain; and Concennan did penance. Moreover the company of Cú-allaid went astray till they happened on the place were Berach was, and they prostrated themselves before him and did penance, and gave their service to Berach,


and they are the Household of Cell Lallóg, and it was Berach who left them there.

One day the plough-team of Berach went mad (and bolted) from the monastery at Rathonn, and made for Cluain Coirpthe, and crossed the Shannon to Cluain Deoinsi, and Cluain Inchais, and Cluain Dártha, and thence to Ath na nDam (Ford of the Oxen). Ciáran Máel (the Bald) headed them there, and hence (the place) is called Ath na nDam; and they went back to Tuaim Usci (the Water Place) and crossed the Shannon westwards. And the monks were greatly concerned thereat. And Berach said that however far the oxen might scour (the country), they would complete their day('s journey) before night (lit. its night).

Meanwhile the oxen went through the desert to Eared Lara (the Mare's Ploughed field), and to Edargabail, and to Rath Ferchon (Fort of the Dog), and to Cluain in Buic Finn (Meadow of the White Buck), to Caill na nGlasán and to Lis Dúnabhra, and to Fan na mBachall (Slope of the Staves), and to Clar Lis mic Ciarain (Plain of the Fort of the Son of Ciaran) in Magh Ái, to Cluain Ingrec(h), and to Cluain Cái, and to Léna Ghlúin Áin, and into the mountain, and to Dubhcaill (the black wood), and to Rinn Daire Abréni, and into Tuaim Achad (Mound of the Field), and back into Rathonn, and they completed their day('s journey) before night. And their plough gear was on them and the iron (ploughshare) behind them all the time. And they ploughed in all these places, and every place in which they ploughed belongs to Berach. And from the spectre (scath) which appeared to the oxen on that day, (the place) Scathoch in Rathonn is named.

{folio 84a} Once upon a time, after the defeat of the battle of Cuil Dremne, Columcille son of Feidlimid set out to (visit) Berach; for he had found no welcome with any saint whom he had visited up to that time. It happened that that evening was the eve of Sunday (i. e. Saturday evening). And the sacristan in Cluain Coirpthe rang the bell early (i. e. before the proper time). At that moment Columcille was crossing Magh Rathoinn, and sat down at the southern end of the causeway; and there is a cross and a parish church there. This was revealed to Berach, and he went to meet Columcille, and greeted him. Columcille greeted Berach, who welcomed him heartily, and said to him: ‘Let us go to the monastery now.’ ‘I will not go there on my feet to-night,’ said Columcille, ‘for the eve of Sunday has begun.’ ‘Then I will carry thee on my shoulders,’ said Berach. ‘Thou shalt not carry me forward to it to-night,’ said Columcille. ‘Then I will carry thee backwards’, (lit. with thy back before thee) said Berach. So then Berach carried Columcille on his shoulders, back to back, till they reached the refectory, and there he deposited



And the oxen of the plough team were killed for him that night, and Berach and Columcille made a covenant and compact, and Columcille left many good bequests in Cluain Coirpthe; he left heaven to its priest, and to its abbot (the promise) that he would be helped, if he pray three times at the cross of Columcille; he left (a promise) that association with himself in heaven should be granted to every monk of Berach who should come to him on pilgrimage. He left the gospel which he had written with his own hand in sign of the covenant between himself and Berach; and he left abundant blessing with Berach, and proceeded on his way.

Once upon a time great scarcity came to Erin. At that time {folio 84b} Laegachan was in his island on Loch Laegachan, and had no provisions. He went then with his kernes to seek for food, and left his wife, who was pregnant, on the island with a single woman in her company; and he told her, if she should bear a child after his departure, to kill it, as they had no means of rearing it. And the woman bore a male child afterwards, and the woman who was with her asked her what was to be done with the boy. And she said: ‘Kill it.’ The other woman said: ‘It is better to take it to the clerk of the church here to the west, to be baptized, and let his service be offered to him in return for his maintenance.’

This plan was agreed upon by them, and the child was taken to Berach, and he baptized it, and the name given to it was Ineirge, and its service in life and death, and the service of its seed and offspring till doom was offered to Berach in return for its nurture. And Berach said: ‘Let the child be taken to its mother, and assistance of food and means will come to them.’ The child was taken to its mother as the clerk said.

As the women were there they heard a noise in the house56 (?). The woman went to see, but could not perceive anything there. [The same thing happened a second time.]57 A third time they heard the noise, and a third time the woman went to see, and there was a great salmon there, and an otter dragging it to land. And the woman went and dragged the salmon to land, and could not carry it for its size. And she called the other woman, and the two of them with difficulty carried the salmon, and they dressed it, {folio 85a} and ate their fill, and the breasts of the mother of the child were filled with milk forthwith, and thus the child was saved.

Laegachan meanwhile went afar, and came to a place where all the folk had died, and the cows and all the cattle of the place were there, and they came with him to his land; and he sent some one on


ahead to find out whether his wife had borne a child, and, if so, whether it had been killed. And he found the child alive, and he went to the place where Laegachan was and told him. And Laegachan was fain of the news, and went to his island; and he asked how the child came to be alive; and the mother told how that it was Berach who had supported it; and that its service had been offered to him. And Laegach[an] went to Berach and offered his whole will to him, and confirmed to Berach the service of his child till doom.

Once upon a time the Úi Briuin of the Shannon, and Cucathfaid their king came to raid the inferior clans that were under the protection of Berach. And they set out to accomplish their raid. Berach was at Cluain Coirpthe at the time, and this was revealed to him; and he set out in the direction of the army, and met them at Bun Sruthra. Berach had the little gray (bell) in his hand, and he told Cucathfaid and the army to stop where they were; and they did not stop, but went past him in contempt of him, till the battalions reached the bog to the south of Bun Sruthra. Berach gazed at them from where he was; and struck his bell against them. The bog swallowed them up at once, with their king, and he made a lake of the bog forthwith; {folio 85b} and that army may still be seen (beneath the water going) on the king's errand, and their spears on their backs.

Dicholla then and Toranach went from where they were after the army and Berach met them. ‘Stay by me,’ said Berach to Dicholla. ‘I will,’ said Dicholla; and he told Toranach to stay by him, and he did so. Then they heard a great cry of the army being swallowed up by the bog, and the lake coming over them. And they asked what had befallen them; and Berach told them what had befallen them (the army). And great fear came upon them straightway, and they prostrated themselves before Berach; and Berach said to Dicholla: ‘The lordship which Cucathfaid had shall belong to thee and to thy seed to the end of the world.’ And he gave his blessing to Dicholla and to Toranach, and to the few who were with them.

Hereupon a scholar58 who had escaped from the army came to them, and said to Berach: ‘I (put myself) under thy protection, O Clerk.’ Berach looked at him and was about to strike his bell against him, and to put him under the earth; and Dicholla and Toranach adjured Berach by the name of God, not to destroy the scholar; and said: ‘We have but few men now, and we have need of him.’ And Berach destroyed him not. The man did penance, and gave Berach all he willed. Berach left to him (as his destiny)


that he (i. e. his seed) should not exceed nine, and that the king's bedfellow should be (chosen) from them, if only they were obedient to him. Then Dicholla and Toranach offered their service to Berach, and he did not accept it. Then they ordained that the royal suit of their king and a scruple for every city, {folio 86a} and for every dutiful son, and for every nephew, and every foster-child, should be given every third year. And they were freed thus.

On one occasion when Berach was in Cluain Coirpthe, he sent a monk on an errand to Rathonn, Sillen by name. Nine robbers fell in with him, who had come from the East of Tethba to ravage in Connaught, and they killed the monk, and went between his head and his body. This was revealed to Berach, and he proceeded quickly to seek them, and found them (standing) over the corpse. When the robbers saw Berach, they resolved forthwith to kill him, and seized their spears with that intent. Their hands stuck to their spears, and their spears stuck to the rock near them, and the marks of their butt-ends will remain on it till doom.

They did penance, and said to Berach: ‘Do not deprive us of heaven, and we will do all thy will, O Clerk.’ Berach then spared them, and said to them: ‘Fit the head to the trunk’; and they did so. And Berach took a rush from a rushy pool on the bank hard by, and made a prayer over it, and fitted it round the throat of the corpse, and he arose forthwith; and hence (these rushes) are (called) ‘Berach's rushes’ till doom. And Berach left great grace upon them, and (as a doom) to the robbers that their seed should never exceed nine, and that there should always be a servitor of them in Cluain Coirpthe, and {folio 86b} that as long as there should be one, there should only be one man of them in succession to another. And this is what is still fulfilled, and will be fulfilled till doom. And a servitor went with Berach, and thus they parted.

On another occasion Colman Cáel (the Lean) of Cluain Ingrech determined to go to Rome; he was a pupil of Berach, and it was Berach who appointed him to Cluain Ingrech. He went therefore to his tutor and master Berach. Berach tried to stop him from going, and could not. Colman Cáel set out, and Berach went a little way with him on the road. They met with Ciaran Máel (the Bald) at the end of the lawn. And he and Berach tried once more to stop Colman Cáel from going. And Colman Cáel said that he would not rest till he should see Rome with his eyes. Berach sained the air, and made the sign of the cross over Colman's eyes; and they three, Berach and Colman Cáel, and Ciaran Máel, saw Rome, and praised the Lord in that place, and erected a cross and a mother church there to Berach, and to Ciaran Máel, and to Colman Cáel. And


another cross was erected there to Paul and to Peter. And the visiting of those crosses is the same to any one as if he should go an equal distance of the road to Rome. And (Berach) stopped Colman Cáel there.

However, not till the sand of the sea be numbered, and the stars of the heaven, and the grass and all the herbs that grow out of the earth, and the dew which grows or lingers on the grass and on the herbs, will all the mighty deeds of St. Berach be numbered. A righteous man was this man. {folio 87a} He was all purity of nature like a patriarch; a true pilgrim in heart and soul like Abraham; gentle and forgiving like Moses; a psalmist worthy to be praised like David; a moon (or treasury) of knowledge and wisdom like Solomon; a chosen vessel to proclaim righteousness like Paul the apostle; a man full of grace and favour of the Holy Spirit, like John the youth; a fair garden with plants of virtue, a branch of a fruitful vine; a shining fire all aglow to cherish and warm the sons of life in kindling and inflaming love. A lion for might and power; a dove for gentleness and simplicity, a serpent for prudence and ingenuity for good; gentle, humble, merciful, lowly towards sons of life; dark and pitiless towards sons of death; an industrious and obedient slave to Christ; a king for dignity and power to bind and loose, to free and to enslave, to kill and make alive.

So then after these great miracles, after raising the dead, after healing lepers and blind and lame, and every other plague, after ordaining bishops, and priests, and deacons, and people of every other order in the Church, after teaching and baptizing many, after founding churches and monasteries, after overcoming the arts of idols and of druidism, the day of St. Berach's death and of his going to heaven drew near. And before he went thither there appeared an angel to him, and said to him, that the Lord had great care for him, and for his monks and for his monastery; and said that whoever should ask a righteous perfect petition of him, it should be granted to him; and revealed to him the day of his going to heaven.

Now Berach spent his life in fastings and prayer and almsgivings in the presence of the Lord. He received communion and sacrifice from the hand of Talmach [and commended] to him his inheritance and the headship of his monastery and of his young ecclesiastics. He sent his spirit to heaven, and his body was buried in the dark house (i. e. grave) with great honour and reverence, and with miracles and mighty works in this world; but greater far will be (his honour) in the (great) Assize, when he will shine like the sun in heaven in the presence of the apostles and disciples of Jesus, in the presence of the Divinity and Humanity of the Son of God, in the presence of the sublime Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I pray the mercy of the Son of God Almighty through the intercession of St. Berach whose festival and commemoration are (observed) in


many noble churches to-day, that we may attain, that we may merit, that we may inherit the kingdom in secula seculorum. Amen.


(COLOPHON) This was copied from a bad old vellum book, belonging to the children of Brian59 O'Mulconry the younger. In the convent of the friars on the Drowes on Feb. 6, 1629 the poor friar Michael O'Clery wrote it.