Friday 17 March 2023

A Dictionary of Irish Saints - Pádraig Ó Riain

A Dictionary of Irish Saints
ISBN 9781846823183

First I must state this was a book on my wish list a long time. The price point was way above what I would normally spend on a book for pleasure reading. For a long time It was the longest standing book on my wish list. Then a few years ago my sister in law was very generous with a book gift card at Christmas. I picked it up. It migrated back and forth between my den and my bedside table for almost 2 years. I was making little progress because I greatly prefer eBooks because of a dual form of dyslexia. I had been hoping all along that an eBook edition would eventually be released. When I found out that a second edition was in the works, and that a volume had been releases, ‘A Supplement to A Dictionary of Irish Saints: Containing Additions and Corrections’ I picked up as a way to help force myself to finally work through this volume. 

The description of this volume is:

“Scarcely a parish in Ireland is without one or more dedications to saints - in the form of churches in ruins, holy wells, or other ecclesiastical monuments. A Dictionary of Irish Saints serves as a guide to the (mainly documentary) sources of information on the saints named in these dedications. The need for a summary biographical dictionary of Irish saints - containing information on such matters as feastdays, localizations, chronology, and genealogies - has never before been satisfied. Author Padraig O Riain has been working in the field of Irish hagiography for upwards of 40 years, and the material for the over 1,000 entries in A Dictionary of Irish Saints has come from a variety of sources, including lives of the saints, martyrologies, shorter tracts on the saints (some of them accessible only in manuscripts), annals, annates, collections of folklore, Ordnance Survey letters, and other documents.”

I try and read a few academic works every year. Most of what I read is more for a general audience. I read widely and with my own Religious Studies degree with a specialization in Roman Catholic Thought, and being of Irish heritage this volume appealed to me on many levels. This volume is listed as 660 pages. The chapters in this work are:

List of Sources 
List of Abbreviations 
List of Provinces & Counties 
Index of Civil Parishes 
Index of Other Places 
Index of alternate (mainly Anglicized) Names 
Index of Subjects 
Index of Feastdays

There is a 23 page list of sources and 75 pages of double column indexes.  The first page of the text after the lists is page 39, in between we have 546 pages of dictionary entries. Some entries are a single line so see a different entry. Some span pages, for example: MAOL MAODHOG of Bangor and Armagh. Better known as Malachy spans nearly three full pages. Patrick spans 5 pages and Columbia under the entry Colim Cille almost 4 full pages. Over the years I have read several volumes on Irish Saints, my favourites being from the pen of Alice Curtayne it was fascinating to read through this volume. The beginning of the description of this volume states:

“Scarcely a parish in Ireland is without one or more dedications to saints, in the form of churches in ruins, holy wells or other ecclesiastical monuments. This book is a guide to the (mainly documentary) sources of information on the saints named in these.”

And having grown up in a town and since lived in a few others in Ontario that had large Irish immigrant roots the same can be said here. It was fascinating to read through this work, finally. And now I have the supplement to work though. I still hold out hopes of a digital edition for those like myself with Dyslexia that prefer to change the font as well as font and page colour. Or like my son with eye tracking issues. And as someone who has been praying an Irish Litany of Saints for a few years now this expanded my knowledge of several of the Saints. But I am thankful I eventually picked up the volume, and that I have now worked through it. For now I plan on returning it to my bedside table and using the Index of Feastdays at the back and reading around the calendar. After reading this I am interested in giving some of Pádraig Ó Riain’s other works a try if I can lay my hands on them.

This is very much an academic work and written after a lifetime in the field of study. It is an excellent volume, if you are passionate about Irish Saints or your Irish Catholic heritage this is volume I can see you enjoying. I am glad I finished it and am blessed for the effort.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan

Books by and edited by Pádraig Ó Riain:
A Martyrology of Four Cities: Metz, Cologne, Dublin, Lund
Beatha Aodha Ruaidh: the Life of Red Hugh O'Donnell
Feastdays of the Saints
Fled Bricrenn: Reassessments
Four Irish Martyrologies: Drummond, Turin, Cashel, York
Four Offaly Saints
Four Tipperary Saints
Irish Texts Society: The First Hundred Years
Studies in Irish Hagiography: Saints and Scholars
The Martyrology of the Regensburg Schottenkloster

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