This article was originally published in Galway Roots, Clanna na Gaillimhe (volume 5 1998).

Duggans of Galway - Their Ancient Origins

By Eugene Duggan

In my perusal of the "Book of Uí Máine, I discovered that, in pagan times, the Sogain had a Druid called Mogh Riuth who had a magic wheel called Roth Rámach (Rowing Wheel) with which he could soar into the heavens and disappear.

St. Jarlath of Tuam brought the Christian faith to the Sogain about the 5th or 6th century and soon some Sogain men were distinguishing themselves in their newfound religion. The Féilire of Oenguis, or Calendar of Oenguis, records the 12th February as the feast day of Mo Diuit, Bishop of Cell Mo Diuit in Sogain. Thanbks to Martin Clarke's map, In was able to locate Cell Mo Diuit at Mount Hazel in the parish of Ballymacward. Also mentioned in association with Mo Diuit is Dubhan, and I have located Kill Dughain, now Killooaun also in the parish of Ballymacward. The patron saint of Cell Mo Diuit is given as St. Simplex and his feast day is the 29th July. The "Oxford Dictionary of Saints" by David Hugh Farmer (courtesy of the Redemptorist College in Esker) quotes the Martyrology of Jerome which says that Simplicius and Faustinius were brothers, put to death for refusing to sacrifice to the pagan gods. Their martyrdoms took place at Rome on the road to Porto about the year 304 AD. In 1868, the cemetery of Generosa was discovered beside this road. It had a small church dating from the time of Damascus, and contained contemporary frescos and inscriptions . These list the martyrs as above. The relics of these martyrs were transferred to the basilica of St. Mary Major.

It may seem strange that an almost unknown Roman Saint would be taken as a patron. But Catalogus Sanctorum Hinerniae (Catalogue of the Saints of Ireland) arranges the early Irish saints into three classes. The First order, which is described as "most holy", consists of those who received their orders from St. Patrick. The Second Order were described as "very holy" and were known as the Anchorites of Céilí Dé (Companions of God). The Third Order were described as "merely holy". The Céilí Dé lived according to rule of Colm Cille, which laid down that "he labours unto sweat and prays until ears are loosed, whilst his steady perseverance gains white martyrdom, he must be prepared for red martyrdom (martyrdom of blood)!" It is more than likely that Mo Diuit took the martyr St. Simplex as his patron and inspiration. I do not know if there was or is any devotion to St. Simplex in Ballymacward in recent times.

Another saint of Sogain stock listed in the Féilire of Oenguis, under March 8th, is Cuindles. It says: "Ór (pray for) Connindles of Cell Conainn in Sogain in Connaught, at Essa mac'Eirc he is". It states that he was christened Conna but his mother added "ail" to his name, "ail" being a Gaelic endearment. The Féilire also says that his mother was sister of St. Senán of Inis Carthaigh (Scattery island). Cuindles went on to become Abbott of Clonmacnoise. He died in 724 AD and a stone memorial slab bearing the inscription "Ór ar Chuindles" (Pray for Cuinndles) as well as a sculptured Celtic cross or wheel can be seen at Clonmacnoise. "At Essa mac n'Eirc he is" poses a bit of a puzzle, as Essa Mac n'Eirc is interpreted as Assylin in Boyle, Co. Roscommon. I can only guess that maybe he is buried there. Cell Conainn is also a bit of a conundrum, as I can not locate it anywhere in Co. Galway. Some historians say that it is Cill Commedan in Aughrim, while tradition in the Kilconnell area has it that a female missionary called Connaine started missionary work around the area, that she was a sister of St. Senán and that it was really she who was responsible for the first monastic settlement at Kilconnell. It is possible that, in interpreting the medieval Gaelic of the Féilire of Oenguis, it may be that some confusion arose and that the name Connaine was given to St. Cuindless' mother rather than himself, and that St. Connaine was really the saint mentioned above, St. Coinnindles. It is alos possible that Tyaquin, a townland in the parish of Monivea could have connections with St. Coinndles, as it is an anglicization of "Teach Deacoinne", which could be interpreted as "Church of Coinne or "Tigh á Coinne" (House of Coinne).

Another saint of the Sogain was Iomar, the founder of Killimor-Sugane or Killimor Sogain which correspond to the modern Killagahwan in Ballymacward parish. It is said that, after setting up his monastery at Killimorsigan, he had a difference with some of the other monks there and that he moved to Killimordaly and set up another monastery there. Maol Cosna was the founder of Ballymacward parish and the site of his church would correspond to that of the old church in Ballymacwardcemetery. His feast day is 16th August.

I think it might be as well to explain that the aforementioned monastic sites were composed mostly of clay and wattle cells and would not compare in any way to the stone-built monasteries like Kilconnell or Cloonkeekerril. These stone monasteries were not erected until about the 13th century. Kilconnell, as already stated, was monastic site long before the 13th century, ad so also was Cloonkeenkerrill. St. Kerrill, a bishop of the 7th century, set up a monastery in the parish of Cloonkeenkerrill in the parish of Gurteen which would then be part of Sogain territory. I do not know if St. Kerrill was of the Sogain sept. His feast day is 13th June, and is still celebrated as a holiday in the parish of Gurteen. There are numerous other ecclesiastic sites throughout this area but for the purpose of this history, I have confined myself to the ones that are recorded as having definite Sogain connection.