‘The Town and County owes its existence to an early missionary’

Extracted from Noel Hoare’s introduction in book…

As a teenager growing up in the town of Roscommon I knew very little about the origins of its name and never did I envisage then that one day I would write about it. 

  Roscommon, in Irish ‘Ros Comáin’, has a number of translations, examples being the ‘Wood of Comán’, ‘Comán’s Marsh’ and ‘The Pleasant Place of Comán’. It is named so because a missionary named Comán mac Faolchon founded a church during the early Medieval or Christian period (400-1200) in what is now Roscommon Town.

  I was spurred into writing this book by an article I read in June 2012 in a local paper in Athlone. The article referred to buildings of historical interest in Roscommon Town. I was aware of the uncertainty about when Comán died, but when I read this article which said that he founded a monastery in the fifteenth century in Roscommon, I knew this was innacurate. Nevertheless there were two other dates almost 200 years apart for Comán’s period and needless to say, both could not be correct. The timing was right for me to try and understand why this ambiguity existed, with dates in the sixth and eighth century. 

  In the autumn of 2012 I embarked on a two-year part-time evening Diploma in History at NUI Galway. I completed my course and used this time to carry out research relating to Comán and continued with this until 2016 as time permitted.

  Over the two years of my course, I studied a number of modules pertaining to European and Irish history and the module relating to the period of St. Patrick and the coming of Christianity informed me enough to start this book in the fifth century. 

  The book is divided into three parts, starting in the fifth century and finishing in the present and in this regard it has a chronology to it, but nevertheless all sections are interconnected and need to cross over…in my opinion and based on my research, an understanding of the history of the early Irish Church is necessary to an appreciation of the formative years of Comán’s Church.

  Part One covers the period from the year 431 (the official date for the introduction of Christianity in Ireland) to the start of the twelfth century. 

  Part Two covers the period from the twelfth century to the end of the seventeenth century and this was a momentous period in Irish history. For many reasons for which there is an abundance of reading material, the spotlight is put on St. Comán’s in far greater detail. Politically, Connacht hits centre stage under the most prominent Irish family at this time, the O’Conors. In the twelfth century, politics and church were intertwined and both played a role in implementing church reforms that had already being ongoing in Europe. 

  Part Three covers the period from the beginning of the eighteenth century until the present, but as I have mentioned above, all three periods overlap and need to. The ownership of what was monastic land would continue to remain in English ownership and we also learn more about the communities of people who lived in the County Town and how the legacy of Comán lived on with them.

  The last section of Part Three finishes without a conclusion and instead the story goes back to the period Comán lived and to the community today. 

  The Town and County it has become owes its existence to an early missionary who belonged to one of the most interesting periods of Irish history and today I believe our community can benefit because of this.

  There are times I wished I was more knowledgeable on the subject to hand but nevertheless this is my attempt to find out more about the patron saint of Ros Comáin and why his legacy did not disappear from the memory of countless communities of people.  It is a story I have a close connection to, as my ancestral home is located in the same vicinity where some historians believe Comán founded his monastery.