What's in a name?


A story with a different theme this month, and certainly not a Yorkshire one!

I recently returned from a trip to the small town of Tuam in the West of Ireland, to see family and friends and that got me thinking about my Christian name…something that I am asked about on a regular basis, so here is the story.

The name “Jarlath” is commonly used in the area around County Galway Ireland, and comes from Saint Jarlath, who was an Irish priest and scholar from the West of Ireland. He is the patron saint of the Archdiocese of Tuam Co Galway.It is not known when he was born but but he it is believed that he came from a village called Sylane near Dummoore and he died around 550A.D.

His father was called Loga and mother Mongfinn, and he was a member of the Conmaicne family, which was looked upon as probably the most important and powerful family in Galway at that time.

He was educated in a monanstery founded by St. Bennin of Kilbannon and after being trained as a holy man and ordained as a priest, he founded a monestery at Cloofush, just outside Tuam, and presided over the monestary as Abbot-Bishop. The picture at the top shows the remains of the monestry at Cloonfush as it is today.

Folklaw suggests that St. Benin, told St. Jarlath to seek out a site for a new monestary, and that where ever his chariot broke down, that was to be the place of his “resurrection”. He therefore travelling eastward, looking for a site for a new monastery and as foretold, the “accident” happened, and the wheel of his chariot broke on what is now the site of St Mary’s Cathedral in Tuam, only four miles from where he started out, and so it was here that he founded his new monastery. The following pictures show the interior of St Mary’s, as it is today.There are still parts of this beautiful building going back to the 12th century, and it is believed that a church has existed on this site since the 6th century.


His “chariot” may be something of an exaggeration, as the mode of transport in those days was more likely to have been either a horse & cart, or even a handcart, pulled by others. A broken cart wheel is the emblem for the town of Tuam, and a modern sculpture of this is in the Town Square to commemorate St. Jarlath’s short journey.


Long after his death, his bones were found and placed in a silver shrine to be deposited in specially built church called “ Teampall na Scrine” in the town in the seventh century. This church was later destroyed at the time of the Reformation, and eventually became a barn, and the silver shrine then disappeard for a while. Then in 1650, two men were threshing in the old barn and noticed a bright object on the clay floor which turned out to be the silver shrine containing the relics of St.Jarlath. The item was then handed over to various religious persons and seems to have vanished without trace around 1870.

The picture below shows me standing at the gate of the site of the original Clonflush monastery, which is also a graveyard. The gate shows the name “Jarlath” spelt in the Irish language, and the wheel denotes the one broken on his chariot.

Post a Comment