Posted by: anna | March 18, 2010

St Ladoca of Cornwall

Today (5 March) we commemorate St. Ladoca of Cornwall, virgin and missionary (5th C).

Dr Baring-Gould thinks that the name Ladoca is no more than a corruption of Llan-cocha, or St Cuacha, and writes at length about her in vol XV of the Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall (1900, I think) but she is not even mentioned in St Kieran’s entry in the Lives of the Saints series and I can’t find a THING about her on the internet. What has happened? I will go back to the Sackler and get a copy of her story from the JRIC… mission accompished: from Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, vol. xiv, pp.307ff. ‘Cornish Dedications H-Ke’, Sabine Baring-Gould.

S. Kewe or Kywe, Virgin and Abbess.

S. Kewe occurs as Kigwe in the Welsh Calendar (Bibl. Cotton. Vesp. A. xiv) of the 12th century, and she occurs on the same day, February 8, in the Exeter Martyrology.

The old name for the parish of S. Kewe was Lannou, and S. Kewe’s was a chapel in the church or cemetery. In 1372, owing to both chapel and cemetery having been polluted, the Bishop issued a commission to John Bishop of Comagene, acting as his deputy, to reconcile both.

There is a church in Monmouthshire Llangiwa, but nothing is there known of Ciwa, after whom it is named, either as to origin or sex. Kigwe or Cygwe is but the Welsh form of Cuach.

I am inclined to suspect that Kigwe is none other than Cuach, the nurse of S. Kieran, and a notable abbess in Ireland. We have her in the south [of Cornwall] at Ladock. At . S. Teath, close by, we have an Itha foundation, and it is possible that at St Kewe we may have another Irish foundation by a second great Irish Abbess.

In the Irish Calendars, Cuach is commemorated on January 8, instead of February 8.

S. Cuacha or Cuach was daughter of Talan, and her brother Caiman is numbered among the saints. Her sister Atracta was veiled by S. Patrick, and became more famous than Cuacha. She was related to Erc (S. Erth) of Slane. Her mother’s name was Caemel.

They all belonged to the small tribe of Cliu Cathraighe. which occupied the northern slopes of Mount Leinster. This little clan was converted, about 430, by S. Isserninus, and this excited the suspicion and anger of Enna Cinnselach, king of the district. He drove them from their possessions into exile, and Isserninus accompanied the tribe into banishment. The persecution lasted till after the death of Enna, who died in 444. The accession of his son, Crimthan, did not bring peace and restoration to the converts, as he, like his father, was a pagan. However, in 458 . Patrick succeeded in converting and baptising him, and the apostle used the occasion to urge him to restore the exiles. This he consented to do, after they had been in banishment near on twenty years. Where they had tarried we are not told precisely, only that it was somewhere in the south. As Cuacha was the nurse or fostermother of S. Kieran, she must have been among the Corca Laidhe in Southern Munster.

We cannot set down Kieran as born later than 439 or before 436, and we may suppose that when the members of the Clan Cliu came among the Corca Laidhe, an intimacy sprang up between them and those of the Hy Duach, who were there, as well, in banishment from Ossory. In token of this amity, may be, the newly born Kieran was put into the arms of the exiled girl to nurse and to love.

Certainly Kieran was with her for longer than the period of unremembering infancy, for he ever held Cuacha in the deepest and tenderest affection.

He, himself, was not baptised until he was thirty, but she was an exile for the faith, one of the first confessors for Christ that the island produced, and she must have impressed the religious character on Kieran’s mind.

The summons to return home came in 458 or perhaps a little later, and then Kieran parted with his nurse. He was then not over seventeen, and was destined not to see Cuacha again for many years.

On her return to the land of her fathers, her two brothers embraced the religious profession, as did also her sister. It is probable that this had been part of the agreement; on these terms only had Crimthan, king of the Hy Cinnselach, permitted them to come back.

For some reason, unknown, S. Patrick did not veil Cuach, but handed her over to Mac Tail, whom he consecrated Bishop and placed at Kilcullen. Bishop Mac Tail was to instruct Cuach in religion; but ugly reports circulated relative to his undue intimacy with her, and his clergy denounced him for it – apparently to Patrick; what was done is not recorded.

Cuach had a defect in one hand; the nail of one finger grew like a wolf’s claw, and this originated the fable that she had been suckled by a she-wolf, and obtained for her the nickname of Coiningen, or the daughter of a wolf.

Nothing further is known of Cuach till Kieran arrived at Saighir, which was about 480, when she unreservedly placed herself in his hands. It was probably he who placed her at the head of two establishments for women, and the education of young girls, one at Ross-Benchuir in Clare, and the other at Kilcoagh (Cill-Cuach) near Donard, whence the order spread into other parts of Ireland.

It was told that when ploughing time arrived, Kieran was wont to lead forth a team, bless it, and send the oxen across country to the settlement at Ross-Benchuir. They arrived without a driver, and remained lowing outside Cuach’s walls until she received them. Then as soon as her ploughing was accomplished, she said to the oxen: ‘Depart to my foster-son again.’ Whereupon the beasts started of their own accord, and went across country to Kieran. This they did every year. If we translate this out of its fictional adornments into plain fact, it resolves itself into a simple and natural transaction. Kieran attended to Cuach’s farming arrangements and managed the annual ploughing for her.

At Kilcoagh by Donard is her Holy Well, Tubbar-no-chocha, at which stations were formerly made. The Cill is mentioned in a grant of 1173 to the Abbey of Glendalough as ‘Cell Chuachi.’ S. Kevin (Coemgen) of Glendalough was probably a nephew, though represented in a pedigree of the saints as her half-brother, but this is chronologically impossible.

On Christmas Eve S. Kieran said Mass at midnight, and at once departed from his monastery, and walked to that of Cuach, and communicated her and her nuns, and then returned in the morning to Saighir. This would seem to show that for a while Cuach was superior of Killeen, a short way from Saighir, where he had at first established his mother.

This religious house for women was in dangerous proximity, and caused Kieran no little trouble, first in his mother’s time, and afterwards when under Cuach. We are told that one of his pupils was carrying on a flirtation with one of Cuach’s damsels, and they had made an appointment to meet in a wood between the two houses. But whilst the girl was expecting the enamoured student, a flash of lightning so frightened her that she scampered back to the convent and promised not to be naughty again. One of Kieran’s disciples who got into these scrapes was Carthagh, and it led to his dismissal from Saighir.

Near Ross Benchuir was a rock in the sea to which Cuach was wont to retire at times for prayer. S. Kieran is reported to have stood on this stone and to have employed it as a boat on which to cross the water. Here again, under a ridiculous fable, a simple fact lies concealed, that he was wont to visit his old nurse in her island hermitage, and there minister to her in holy things.

When S. Kieran removed into Cornwall, where he died, we do not know, but it was probably due to the protracted wars and anarchy in Ossory, and it is almost certain that – were she alive – he would take Cuach with him as the head of his colleges for women, a necessary adjunct to his societies for men, so that he might by her means organise the education of the girls in that part of Cornwall over which he was about to exercise ecclesiastical authority.

Ladock is probably Llan-ty-Cuach, and was one of her houses, where the Feast of the Patron Saint is observed on the first Thursday in January, and this fairly agrees with her festival as marked in the Irish Calendars, January 8.

But if she be, as I have little doubt she is, the same as the Welsh Kygwe and the Cornish Kewe, her feast in North Cornwall is on February 8.

Her name recurs in some Irish Calendars on June 6, and June 29, and as Coiningen, the Wolf-girl, on April 29.

She is thought to have been buried at Killeen Cormac, near Dunlairn in Wicklow. The name Killeen, like the other by Saighir, points to a foundation by Liadhain, Kieran’s mother. There are several churches in Ireland that look to Cuach as a foundress, and she must have been very active as an auxiliary to S. Kieran. Kilcock in Kildare was the most flourishing of these. An interesting account of Killeen Cormac, with its ancient graveyard and Ogham inscriptions, is given in Shearman’s Loca Patriciana, 1882. There are doubtless difficulties in identifying Cuach with S. Kew, due to the difference in day of commemoration and the lack of any particulars relative to S. Kew.

In favour of the identification is this: that Kew is the Welsh Cygwe which is but a Welsh form of Cuach, and that it is more than probable that Kieran, when quitting Ireland for Cornwall, would bring with him the head of his religious institutions for women to organise similar houses in Cornwall. That he did bring Buriena we know. That Cygve or Kygwe was not a Welsh Saint is apparent for she occurs in none of the Welsh saintly pedigrees.

Bishop Mac Tail died about 470. It is very difficult to fix the date of the death of S. Kieran. His migration to Cornwall probably took place in 480, and we may set down his death as occurring about 520. Probably Cuach died some years earlier.

At S. Kewe there is a Holy Well, but whether it was referred to her or to S. Docwyn it is not now possible to say.

Holy St Ladoca-Cuacha, pray to God for us.

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