St. Garbhan

James Kelly N.T. (former teacher in Caroreigh School) and Rev. Joseph Ranson

Garbhan was a nephew of St Finian of Clonard and his feast day is commemorated in the Irish Martyrologies on 26th March. St. Finian was baptised by St. Abban, who had a religious house at Camross.

Garbhan was abbot of Aghoule or Aghold in the Diocese of Leighlin and Co. Wicklow. It is situated about 8 miles due north of Newtownbarry. Aghoule was founded by St. Finian. There was a strong bond of friendship between Abban and Finian during Abban's life; and we may presume that the friendship between the two great founders was maintained for some time by their respective establishments.

Garbhan's family, like his uncles, came from the Barony of Forth, Co. Carlow and it is not unlikely that Garbhan received his early education in one of Abban's establishments. As a matter of fact there were no other religious houses in Hy Kinsellagh at the time, with the exception of Begerin - and Abban would be associated with Begerin as it had been founded by his uncle, St Ibar. Taghmon would scarcely have been founded when Garbhan was born. If Garbhan was educated at one of Abban's foundation in South Hy Kinsellagh, it would not be unnatural to expect to find a cell (Ceall; cill; kil) belonging to Garbhan himself in south Hy Kinsellagh. The suggestion that he was educated in South Hy Kinsellagh is only a supposition but it is a likely hypothesis, in view of the relationship existing between the religious houses and families already shown; and it is on that hypothesis is built the supposition that Garbhan had a church in South Hy Kinnsellagh. (This is the first argument to establish that Garbhan of Aghoule nephew of Finian of Clonard was the local Garbhan).

Second Argument in favour of same.

We have a stronger argument by which we can claim Garbhan of Aghoule (26th March) as the patron of Kilgarvan, Co. Wexford. There are five Garbhans of whom we have accounts in the Martyrologies and lives of the Irish saints.

(1) Garbhan 14th May - of the race of Cathaor Mor. His church was at Clonshambo, parish of Kilcock, Co. Kildare.

(2) Garbhan 9th July - a priest. His church was at Kinsaley, Co. Dublin. He was a friend and contemporary of St. Kevin, Glendalough who died 618 A.D.

(3) Garbhan 21st Nov. - a bishop of the race of Niall of the nine hostages.

(4) Garbhan - a disciple of St. Barra of Cork at Gouganebarra.

(5) Garbhan 26th March- 'Of Kilgarvan near Aghoule' son of Rignach, who was the sister of St. Finian of Clonard, of the race of Cealtchair Muic Utheachair. The operative word here is 'near' Aghoule.

There are other Kilgarvans in Ireland but they are in Co. Cork, Kerry, Mayo, Donegal and Westmeath. The only Kilgarvan near Aghoule is in Co. Wexford; they were in the same tribal territory, namely Hy Kinsellagh.

The references for Garbhan, 26th March, are the Martyrologies of Tallagh (Ed. Lawlor & Best) and Marianus O'Gorman at that date. 'The Lives of the Saints' from the Book of Lismore, (Ed. Stokes, Pg. 345)

The following quotation is from the Book of Leinster: 'Rignach, sister of Finian, mother of Fintan of Fochaillech (18th July) and of Mo Colmoc of Clonard (Co. Meath), 9th February - and of Garbhan of Cell Garbhain near Achad Aball' (Aghoule) 26th March. The Martyrology of Donegal says that Garbhan of Kilgarvan was abbot of Aghoule.


(1) None of the Garbhans listed had any association with Hy Kinsellagh except Garbhan of Aghoule.

(2) He had a church dedicated to him near the latter place, and as the only Kilgarvan near Aghoule is Kilgarvan, Co. Wexford, we may conclude that Kilgarvan, Co. Wexford was the foundation of Garbhan of Aghoule, nephew of Finian.

Garbhan would have been born about 580 and would be 'flourishing' (floreat) 630 A.D. This date would tally with the known date of his brother Mo Colmoc of Clonard, who died 652 A.D. (Mart: Gorman Index, 8th February)

Near Kilgarvan is Assagart founded by Mo Shoccru, Abbot of Clonenagh - Leinster -and of Tech - Socru (Saggart, Co. Dublin) Assagart appears as 'Ardsagart' in Petty's Down Survey Map. Mo Shoccru's feast day is 3rd March.
The following is a tracing of Kilgarvan parish boundaries from Petty's barony map 1655-59:
Clanmore = Glenour (?) Ardsagard = Assagart
Ballydemoch = Ballyclemock(?), Rathquile = Rathkyle
Concourse = Camross; Misting = Misterin; Tomgarran = Tomgarrow.

(This article was researched by Rev. Fr. Joseph Ranson, late Administrator, Enniscorthy and local historian and scholar of renown at the request of the late James Kelly former principal of Caroreigh National School in the 1960s. This school was rededicated in 1999 and henceforth known as St. Garbhan's School, Caroreigh).