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Dan Hunt asks about a life of St Finnbarr. My first source for
British and Irish saints is David Hugh Farmer, *The Oxford
Dictionary of Saints*. He lists T. A. Lunham, `The Life of St.
Finbarre', Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological
Society (1906), 105-20.

Reading this entry, it occurred to me that what I was going to
post on Friday actually belongs to today's saints. Farmer
mentions a Scottish cult, `based on calendars and place-names,
though almost devoid of hagiographical literature'. Read on!

St. Barr's Day on the island of Kismul in the Hebrides, as
reported by M. Martin in 1716:

`The church in this island is called Kilbarr, i.e. St. Barr's
church. There is a little chapel by it, in which Macneil, and
those descended of his family, are usually interred. The natives
have St. Barr's wooden image standing on the altar, covered with
linen in form of a shirt: all their greatest asseverations are by
this saint. I came very early in the morning with an intention to
see this image, but was disappointed; for the natives prevented
me, by carrying it away, lest I might take occasion to ridicule
their superstition, as some protestants have done formerly: and
when I was gone, it was again exposed on the altar. . . .
    All the inhabitants observe the anniversary of St. Barr,
being the 27th of September; it is performed riding on horseback,
and the solemnity is concluded by three turns round St. Barr's
church. This brings into my mind a story which was told me
concerning a foreign priest, and the entertainment he met with
after his arrival there some years ago, as follows: this priest
happened to land here upon the very day, and at the particular
hour of this solemnity, which was the more acceptable to the
inhabitants, who then desired him to preach a commemoration
sermon to the honour of their patron St. Barr, according to the
ancient custom of the place. At this the priest was surprised, he
never having heard of St. Barr before that day; and therefore
knowing nothing of his virtues, could say nothing concerning him:
but told them, that if a sermon to the honour of St. Paul or St.
Peter could please them, they might have it instantly. This
answer of his was so disagreeable to them, that they plainly told
him he could be no true priest, if he had not heard of St. Barr,
for the pope himself had heard of him; but this would not
persuade the priest, so that they parted much dissatisfied with
one another.'
(M. Martin, *A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland*
(2nd edn., London, 1716), 604, 606-7)

Bonnie Blackburn
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