The Pattern of St. Mullins by Fr. Aughney PP

Our Pattern day is celebrated on the Sunday before July 25th, or on the 25th if it is a Sunday.  July 25th is significant.  It is the feast of St. James, the patron of pilgrims.  More than one thousand three hundred years ago St. Moling chose that date as an appropriate one to celebrate the completion of the Millrace which he personally spent 7 years digging.  On that day he prayed “that all who would come in pilgrimage to this place in commemoration of that special day would find healing in soul and spirit”.

Every year we recall that, and start with prayers at St. Moling’s well.

The Mass at the Penal Altar is a significant part of our Pattern.  The altar is in the middle of the graveyard, surrounded by the graves of generations of our people.  The altar itself is a reminder of the times when people risked their lives to atten Mass.

Our Pattern has a social side to it.  The green in St. Mullins will have agreat variety of amusements and stalls selling their wares.  It is a day to meet people.  Locals who are away from home always try to make it back for the Pattern.  The weeks leading up to it will be a busy time tidying up the graves, preparing potted plants and wreaths.  It is a time to brighten up around the house, trim the hedges, paint the gate etc.  Traditionally, it was the day to dig the new potatoes.  It is not just a one day event.  Things begin to stir in earnest a week or so before.

There is something very special about this old tradition.  It is very Celtic in its mixture of prayers and social gathering.

As one man summed it up “the Pattern stirs the blood in a St. Mullins man”.  Even if you are not from St. Mullins I’m sure you would find it interesting and enjoyable.

This year (2012) we start at the well at 2.30pm on 22nd July with the Mass at the Penal altar at 3pm.

After that it is up to yourself if you want to stay until the early hours or a few days for that matter!

Fr. E Aughney, PP St Mullins Parish

About Pattern Day

Each year on the Sunday before July 25th, thousands gather from many parts of Ireland and abroad to take part in the historic pilgrimage which now consists of Holy Mass at the penal altar to drink water from the holy well and visit the graves. Many say that for generations hundreds of “cures” have taken place at this hallowed spot and people still go there to pray for help in times of distress and ailment.

The Holy Well dates back to the time of St. Moling and there is no doubt that the present pilgrimage is part of the ancient custom of wading in the waters of the mill-race when the pilgrimage lasted for several weeks.

St. Mullins also had its civil history as it was once a town of considerable importance which had grown up around the monastic community. It has been recorded that it was rebuilt in 1347 by Walter Bermingham and in 1535 a Walter Cowley recommended the government to erect a fortified tower and to construct a wall around the town and colonise it. In the year 1581 a sum of £350 was levied off the counties Wexford and Carlow to erect a tower at St. Mullins to guard the navigation of the Barrow. There are many other interesting circumstances connected with this historic site and also many ruins in the neighbourhood such as the church of “Thampull-na-Bo” and the Castle of Poulmounty.

Within the graveyard area which encircles the monastic site the traces of four ruined churches can be found and the ruins of a small cell believed by some to be the identical Teach Moling in which he lived in solitude and from which he ruled his community. It also includes the Protestant Church, the little oratory which has a traditional dedication to St. James, the stone cross which is at the east end of one of the churches is called St James’s Cross. There is also the famous round tower foundation which was connected to one of the churches by a spiral staircase and in this resembles the tower of Temple Finghin at Clonmacnoise. It can be said that St. Mullins was once a ritual site and kingship ceremonies not very different from Tara or Tailteann may have taken place here, as did the tribal rites dedicated to the fertility of the land and to the spirits that presided over it.


22nd July 2012