Legend of the Church of the Seven
After a dreadful tempest, seven dead bodies, six of which were
male and one female, were found upon the western shore of the
island, with a stone curragh and paddle beside them: both the latter
had been broken against the rocks. The inhabitants speedily collected,
and a consultation took place as to the manner in which the
bodies of the unknown strangers should be disposed of. The opinions
of the islanders were divided: some proposed that they should be
interred, others contended that they should be committed to the
waves again; but it was unanimously resolved, that on no account
should they be buried in the churchyard, as they might not have
been true Catholics. To bury was the final determination. A grave
was accordingly prepared, the seven corpses were indiscriminately
thrown in, and the trench closed up.
Next morning, to the great surprise of the islanders, the body of
the female was found separated from those of her unfortunate companions,
and lying on the surface of the ground. It was believed
that the lady had been disinterred by that party who had opposed
the bodies being buried on the island, and the corpse was once more
returned to its kindred clay, and the grave securely filled up.
The second morning came, and great was the astonishment of the
inhabitants when it was ascertained that the same occurrence had
taken place, and the grave had surrendered its dead. The body was
inhumed once more, and, to guard against trickery, and secure the
corpse from being disturbed, a watch was placed around the grave.
But when the daylight broke on the third morning, lo! the body
of the unknown had again burst its cerements, and lay once more
upon the surface of the ground. The vigilance of the guard had
proved unavailing, and the consternation of the islanders was unbounded.
A grand conclave assembled, and, after much consideration
and debate, it was decided that the departed female had been a religieuse;
and, that as she had eschewed all communion with the coarser sex
while living, so, true to her vows, even after death she had evaded the
society of man. Believing her to be a gentlewoman of extra holiness,
who had departed "in the pride of her purity," it was shrewdly conjectured
that there was nothing to prevent her from working miracles.
The sick were accordingly brought forward, and a touch
from the blessed finger of the defunct nun—for such she proved—removed
every malady the flesh is heir to, and left the island without
an invalid. To atone for the irreverential mode in which the lady
had been treated on former occasions, a magnificent funeral was decreed
her; a stone monument was erected over the sainted remains;
and, that posterity should not be excluded from the virtues of her
clay, an opening was left in the south side of the tomb, whence the
faithful could obtain a portion of her ashes, and the sick be cured of
their ailments. It being considered that one so particular after death
would not, when alive, have ventured upon sea with any but the
servants of religion, the other six bodies were honourably interred,
and a tomb raised to their memory, while "the Church of the Seven"
was built to their joint honour, and dedicated to the whole.
To this day the sanctity of the lady's grave remains unimpaired.
The ashes retain their virtue; the pious resort thither to pray, the
sick to procure relief from their sufferings. When it is necessary to
obtain the holy dust for devout or medicinal purposes, application is
made to the oldest member of a particular family, who have enjoyed
from time immemorial the blessed privilege of dispensing the saint's
clay. The name of the family is Doogan; and the reason why this
high prerogative rests with this favoured lineage is, because their
ancestors were the first converts of St. Colomb Kill, and the first of
the islanders who received baptism at his hands.