In the center of Templeport lake sits a picturesque, mysterious island around which many legends swirl. It is said that on this island, St. Mogue-who later became Bishop of Ferns-was born under extraordinary circumstances. Early in the 6th century, there was a house on the island inhabited by a weaver. On a particularly cold summer's night, the weaver's wife told him that she had refused shelter to a strange woman wandering the grounds. During the night, the woman-Eithne-had given birth to a son. Eithne died but the hazel staff she carried burst forth in to blossom.
Across from the island, St. Killian awoke to find snow covering the ground. His herd of cattle had stampeded during the night. He found them on the shore of Templeport Lake gazing toward the island. Hearing the cries of an infant, St. Killian urged the weaver's wife to find something flat to put the baby on so that he could baptize him. All she could find was an enormous flagstone at the hearth. To her surprise, the stone moved at her touch, and when she placed the infant on the flagstone, it miraculously wafted to the other side of the lake. When the infant had been baptized, St. Killian gifted him with a bell-Mogue's Bell. The flagstone carried him safely back to the island. Mogue grew to become a dedicated and influential religious figure and is the saint of Templeport Parish.
The laver for the holy water font at nearby St. Mogue's Church in Bawnboy is made from part of this flagstone, while Mogue's Bell is housed in Armagh.
Today, the island (accessible only by boat) is lush and resplendent, its natural beauty visible for miles around. On the island are the remains of the original church. Legend holds that the mortar between the ruined stones is touched by the hand of St. Mogue and grants safety from drowning or burning. One local resident insisted that the clay was truly powerful. She carried it with her on a ship built in Belfast and bound for America...the Titanic. She survived the fateful journey only because she carried something magical with her-St. Mogue's Clay.
How to get there:
From Dublin: N3 to Belturbet then N87 west to approx 2km before village of Bawnboy. At Bawnboy, follow signs to Templeport Lake and St. Peter's Church. Well signposted.
From Belfast: A3 to Cavan Town, then N3 north to Belturbet. Follow signs to Bawnboy then to Templeport Lake and St. Peter's Church.
St. Mogue's Island, Bawnboy
A road sign gives directions to St. Peter's Church of Ireland and from the graveyard there, visitors can get a close view-and some wonderful photos-of St. Mogue's Island.
Written by Joy Davis - Summer of Travel 2007