March 5th is the feast day of Naomh Ciarán of Cape Clear. Legend has it that Ciarán converted much of the southwest coast of Ireland and the region of Saigir in County Offaly, where his father came from, before St Patrick arrived in Ireland. He is often referred to by sources as the first native born Irish saint.
There is a long history of devotion to him on Cape Clear Island and the tradition was that on the eve of his feast day that ‘rounds’ were said at a pillar stone known as Gallaunkeiran, located at the north harbour. Close by are a holy well and a church also dedicated to the saint, who was said to have been born on the hillside overlooking the harbour. Ciarán is also the patron of the Diocese of Ossory and patron of Cornwall where he is known as St Piran. He was also revered in Brittany where he is known as St Sezin.
Among the many legends associated with Ciarán is that he had a special affinity with the natural world, especially animals and birds. Two stories about him were translated from Latin by the Belfast based author Helen Waddell and were published in her 1934 book, Beasts and Saints. That work was beautifully illustrated by the Kinsale born artist and writer Robert Gibbings. To remember the saint on his feast day the first of these stories is reprinted below.

St Ciarán and the Nesting Bird

Illustration of the Hawk and Nesting Bird by Robert Gibbings.

The most blessed Ciarán, bishop, and first begotten of the Saints of Ireland, belonged to the west border of Leinster, which is called Ossory. At the time he was born, all the folk of Ireland were heathen. His father was called Luaigne, of the nobler of the Ossory clan: his mother Liadain, born in the south of Munster … And Ciarán was born and brought up in Corca Laighde, on Cape Clear Island. And verily God chose him from his mother’s womb: for when the name of Christ was not heard in Ireland, the austerity of the Christian faith began to spring in him. For his parents wondered, and all who saw him, at the soberness of his mind, the gentleness of his nature, the sweetness of his words, his timely fasting, his wise counsels, and other qualities that belonged to holy men.
One day on the same Cape Clear Island the first of St Ciarán’s miracles came by God’s will to pass. For when he was still a lad, a hawk swept down from the sky upon a small bird brooding on its nest and caught it, before St Ciarán’s eyes, and carried it off in its talons into the air. The lad saw it, and was in sore grief over it, and prayed for the poor captive: and straightway the ravisher came down with the prey, and laid the small bird, mangled and halfdead, before him. But under the pitying gaze of the lad, the hapless creature by God’s grace was made whole, to his heart desire: and before his eyes sat brooding on her nest, happy and unhurt.

(Beasts and Saints, trans. Helen Waddell (London, 1934), pp. 99–100.)

Naomh Ciarán of Cape Clear