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Saint Grellan


The church at Ballinasloe

Saint Grellan is a Irish saint and patron saint of the Kelly and Donnellan clans and of the parish of Ballinasloe, in County Galway, Ireland. According to the hagiography The Life of St. Grellan, Grellan lived during the 5th century time of Saint Patrick. Grellan was assigned a site to build a church at Achadh Fionnabhrach, by Duach Gallach, a King of Connacht. Duach Gallach granted Grellan the site to build his church after Grellan brought back to life by baptism Duach Gallach's stillborn son, Eoghan Sriabh.


Achadh Fionnabhrach has been ever since called Craobh Ghrealláin (Irish for 'the branch of Grellan'), named after the branch which king Duach and St. Patrick presented to St. Grellan, in token of possession. The king also ordered that seven garments should be given from every chieftain's wife as a tribute to the young cleric.

After this Grellan proceeded to the upper third of Connacht and continued to traverse the country but he eventually settled and established a church at Cill Cluaine (or Kilclooney, near present-day Ballinasloe) in Magh Seincheineoil, a territory occupied by the Firbolg and led by Cian.

The area was invaded by the Gaelic tribe of Colla da Chrioch from the Kingdom of Oriel, led the semi-legendary figure Maine Mór who was accompanied by his father, Eochaidh Ferdaghiall, and his two sons Breasal and Amlaff (also Amhalgaidh). His battalions descended on the territory and plundered the country. Acting as an intermediary, Grellan negotiated a peace between the parties. To consummate the peace, Cian, of the Firbolg, organised a feast to which Amlaff was invited but subsequently taken hostage.

Amlaff was now the bargaining power the Firbolgs held over the Gaels. While in captivity however, Amlaff managed offend a Firbolg official through a romantic entanglement with his wife. Amlaff was killed, and with him died the Firbolg’s leverage against the Gaels. With the Gaels expecting a truce, Cian decided to catch them off guard with a surprise attack.

From the door of his church, Grellan became aware of the build-up of the Firbolg's weapons. As he was the guarantee between the two factions, this development put him in a precarious situation. Legend states that he prayed to God, who caused the Firbolgs to be swallowed into the earth at the bog of Magh Liach during battle with the Gaels.

Grellan subsequently granted the territory to Maine Mór and his people. The area became known as Hy-Many or Uí Maine kingdom, whose people became known as the Uí Maine. The Uí Maine paid tribute to Grellan, who became the patron saint of the clans and families who descended from Maine Mór, including the Ó Ceallaigh (Kelly), Ó Madadhan (Madden), Ó Neachtáin (Naughton), Ó Domhnalláin (Donnellan), Ó Mullally (Lally) and Ó Fallamháin (Fallon) families.

St. Grellan’s Crozier was given to the Uí Maine with the territory, and was thenceforth borne in their standard on the battlefield. This crozier was in existence up to the early 19th century.


Ballinasloe, note that Aughrim, said to be the ancient seat of the Tuohy's, is only a few miles west