ORIGIN OF PARISHES Parishes are ancient ecclesiastical divisions, which were used as convenient units for church and civil administrations. Their boundaries were fixed at the end of the twelfth century by Synod of Kells. Accordingly, the bishops determined the boundaries and for demarcation used the natural physical features - shorelines, streams and mountains.
Parishes were then given names associated with local monastic foundations like Cill Barron, St Barron's Church. DRUMHOLM derives its name from the ancient Columban monastic settlement of the same name dedicated to Saint Ernan around 560 A.D.
Since monks in those days were somewhat transient, a permanent priest was assigned to each parish to administer to the people and maintain church property. By the fifteenth century this priest was commonly referred to as the "Parish Priest" to distinguish him from his appointed assistant.
DRUMHOLM PARISH LOCATION
DRUMHOLM is located in the southern part of Ireland's northernmost diocese, Raphoe, in the Barony of Tir Aodha (Tir Hugh), South Donegal. It originally extended from Rossnowlagh shoreline to the Blue Stack Mountains to include the present parish of Tawnawilly. The Most Rev Philip O'Reilly, Bishop of Raphoe (1759 - 1782) established the parish of Tawnawilly in 1760 and so complied with an Act of Parliament of May 1722. The boundary has since remained unchanged. It is interesting to note that the famed Annals of the Four Masters, associated with the Franciscan Abbey in Donegal Town, were compiled 1632 - 1636 (prior to the establishment of Tawnawilly Parish) in the Parish of DRUMHOLM.
COLMCILLE - ST COLUMBA AT DRUMHOLM Colmcille was born at Gartan in Donegal in 521. He was ordained to the priesthood at Clonard and returned to Donegal at the age of 25. He got a grant of land from his cousin Aodh Mac Ainmire. This land contained an oak groave where the River Foyle enters the sea, and here he founded his first monastery, Doire Colmcille (the Oak Grove of Colmcille, now called Derry. He founded other monastic settlements in Cineal Conail between 551 and 562 (in fulfilment of the revelation to Patrick some seventy years earlier), at Raphoe, Glencolmcille and Drumholm. In the north of Ireland alone, he established thirty monasteries prior to his exile to Iona in 562 at the age of 42. DRUMHOLM monastery was founded in 560. It was held in esteem by Colmcille who described it in a poem - 'Beloved is Drumholm rich in fruits', and who later in his Lament for Erin remembered his 'beloved Drumholm with its sweet acorns'.
ST ASSICUS - DRUMHOLM
Assicus was appointed Abbot-Bishop of Elphin monastery by St Patrick, who ad earlier converted him to Christianity. Since dioceses had not yet been established (not until the Synod of Kells brought the Irish Church into line with Europe in 1152). Assicus was a skilled coppersmith who used his talents as a metal worker and used his talents to produce numerous religious objects. Two of his patents were preserved, one at Armagh and another at Elphin, until they disappeared at the beginning of the twentieth century. THE DEATH OF ASSICUS In later life, Assicus retired to a solitary hermitage on Raithlin Ui Beirn, a small rocky isle off the coast of Glencolmcille. It took seven years for his brother monks to locate him. They persuaded him to return to Elphin. He agreed, but being old, he planned to break the journey at Rath Cunga (RACOO). When he reached RACOO his strength gave up and he died. He was buried in the rath under the uninscribed gravestone. From that time, Raithlin Ui Beirn became part of the monastic settlement of Elphin and a close bond was maintained between Elphin and RACOO (Rath Cunga).
ST ERNAN - DRUMHOLM - Ernan Mac Eoghan is the patron saint of the parish of DRUMHOLM. He came from a distinguished Gartan family, and was a nephew of Colmcille. Both he and his brother Cabhchas were professed monks under Colmcille. He was later appointed Abbot of DRUMHOLM where he spent his remaining life. During his abbotship, the Ard-Ri Domnall Mac Aodh bestowed rich estates on the monastery of DRUMHOLM. The original monastery established by Colmcille in 560, was built of timber and survived about 100 years. It was replaced by a stone building, which in the Plantation was taken over as a Protestant Church. All that remains today is an ivy-clad ruined gable of the old monastic chapel. The eastern part of the graveyard was used by the Catholic community for some time after but has not been used now for many years. Here lie the remains of Ernan who died in 640. His feastday is celebrated on 1st January.
ST EUNAN - DRUMHOLM - Eunan O'Tinne was born twenty-seven years after the death of Colmcille, in 624, at Rushbrooke near Bridgetown in the parish of DRUMHOLM. He was descended from Sedna, an uncle of Colmcille. His early education was received at the monastery of DRUMHOLM. In 650 he became a novice at Iona. In 679 he in turn became Abbot of Iona, tenth successor to Colmcille. In 698, he established the See of Raphoe. He was consecrated its Bishop, a position he held until his death in 704. It was while on a visit to Iona that he died at the age of eighty. He is remembered in Raphoe as patron saint of the diocese, and with Ernan, is also patron saint of the parish of DRUMHOLM. His feastday is celebrated on 23rd September.