Donnan, Saint.—There were apparently three or four saints of this name who flourished about the seventh century.
(1) ST. DONNAN, ABBOT OF EIGG, and ST. DONNAN OF AUCHTERLESS are regarded by both the Bollandists and Dempster as different personages, but there is so much confusion in their chronology and repetition in what is known of them, that it seems more probable that they were identical. Reeves (Adamnan’s Life of St. Columba), moreover, accepts them as the same without discussion. According to Irish annals St. Donnan was a friend and disciple of St. Columba, who followed him from Ireland to Scotland towards the end of the sixth century. Seeking a solitary retreat, he and his companions settled on the island of Eigg, off the west coast of Scotland, then used only to pasture sheep belonging to the queen of the country. Informed of this invasion, the queen ordered that all should forthwith be slain. Her agents, probably a marauding band of Picts, or pirates according to one account, arrived during the celebration of Mass on Easter eve. Being requested to wait until the Sacrifice was concluded, they did so, and then St. Donnan and his fifty-one companions gave themselves up to the sword. This was in 617. Reeves mentions eleven churches dedicated to St. Donnan; in that at Auchterless his pastoral staff was preserved up to the Reformation and is said to have worked miracles. The island of Eigg was still Catholic in 1703 and St. Donnan’s memory venerated there (Martin, Journey to the Western Islands, London, 1716).
(2) SON OF LIATH, and nephew and disciple of St. Senan, in whose life it is related that by his uncle’s direction he restored to life two boys who had been drowned. This St. Donnan succeeded St. Ciaran of Clonmacnoise as Abbot of Aingin, an island in Lough Ree, on the Shannon (now Hare Island). He flourished about the middle of the sixth century.
(3) ST. DONNAN THE DEACON, son of Beoadh and brother of St. Ciaran. He was a monk in his brother’s monastery at Cluain, or Clonmacnoise, in Ireland, in the sixth century.
G. CYPRIAN ALSTON