Ernan, name of four Irish saints. O’Hanlon enumerates twenty-five saints bearing the name Ernan, Ernain, or Ernin; it is, therefore, not surprising that their Acts have become confused.
(I) ST. ERNAN, SON OF EOGAN, d. about 640. He is mentioned in the Martyrology of Tallagh on January 1. He was a nephew of St. Columba, Feilim or Feidhlimidh (St. Columba’s father) being his paternal grandfather. Owing to this relationship, some writers have mistaken our saint for Ernan of Hinba, an uncle of St. Columba. His monastery in Ireland was at Druim-Tomma in the district of Drumhome, County Donegal. Adamnan relates the wonderful vision he had on the night St. Columba died (Vit. S. Col., III, 23). Ernan, with some companions, was fishing in the River Finn, in Donegal. Suddenly at midnight he beheld the whole sky brightly illuminated. Looking towards the east he perceived an immense pillar of fire shining as the sun at noonday. This marvellous light then passed into the heavens, and a great darkness followed, as after the setting of the sun. This wonderful occurrence was related to Adamnan by Ernan himself, who at the time is described as “a very old man, a servant of Christ, whose name may be rendered Ferreolus, but in Irish Ernene (of the clan Mocufirroide), who, himself also a holy monk, is buried in the Ridge of Tomma (Drumhome) among the remains of other monks of St. Columba, awaiting the resurrection of the saints”. Some writers style this St. Ernan, Abbot of Druim Tomma. It is uncertain whether he visited Scotland, nevertheless he is regarded as patron saint of Killernan, in Rossshire; and it may be that the dedications of Kilviceuen (church of the son of Eogan) in Mull, and of Kilearnadale in Jura, Argyleshire, are in his honor. In the “Scottish Kalendars”, collected by Bishop Forbes, his name appears as Ethernanus, and his commemoration is assigned to 21 and December 22 (pp. 170, 222, 243).
(2) ST. ERNAN, ABBOT OF HINBA, lived in the sixth century. He was uncle of St. Columba, and one of the twelve who accompanied him from Ireland to Iona. He was brother of Ethnea, St. Columba’s mother, and son of Dima, the son of Noe of the race of Cathaeir Ivor (Reeves, notes, p. 263). St. Columba appointed him superior of the community which he himself had established on the island of Hinba. The identity of Hinba has not been established with certainty. It may be Canna, about four miles N. W. of Rum (ibid., p. 264); but more likely it is Eilean-na-Naoimh, one of the Gaveloch Isles, between Scarba and Mull (Fowler’s Adamnan, p. 87). Hinba was a favorite place of resort for St. Columba. There he was visited by St. Comgall, St. Cannich, St. Brendan, and St. Cormac. At the request of these holy men, St. Columba celebrated Mass, during which St. Brendan beheld a luminous globe of fire above St. Columba’s head. It continued burning and rising up like a column of flame, till the Holy Mysteries had been completed (Adamnan, III, xvii). On another occasion, while visiting St. Ernan’s monastery in Hinba, St. Columba was favored with heavenly visions and revelations which lasted three days and nights (Adamnan, III, xviii). The death of St. Ernan was tragic. Being seized with an illness, he desired to be carried to Iona. St. Columba, greatly rejoiced at his coming, started to meet him. Ernan likewise hastened, but when he was twenty-four paces from his nephew he fell to the earth and died. Thus was the prophecy of St. Columba fulfilled, that he would never again see Ernan alive (Adamnan, I, xlv).
(3) ST. ERNAN OF CLUVAIN-DEOGHRA in Meath (or in County Longford), sixth or seventh century. He is commemorated on January 11 in the Martyrology of Tallagh. When St. Fechin visited St. Ernan at Cluvain-Deoghra the grinding noise of the mill outside the guest-house gave him much annoyance. St. Fechin blessed the mill, and it is said that in consequence thereof the noise ceased to be heard in the guest-house for the future.
(4) ST. ERNAN OF TORACH, d. August 17, about 650. He was son of Colman of the race of Eogan, son of Niall, and is numbered by some among the disciples of St. Columba. The latter saint founded a church and monastery on the island of Torach or Tory, off the N. W. coast of Donegal. It is uncertain whether St. Ernan actually accompanied St. Columba thither (the chronology would seem to preclude it), but he was chosen to be its abbot, and in after years was regarded as the local patron. Colgan has erroneously identified him with Ernan of Cluvain-Deoghra. It has been conjectured that this Ernan is identical with the Ernan whose name appears in the epistle of John, the pope-elect, to the prelates of North Ireland in 640. If this be so, he must have been a person of some importance. The whole question of the separate identity of the last three Ernans, as discussed by Colgan, Lanigan, and O’Hanlon, is exceedingly complex and obscure.