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Maelrubha, Saint

Abbot and martyr, founder of Abercrossan, b. 642; d. April 21, 722

Maelrubha (MA-RUI, MOLROY, ERREW, SUMMARRUFF, also SAGART-RUADH), Saint, abbot and martyr, founder of Abercrossan, b. 642; d. April 21, 722. He was descended from Niall, King of Ireland, on the side of his father, Elganach. His mother, Subtan, was a niece of St. Comgall the Great, of Bangor. St. Maelrubha was born in the County of Derry and was educated at Bangor. When he was in his thirtieth year he sailed from Ireland for Scotland, with a following of monks. For two years he traveled about, chiefly in Argyll, and founded about half-a-dozen churches, then settled at Abercrossan (Applecross), in the west of Ross. Here he built his chief church and monastery in the midst of the Pictish folk, and thence he set out on missionary journeys, westward to the islands of Skye and Lewis, eastward to Forres and Keith, and northward to Loch Shinn, Durness, and Farr. It was on this last journey that he was martyred by Danish Vikings, probably at Teampull, about nine miles up Strath-Naver from Farr, where he had built a cell.

He was buried close to the River Naver, not far from his cell, and his grave is still marked by “a rough cross-marked stone”. The tradition, in the “Aberdeen Breviary”, that he was killed at Urquhart and buried at Abercrossan is probably a mistake arising from a confusion of Gaelic place-names. This error had been copied by several later hagiologists, as has also the same writers’ confusion of St. Maelrubha with St. Rufus of Capua. Maelrubha was, after St. Columba, perhaps the most popular saint of the northwest of Scotland. At least twenty-one churches are dedicated to him and Dean Reeves enumerates about forty forms of his name. His death occurred on April 21, and his feast has always been kept in Ireland on this day; but in Scotland (probably owing to the confusion with St. Rufus) it was kept on August 27. On July 5, 1898, Pope Leo XIII restored his feast for the Church in Scotland to be kept on August 27.


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