St Darerca is patroness of Valentia Island, the westernmost point of Co Kerry.
Much obscurity is attached to her history, and it is not easy to disentangle the facts of her history from the network of legend which medieval writers interwove with her acts. Her fame, apart from her relationship to Ireland’s national apostle, stands secure as not only a great saint but as the mother of many saints.
When St Patrick visited Bredach, as is found in the ‘Tripartite Life of St Patrick’, he ordained Aengus mac Ailill, the local chieftain of Moville, now a seaside resort for the citizens of Derry. While there he found ‘the three deacons’, his sister’s sons, namely, Saint Reat, Saint Nenn, and Saint Aedh, who are commemorated respectively on 3 March, 25 April, and 31 August.
Darerca was at least twice married. Among her husbands, according to histories in Brittany, she was the second wife of Conan Meriadoc and the mother of his eldest son, Gradlon Mawr who became Gradlon the Great, King of Brittany.
Darerca’s second husband, Chonas the Briton, founded the church of Bothchonais, now Binnion, Parish of Clonmany, in the barony of Inishowen, Co Donegal. She had children by both husbands, some say seventeen sons, all of whom, according to Colgan, became bishops. (According to Breton history at least one became King of Brittany, rather than serve the church as a Bishop). From the ‘Tripartite Life of St Patrick’ it is evident that there were four sons of Darerca by Chonas, namely four bishops, St Mel of Ardagh, St Rioc of Inisboffin, St Muinis of Forgney, Co Longford, and St Maelchu. It is well to note that another St Muinis, son of Gollit, is described as of Tedel in Ara-cliath.
Darerca had two daughters, St Eiche of Kilglass and St Lalloc of Senlis. Her first husband was Restitutus the Lombard, after whose death she married Chonas the Briton. By Restitutus she was mother of St Sechnall of Dunshaughlin; St Nectan of Killunche, and of Fennor (near Slane); of St Auxilius of Killossey (near Naas, Co Kildare); of St Diarmaid of Druimcorcortri (near Navan); of Dabonna, Mogornon, Drioc, Luguat, and Coemed Maccu Baird (the Lombard) of Cloonshaneville, near Frenchpark, Co Roscommon.
Four other sons are assigned her by old Irish writers, namely St Crummin of Lecua, St Miduu, St Carantoc, and St Maceaith. The latter is identical with Liamania, according to Colgan, but must not be confounded with St Monennia, or Darerca, whose feast is on 6 July.
Photo: Valentia Island, Co Kerry