I am writing this on St. Patrick’s Day, our national saint’s day. Historians tell us there is not much we actually know about Patrick, except that he enjoyed the Guinness and a bit of craic. There is even speculation that he wasn’t Irish at all, but an American tourist from Cincinnati. And yet, on March 17th each year the whole country comes to a standstill as we celebrate the life of this remarkable man by downing copious amounts of alcohol in his honour.
Compared to St. Patrick, history has treated poor St. Mochta quite unfavourably. True, he was designated Patron Saint of Telephone Masts by Pope Pius VIth, which raised his profile slightly, but this Dublin 15 saint has largely been ignored by the population as a whole, and this part of the city in particular.
In order to rectify this, I have thrown together a brief biography of our local, almost-forgotten hero. Unfortunately, the Library is closed today, so I am unable to verify all the facts, but I am confident that the accuracy of my research is practically faultless.
Mochta was born in either 444 or 454AD – whichever came first – the son of his father and mother. Legend has it that when the child was born, a raven swooped down from a nearby laurel bush and tried to peck off the boy’s nose, but was beaten off by the boy’s father and his mates. Seeing this as a sign from heaven, they named him Mochta - which means “the boy who nearly had his nose pecked off by a raven swooping down from a nearby laurel bush.”
Mochta grew up on the family farmstead in what is now Castleknock, but was then several miles from Castleknock. He could “run like a bantam cock, and fight like the very wind itself,” according to one contemporary source, yet he spent most of his time tending the worms in the fields around his home.
One day, the youth was on the trail of some worm rustlers in Luttrellstown, when the Lord appeared to him in the form of a holly bush.
“Turn around, young Mochta,” said the holly bush. “From now on, thou shalt be a minder of men not worms.”
When Mochtas got home, he related what had happened to his parents, who smelt his breath suspiciously. His father though accepted his story and tearfully packed the lad’s bags and escorted him off the property, even though Mochta hadn’t mentioned anything about leaving home.
At that time, Blanchardstown ended at the Garda Station, and Corduff was still only a gleam in the property developer’s eye, so young Mochta gloomily set off along the rough hewn track in the direction of the distant village of Cluain Saileach – literally “the group of houses just up from the Clonsilla Inn with the very dodgy railway bridge.” However, before he reached his destination, he came upon a spot so tranquil and devout, that he decided to build a church and a three-bed semi in thanks to the Lord. Today, the Clonsilla Road still retains this peacefulness and restfulness, and is famous countrywide for being an oasis of calm in a maelstrom of traffic gridlock.
Here Mochta spent his time tending the sick and bringing spiritual enlightenment to the poor, although the place was practically uninhabited, which meant he was hardly burdened down by his ministry. Mostly he lay back on his bed in silent contemplation, or “sleep” as others called it.
One day, Mochta was sitting on the lych-gate cutting his toenails, when Diarmuid O’Diarmuid, High King of Ireland, came limping by. Mochta had seen him on the news, but pretended he hadn’t.
“Hail, oh stranger, who I know not from Adam, your Highness,” exclaimed Mochta. “Can I help you in any way?”
The King explained that his horse had bolted, and he had walked many miles, and his shoes were wearing thin. Mochta invited him in to the church and brought him a bowl of broth, and then presented him with a pair of knee length boots made of finest hamster hide.
“These truly are magnificent,” said Diarmuid, trying them on. “What do you call them?”
“I suppose,” said Mochta, cracking one of the first jokes in Irish recorded history, “you could call them High King Boots.”
Diarmuid was so pleased with the joke that he made Mochta a saint on the spot, and promised that he would force the whole country to convert to Christianity, “when I get around to it.” St. Columbanus was rather miffed when he heard of Mochta’s instant canonisation – he himself had spent seven years in Maynooth studying to be a saint, and had indeed been forced to re-sit his finals exams when caught with a bible in his cassock – and started a rumour amongst his friends that Mochta was not a real saint at all because he “hadn’t performed any miracles.”
When Mochta heard this, he strode up to Tyrrelstown and gazing down across the valley, he banged his crosier on the ground three times. At the time, Ireland was overrun by penguins, which enjoyed the temperate climate and the relatively low cost of living. Successive governments had tried to cull them, bribe them and generally dissuade them but they kept on arriving in ever increasing numbers. What the powers-to-be failed to understand was the only things that penguins fear is someone banging a crosier on the ground. Thus when Mochta made his famous Tyrrelstown Commandment, every penguin in the land rushed headlong over the Cliffs of Moher and didn’t stop swimming until they reached Antarctica. Which is why today there are no penguins in Ireland.
Even Columbanus was impressed by this miracle, and offered to share a chocolate bar with the new Saint. Thereafter the two became great friends, although Mochta kept confusing him with St. Columba, who, admittedly, was the spitting image of Columbanus, except for the leather jacket and dreadlocks.
Mochta continued his ministry on the Clonsilla Road, founding a football club there, which still bears his name. Apart from this, though, very little exists to remind us of the life and works of this great man, this saintly giant of Dublin 15. Recent excavations at the rear of No. 32 St. Mochtas Meadows – when creating a rather charming rose bed - unearthed several artefacts which are believed to date back to Mochtas’ time. These include several milk bottle tops, half a breezeblock, assorted scraps of polystyrene and a ton and a half of builder’s rubble. These are currently on exhibition at the National Museum at Collins Barracks.
Legend has it that Mochta met his end on the 19th August 534AD, hurrying to catch a train at the railway station in Clonsilla, when a druid on a horse knocked him down on the bridge. His last words, according to reliable witnesses were, “For God’s sake, let them build a passenger bridge across this canal before somebody else is killed.” Thirteen hundred years on his words, like the man himself, have been largely ignored.