The Curragh & St. Brendan page 2

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A Wee Introduction

The details of Brendan’s journey were written down several centuries later, in a work called “Brendan’s Voyage”. According to the text, Brendan met St. Patrick and Judas Iscariot in the Land of Promise. He also encountered sea monsters and talking birds. Most famously, he sailed on the back of a friendly whale, and the whale allowed him to conduct Easter mass on its back.

There is a risk, of course, that an account of an event, written several centuries after the event itself, may take a few liberties with the facts.

But we know as a fact that Brendan sailed from Ireland to North America and back again.

How do we know?

Brendan later became a saint, and we all know that all accounts of the life of a saint must be true.

The Norse sagas also suggest that Irish monks had been to Iceland long before the Vikings settled there.

There is also evidence that Viking knowledge of Irish voyages convinced them that there was land west of Ireland, and sparked the Vikings to sail to Iceland and North America.

You may wonder whether a curragh boat could even make such a journey. But in 1976, an explorer proved that it could. Tim Severin and four others crafted a curragh in the same way it would have been built in the 6th Century and sailed west from the Dingle Peninsula.

50 days later, they reached the shores of Newfoundland. It was not, by any means, an easy voyage but they did make the one-way trip.

I, for one, am convinced that St. Brendan sailed across the Atlantic in the 6th Century, and that he and his monks were the first Europeans to set foot in North America.

I am, though, a bit skeptical about the friendly whale.