the 365 islands on Lough Corrib Inchagoill is the most famous
and most visited. The name Inchagoill comes from 3 Irish words
"Inis An Ghaill" meaning the Island of the stranger.
Situated approximately half way between Cong Co. Mayo and
Oughterard Co. Galway (4.5 miles from each) this special island
is home to a number of ancient monastic ruins, some dating
back to the 5th Century. In order of size Inchagoill measuring
104 acres is the forth largest island in size. To-day Inchagoill
is owned by the state and its national monuments are protected
by "Duchas" in the Department of the Environment.
Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness purchased this Island as part of
the Ashford Castle estate in 1852. At that time there were
four families living on the Island and these families were
tenants on this estate. Some family names included O' Sullivan's
Kineavy's and Conway's. In older times there were as many
as six families living on the Island with other names including
Murphy's, Lydons, and Butlers. These families farmed 80 acres
of land in the centre of the Island with 50 acres of high
trees as shelter all around. By about 1935 there was only
one inhabitant on the Island, a man called Thomas Nevin.
Nevin was employed by the Guinness family as a caretaker on
the Island about 1931. In his early years Tommie fought in
World War 1 in Guillipi and contracted malaria during his
time there. About every 2 weeks Tommie would row a small fishing
boat to Cong or Oughterard and sometimes return to the Island
in the dark using the lights of Ashford Castle as his compass.
Apart from meeting visiting fishermen who used lunch on the
Island, Tommie led quiet a lonesome life with only his dog
as company. The Guinness family furnished Tommie with a dry
battery radio, a very rare commodity at the time which gave
Tommie great company during his years on the Island. In 1938
County Galway and County Kerry were to play in the All Ireland
football final, and as this was only one of the few radios
in the area, at least 100 people gathered in his house on
the Island to listen to this National Event. Tommie Nevin
was to live on the Island alone up until 1948 in which year
he moved in to live in the village of Cong where he died in
THE CHURCH OF THE SAINTS (TEAMPALL NA NAOIMH)
walks up the little pathway from the Pier on the Island the
first building that comes into view is "Teampall Na Naoimh"
translated as the "Church of the Saints". It is
believed that this church was built by the Agustian Monks
of Cong circa 1180 A.D. At that time between monks and lay
scholars there were about 3,000 people in the monestary of
Cong. For this reason the monks needed a place of peace and
quiet to pray and meditate and so the Church of the Saints
The Church is built of sandstone and their decorative doorways
reflect at least 3 different European cultures. The archway
of the doorway is Romanesque in style and it depects the 10
heads of the ten saints of Lough Corrib. On the outer and
inner tiers of the doorway, at shoulder height are heads with
platted beards, believed to be of Greek influence while the
centre tiers display carving of French design. Just inside
the doorway on the right hand side one sees a Byzantane cross
carved out on the wall. This cross was to be the inspiration
for the Celtic cross that we know so well to-day. This proves
to us that many monks and scholars came from abroad to study
in our monasteries here. The alter of the Church is situated
at the Eastern End of the building and there is an interesting
reason for this. Many centuries before in the 5th Century,
Ireland was a pagan country. The early Christians that were
trying to convert these pagans found that they worshiped the
By placing their alters to the East the pagans who were still
facing the rising sun became easier to convert to Christianity.
From time to time baptisms are carried out in this Church
to-day. In 1862 the doorway of this Church was in very bad
condition and Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness commissioned its repair.
O' Nioc was an archbishop of Tuam in the 12th Century. There
is no information available connecting this man to Inchagoill
Island except that he was buried here in 1128. A big square
stone structure to the North of Teampall Na Naoimh
Markes his burial place to-day.
PATRICKS CHURCH AND THE STONE OF LUGNAD.
of Lugnad and St.Patrick's church are situated quiet close
to each other, about 100 meters west of Teampall Na Naoimh.
More that any other monument on the Island the stone of Lugnad
has captured the attention of the most renowned archaeologists.
The 5th century inscription on the stone which is still legible
to-day reads "Lia Lugnaedon Macc Lmenueh".
This is written in old Gaelic and translates as follows -
"The standing stone of Lugnad Son of Limanin"
It is believed that St Patrick and his nephew (who was also
his navigator) came to Cong in the middle of the 5th Century
to spread the Christian faith. The Pagan druids who were very
powerful people at the time had St. Patrick and his nephew
banished to Inchagoill Island. This is how the Island got
its name - Inis an Ghaill (the Island of the Stranger)
While building their church Lugnad died and was buried on
the Island. It is interesting to note that the stone has the
shape of a boats rudder tying in with the theory that Lugnad
was St. Patrick's navigator. We believe that Limanin was St.
Many archologists claim that this inscription is the oldest
Christian inscription in Europe apart from one found in the
Catacombs of Rome.