Gobna(i)t , saint, although best known for her connection with the church of Ballyvourney (Bairnech/ Búirnech), west Co. Cork, was patron of many other churches. These included Kilgobnet (Cill Ghobnait/ Ghobnatan) in the parishes of Clondrohid, Kilshannig, and Magourney in Co. Cork, Knockane in Co. Kerry, and Kilgobnet in Co. Waterford. Churches were also named after her in Dún Chaoin, Co. Kerry, and Inis Oírr of the Aran Islands, Co. Galway. There is no recorded detail concerning her parentage or means of dating her life. Her legend, which survived only in oral tradition, traces her origins to Inis Oírr, whence she journeyed, via several of the churches named after her, to Ballyvourney, there to find the nine white deer foretold for the site of her future church. Here, over centuries, the custodians of her cult and airchinnigh (lay-abbots) of her church were Muintir Iarlaithe (O'Herlihys). They were also keepers of her image, one of the few surviving medieval statues in wood, which is thought to have miraculous powers and is still kept locally. Gobnait's church lay on the boundary between the territories of Uí Echach Muman and the descendants of Conaire known as Múscraige Mitíne, to whom she was also attached.
The saint's name derives from gob(ba), a hypocoristic or pet form based on gabha/gobha (smith), with feminine suffix -nat/-nad. A number of saints’ names, including Gobbán (qv) and Mogobbóc, reflect the same hypocorism, as does the name of the legendary craftsman, the Gobán Saor. In a non-hypocoristic form, the name was borne by Goibniu, smith of the Tuatha Dé Danann, an Irish version of the Celtic smith-god known in Wales as Govannon. That Gobnait herself was originally a patron of iron-workers is indicated not only by the implications of her name. Excavation at her church in Ballyvourney yielded considerable evidence of iron-working on the site. Moreover, her feast-day of 11/12 February places her in contiguity to St Brigit (qv), whose pagan precursor, also named Brigit, acted as patron of iron-working. Gobnait remains the subject of a vigorous local cult, with rounds being done at her church in Ballyvourney on almost every Sunday of the year, but especially at Whit. The saint is credited with having kept bees, and this motif figures prominently in the modern statue at Ballyvourney by the noted sculptor Seamus Murphy (qv).