Northern Ireland news

1,500th anniversary of Saint Colmcille's birth to be commemorated

St Columba's links with Derry were celebrated during the city's Culture Year in 2013 with the Return of Colmcille Festival. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

PLANS are being put in place to mark the 1,500th anniversary of the birth of St Colmcille, the patron saint of Derry.

Meetings will be held in Derry and Donegal next week to discuss ways of commemorating the saint and to review a recently completed "Columban Heritage Audit", a catalogue of mapped heritage sites, objects and archives associated with the saint.

Born into a ruling family near Gartan in Co Donegal around 520/21, Colmcille - also known as St Columba - is credited with founding the settlement of Derry although the area had been a centre of population before that.

The saint’s connection with Derry and Donegal is evident from the many landmarks, churches and schools which have adopted his name. As well as founding a monastery in Derry - possibly close to the present-day St Columba's church, Long Tower - the saint is credited with many miracles and other feats.

Following a quarrel with another holy man, St Finnian - as a result of which many people died - Colmcille was banished from Ireland. He eventually settled in Iona off the west coast of Scotland where he established a monastery which exists to the present day.

There are also many stories of his miracles in Scotland, including a claim that he banished a horrible but unidentified creature to the depths of the River Ness after it killed a man, giving rise to the legend of the Loch Ness Monster.

Derry City and Strabane District Council's heritage officer, Margaret Edwards said this week's meetings would give the public a chance to highlight existing and proposed initiatives designed to promote the Columban heritage.

"The meetings will also provide an opportunity for members of the public to contribute their ideas and suggestions and to meet other groups and individuals interested in commemorating St Colmcille in 2020/21 and the material heritage associated with him," Ms Edwards said.

Head of culture at the council, Aeidin McCarter said the council hoped to celebrate the saint and the culture he inspired.

"I'd therefore encourage as many people as possible to come along to the sessions and would welcome any ideas for creating a series of memorable events in 2020/21 that both celebrates and promotes our rich Columban heritage," Ms McCarter said.

The meetings will take place at the Colm Cille Heritage Centre in Gartan (7pm), Co Donegal on February 26 and at Derry's Guildhall (7pm) the following evening.

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