Colm Cille:Derry's Saint
A Saint and a Scholar..
Colm Cille or Columba (521-597) was born in Garten, Co. Donegal to the aristocratic Ui Neill clan. As a young man he soon took an interest in the church, joined a monastery at Moville, and was ordained a deacon by St. Finnian. After studying with a bard called Gemman, Colm Cille was ordained a priest by Etchen, the bishop of Clonfad. He entered the monastery of Mobhi Clarainech, and when disease forced the disbanding of that monastery he is said to have went north and founded a monastery in Derry. In 563 Colm Cille left Ireland for Scotland after taking part in the Battle of Cuildreimhne. He founded his most famous monastery in Iona from where he and his followers are credited with the conversion of North Britain from paganism to Christianity.
Although never canonized Colm Cille has been adopted as Derry’s very own saint. Numerous poems have been attributed to the monk, including the one below. However, most are invariably more recent literary works, from as late as the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
Were all the tribute of Alba mine,/ From its centre to its border, /I would prefer the site of one house In the middle of fair Derry.
The reason I love Derry is, /For its quietness, for its purity, /And for its crowds of white angels /From the one end to the other.
The reason I love Derry is, /For its quietness, for its purity /Crowded full of heaven’s angels/ Is every leaf of the oaks of Derry.
My Derry, my little oak grove, /My dwelling and my little cell; /O eternal God, in heaven above/ Woe be to him who violates it.