St Columba’s pageant for Derry

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Imagine a twenty foot Loch Ness Monster busily snaking its way down Shipquay Street.

That’s exactly what’s set to happen when the Columban Community in Derry put on the first ever pageant to celebrate St Columba’s Day on June 9 this year.

And local people can audition for the starring roles which include the Patron Saint himself and his mother Eithne.

The plan is to have a day of fun for all members of the community on (Thursday) June 9.

Organisers say that Columba is a Saint which everyone in the community can claim and are asking as many people as possible to come along and watch on the day or get involved.

Events will begin with a fun parade at the Diamond when the Loch Ness Monster which will be controlled by several actors inside will make its way down to Guildhall Square.

In the meantime St Columba and his followers will make their way across Waterloo Place where a battle scene will take place with the monster marking the repentance and conversion of the great Saint.

While the exact design of the monster is being kept under wraps it will have smoke, flashing eyes and sound effects.

The symbolism of the monster is that it is seen as something which preys on the poor and defenceless however in the power and wisdom of Christ is overcome.

The people on board to make the pageant a reality are Father Neal Carlin, Joe Carlin and Marguerite Hamilton of the Columban Community, Mary Murphy and Pauline Ross and Brother Joe Connolly as artistic director.

“We’d love to see this become an annual tradition,” said Father Carlin.

“Perhaps people will take an hour off their work to come and see it all on June 9.

“We’ve started this year to celebrate 30 years of the Columban Community.

“Since we began in 1981 we funded the Columban House in Derry, St Anthony’s Retreat centre, Whiteoaks and the Iosas Celtic Peace Garden. Most recently we opened the YARD (Young Adults Reality Dreams) here in Queen Street.”

Marguerite Hamilton said that with the 30th anniversary of the community they wanted to celebrate “all that God has done”.

“As Columba is the patron of the Bards it was obvious that we would want to celebrate our patron in music, song and drama,” she said.

The group say they are glad to be bringing the pageant to Derry - now the City of Culture.

Visuals expert Brother Joe Connolly has already begun work on the designs for the pageant which include the monster costume.

And Mary Murphy, director and Pauline Ross are hoping to hold auditions for the starring roles in the near future.

“It will be a huge spectacle,” said Mary Murphy, a former English teacher from Thornhill College.

“We will have blue to represent the water and the waves, and more colour for the big confrontation between Columba and the monster in Guildhall Square.

“The monster will also represent old evil and paganism and will have relevance in the world today.”

Father Carlin says that while the stories that will be told during the pageant are all true, they will be done with some “poetic licence.”

The story of the pageant will take place in four acts.

The first day act contains the story of Columba’s confrontation with the Loch Ness Monster, the second is the Dream of Eithne, Columba’s mother prior to his birth while the third act is a mood of joy and thanksgiving.

Auditions are set to start soon for the top roles which include St Columba and his mother Eithne.