DERRY JOURNAL Editorial: Remembering Colmcille

Hats off to all of those involved in the Colmcille 1500 celebrations which will come to a close with a series of festivities on the Feast of St. Columba on Thursday.

By Kevin Mullan
Tuesday, 7th June 2022, 1:20 pm
Updated Tuesday, 7th June 2022, 1:23 pm

Derry City and Strabane District Council, Donegal County Council, community organisations, the local churches and education and arts organisations have all played a blinder over the past year in organising a rich and varied programme to mark the birth of the city and district’s patron saint on December 7, 521.

A highlight of the celebrations this week will be a special Colmcille pageant entitled, ‘An Turas-The Journey’.

The spectacle will take place after the annual Mass in the Long Tower and the traditional Feast Day Blessing at St. Columb’s Well at 8.30pm.

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Niall Bruton's sculpture of Saint Columba in St Columba's Park

Hundreds, if not thousands, of citizens, right across the north west, have enjoyed concerts, exhibitions, lectures and other events that have celebrated and raised awareness of the saint. ‘Slí Cholmcille’, a documentary that aired on BBC2 earlier this year, showcased Derry and Donegal’s heritage and landscape and brought the Columban story to life for a wider audience.

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Pageant planned to mark Feast of St. Colmcille/Columba as 1500th celebrations co...

Let’s hope the past year’s focus on a momentous anniversary provides a template for celebratons in future. Perhaps, this ‘festival city’ might consider programming an annual parade and festival on the first or second Saturday of June to celebrate a significant figure in the history of these islands.

Both sacred and profane, Colmcille, was an internationally renowned personality in his own time, a deeply political figure, who left a legacy in several countries.

The lore and literature concerning him is a rich seam to be mined by anyone seeking to develop a civic festival. Adomnán’s (7th century) ‘Life of Columba’ and Manus O’Donnell’s version from the 16th century are prime examples.

Lessons might be learned from fiestas and carnivals across Europe where the celebrations of local saints and heroes have become major drivers of tourism for their cities.