Events across Derry, Donegal and Iona to mark 1,500th anniversary of St Columba

Organisations across the North West are gearing up for events that will mark the 1500th anniversary of Colmcille’s birth next Tuesday, December 7.

Friday, 3rd December 2021, 11:45 am

Donegal County Council and Derry City & Strabane District Council, are co-ordinating a full line-up for ‘Colmcille 1500,’ to celebrate the anniversary of one of Ireland’s three patron saints.

Deirdre Harte, Colmcille 1500 Project Manager with Donegal County Council, said they were “excited to deliver such a wide range of events”.

Celebrations for St. Columba, patron saint of the city of Derry, begin on December 6, with ‘Colmcille 1500: A Journey Through Ireland & Scotland’ online, marking Colmcille life’s journey from his homeland in Gartan, Co. Donegal to Derry and onwards to Scotland. The event will be a mixture of pre-recorded videos from each area as well as live panel discussions broadcast from the Great Hall at Magee.

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The St Columba statue at St Columb's Park in Derry.

On the saint’s birthday on Tuesday December 7, there will be a cross-border event in Gartan with the Cathaoirleach of Donegal Council, the Mayor of Derry and Strabane Council, and church leaders in attendance. The celebration will include the premiere of animations created through the Schools Digital Folklore Project. This Donegal Library Service project has been delivered in partnership with schools and libraries in Donegal, Derry, Meath, and Sligo. The children’s animations are also being developed into a beautifully illustrated comic, and a Colmcille colouring book will also be launched at the event.

December 7 will also see the unveiling of a new Colmcille sculpture near Kilmacrennan in Donegal as part of the N56 Coolboy to Kilmacrennan Road Scheme. The sculpture is by artist Niall Bruton who also created the iconic sculpture of Colmcille located in St Columb’s Park in Derry.

There will be a series of images projected onto important sites linked to Colmcille across Ireland and Scotland. The images will be seen in many locations from Colmcille’s birthplace in Gartan to his final resting place in Iona in Scotland. Locally people will be able to see them in Guildhall Square in Derry as well as at the Colmcille Heritage Centre and Colmcille’s Abbey in Gartan. As part of ‘Coinneal Cholmcille’ (Columba’s Candle) – people are invited to light a candle at 5.21pm to reflect the year of his birth in 521. The projections will also be switched on at 5.21pm and will be in place until 9p.m.

Also on December 7, a drama documentary, ‘Colmcille the Bold Saint/ Colmcille An Naomh Dána’, will be broadcast on BBC Alba and TG4 at 8.30p.m.

The ColmCille Heritage Centre in Gartan, County Donegal.

Other cultural events will also take place further into the week. For example, on Thursday December 9, there will be an evening of music, film and song exploring Colmcille’s influence on the North West by the Atlantic Orchestra Project at the Colmcille Heritage Centre in Gartan. Friday December 10 will see a book launch and cultural night in Loch Altan Gortahork, Co. Donegal.

Throughout the week, you can also see the exhibition ‘Colmcille – Man & Myths’ at Donegal County Museum and see the permanent light installation at St Augustine’s Church Old Graveyard in Derry.

Throughout December 7, there will also be various church services held to honour the saint. Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown will celebrate Mass in St Columba’s Church Long Tower at 10.00am. Mass will be broadcast on RTÉ News Now at 10:30 a.m. from St Colmcille’s Chapel, Glendowan in Gartan, and there will also be mass held at 7 p.m. at St Columba’s Church Massmount, Fanad, Donegal, that includes an unveiling of a new statue of St. Colmcille. At 7.30pm, there will be a special service of Choral Evensong in St Eunan’s Cathedral, with the primate, the Most Reverend John McDowell, Archbishop of Armagh, and music by the Choir of St Columb’s Cathedral, Derry.

In addition, there will also be Colmcille related events happening throughout the day on Tory Island in Donegal. These include a history and folklore tour with Antóin Ó Míonáin, a talk on Colmcille with Dr. Brian Lacey and exhibition of an art piece in honour of the saint by Sarah Lewtas.