People around the world asked to light a candle for Derry’s St Coumba

Today (Tuesday) marks Colmcille 1500, a commemoration of 1.500 years since the birth of the patron saint of Derry St Columba.
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People are asked to light a candle at 5:21pm in honour of the saint, who was born in the year 521. A series of illumination projects were planned at significant landmarks across Ireland and Scotland that Columba is said to have a connection to in a project called Coinneal Cholm Cille (Columba’s Candle) but some of these events have been cancelled because of the adverse weather conditions.

Derry City and Strabane District Council and Donegal County Council came together to commemorate the saint in his birthplace of Gartan, Donegal.

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Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Cllr Jack Murray said it was ‘very special’ to commemorate Colmcille’s 1500th birthday at the Colmcille Heritage Centre in Gartan.

“Our two councils have come together with local church leaders to commemorate this 1500th anniversary with other local, regional and national partners. This birthday celebration today marks the culmination of a series of 120 events and activities over the past year, which commemorated Colmcille’s remarkable life and legacy. These included concerts, exhibitions, films, plays, conferences, conservation works to Columban heritage sites, audio guides, publications, lectures and other performances. We are delighted that despite COVID, we managed to use online and virtual events to bring Colmcille to not just local and regional but to national and international audiences too.”

The Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Alderman Graham Warke, said, “The ‘Light of the Dove’ events that were cancelled due to the weather warning will be re-scheduled when feasible. The event will see the grounds of the Long Tower Church come to life with a stunning light installation, accompanied by dance, poetry and performances by local musicians to create a walk-through experience themed around hope and looking to the future.”

Traditional Irish singer and songwriter Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin was one of many artists who were commissioned by Foras na Gaeilge and Bòrd na Gàidhlig to commemorate the saint.

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She composed a song called Colm Bán na Síochána, which is based on Columba’s journey to Scotland. The song features Fin Moore on Scottish Small Pipes, Dónal O’Connor on fiddle and Macdara Ó Graham.

Colmcille Heritage Centre, Gartan, Co. DonegalColmcille Heritage Centre, Gartan, Co. Donegal
Colmcille Heritage Centre, Gartan, Co. Donegal

Pádraigín explains, “What most inspired me about the story of Colmcille, were the themes of connection, exile and rectitude. All this is touched on in the song: the connection between Ireland and Scotland, work and art, between right and unethical ways. There is also the theme of peace and exile, and the stance he took in support of the artists of his time, including poets and illustrators. I recognise in him a humane, courageous, artistic, humble man with a deep love for Ireland and Scotland - a peacemaker who made mistakes, acknowledged his weaknesses and took responsibility for his actions. Indeed, an exemplar for our own times.”