President, Bishops and Ambassadors set to mark St. Colmcille feast day across Derry and Donegal in 1500th anniversary year

Organisations across Derry and Donegal are gearing up for the Feast Day of St. Colmcille on June 9 – a date that is all the more special given this historic year is the 1500th anniversary of the Saint’s birth.

Tuesday, 1st June 2021, 12:09 pm
One of the stain glass windows in St Columbas Church, Long Tower, depicting Saint Columba, the patron saint of Derry.
One of the stain glass windows in St Columbas Church, Long Tower, depicting Saint Columba, the patron saint of Derry.

While the ongoing COVID restrictions may be limiting physical events that can take place, there is plenty happening online as well as church services and exhibitions open to the public.

Celebrations kick off with the 2021 American Conference for Irish Studies (ACIS) on 2-5 June 2021, broadcast live from Ulster University’s Magee campus, where academics and historians from across the globe will bring Colmcille’s rich academic legacy to life.

Some of the live streamed sessions will be available to the public at www.acis2021.com including a keynote address by Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland on Thursday, June 3 at 5pm as well as addresses by the Irish and UK ambassadors to the US on Saturday, June 5.

As part of the conference, a special programme ‘Slí Colmcille’ presented by Líonra Leitir Ceanainn in conjunction with Letterkenny Regional Cultural Centre will premiere live on Friday, June 4 at 8pm on www.facebook.com/LIONRALC with music and poetry, history and storytelling from a host of wonderful guests across Ireland and Scotland.

On Sunday, June 6, 2021, the Saint’s birth place in Gartan, Donegal will be celebrated in two special services. Mass will be broadcast live on RTÉ One at 11.00am to celebrate both Corpus Christi and the 1500th anniversary, with celebrant Fr. Michael McKeever joined by parishioners from St Colmcille’s Church, Glendowan.

A Church of Ireland Service of Holy Communion in St Columba's Church, Gartan in Church Hill at 12.30pm will celebrate the international heritage of Columba and can be viewed live at www.facebook.com/StColumbaGartan or later at www.youtube.com/channel/UCCunnIlJgF9K_Rcz0-Vm2-Q/

A statue of St Columba at the Calvary scene outside St Columbas Church, Long Tower.

Raphoe Diocese Colmcille 1500 will present ‘Colmcille: A Lasting Legacy’, a virtual series on the life and legacy of Colmcille/Columba, to be streamed in three parts via YouTube on 6, 7 and June 8, 2021 at 8pm.

The series will include contributions from Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ and Rev. David Houlton, Rector of Gartan as well as historians, academics and other Columban experts. Original poetry and music compositions will also feature as well as excerpts from the work of local schoolchildren and an extract from ‘The Enemy Within’ in Gaeilge.

Margaret McAteer’s new musical setting of ‘Alone with None but Thee’ will also premiere with Colmcille Gospel Choir and featuring guest singers such as Moya Brennan along with other choirs, performers and Glencolmcille Primary School. Further details can be found at: https://tockify.com/colmcille1500/detail/138/1622934000000.

On Wednesday, June 9, RTÉ News Channel will be live at 10.30am at St. Colmcille’s Church, Glendowan to mark the Feast Day. Many other Colmcille locations and places dedicated to the Saint will also mark the day.

Niall Bruton's sculpture of Saint Columba was unveiled, in St Columba's Park in March 2013.

For example, St Columba's Church of Ireland in Glencolmcille will be open to visitors throughout the day and in Fanad, mass will be streamed from St Colmcille's Well at 10am at www.facebook.com/stmarysfanavolty.

Whilst in Derry, the place of Colmcille’s first and most beloved monastery, Bishop Dónal McKeown will celebrate Mass in St Columba's Church Long Tower at 10.00am and will bless water from St. Columba's Well which will be available in the Church after the service.

You can watch the special mass at http://longtowerchurch.org/webcam. Aras Cholmcille - St. Columba Heritage Centre, next to Long Tower, will be re-opening in time for the Feast Day and you can visit from 11am to 3pm or online at www.stcolumbaheritage.com. Wooden sculptures will also be on display at the Well.

Saint Columba's Well is situated in the Bogside.

The Churches Trust will launch a short film online at 10am at www.youtube.com/channel/UCg6a7ovcN-RDhw-JPVZJ5Kg to showcase its Columba Schools Project and the completion of a story book by pupils in three primary schools - Fountain, Nazareth House and Longtower.

Whilst later at St. Augustine’s Church, a Columba Pageant entitled "Columba: a Triptych" will take place at 7.30pm. In three parts, it will tell the stories of his mother's dream, the battle his kinsmen began on his behalf and his eventual remorse. For further details and tickets email [email protected] or visit www.facebook.com/weechurch.

Two new Colmcille exhibitions will also be open on the Feast Day. ‘Colmcille - Man and Myths’ is at the Tower Museum until September before moving to Donegal County Museum.

This is a joint exhibition between the two Councils which will take people on journey of discovery around the world of Colmcille in Donegal and Derry. Whilst in Donegal Central Library in Letterkenny, a limited edition of the ‘Faksimile Verlag Luzern’ Book of Kells presented in an decorative case will be on display alongside a limited edition poem by Seamus Heaney ‘Colum Cille the Scrib’.

Deirdre Harte, Colmcille 1500 Project Manager with Donegal County Council, said: “We’re delighted with the number and range of events that are taking place around the Feast Day across the North West. Whilst physical events and access to exhibitions will be limited in numbers in line with current COVID restrictions there is plenty to view online. You can find further information on Colmcille 1500 on our website at www.colmcille1500.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Colmcille1500NW”.