St. Columba's Day: Colmcille in his own words - ‘This is why I love Derry...for its host of white angels from one end to the other’

To mark the feast of St. Columba here’s a selection of verses that were attributed to the saint and others associated with the famous patron of Derry

By Kevin Mullan
Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 3:58 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 4:02 pm
One of the stain glass windows in St Columbas Church, Long Tower, depicting Saint Columba, the patron saint of Derry.  DER2320GS - 002
One of the stain glass windows in St Columbas Church, Long Tower, depicting Saint Columba, the patron saint of Derry. DER2320GS - 002

St. Colmcille

This is why I love Derry:

For its level fields, for its brightness,

For the hosts of its white angels,

From one end to the other.

There is not a leaf on the ground,

In Derry lovely and faultless,

A statue of St Columba at the Calvary scene outside St Columbas Church, Long Tower. DER2320GS - 003

That hath not two virgin angels,

Overthwart every leaf there.

They find no room on the land,

For the number of good gentle angels,

Niall Bruton's sculpture of Saint Columba was unveiled, in St Columba's Park in March 2013. DER2320GS - 012

Nine waves distant therefrom,

It is thus they reach out from Derry.


This is the Yew of the Saints

Saint Columbas Well is situated in the Bogside. DER2320GS - 007

Where they used to come with me together.

Ten hundred angels were there,

Above our heads, side close to side.

Dear to me is that yew tree;

Would that I were set in its place there!

On my left it was pleasant adornment

A sculpture of St Columba at the entrance to St Columbs College Derry, created by Alumni Maurice Harron. DER2320GS - 001

When I entered into the Black Church.


Since I have heard this lamenting

Why do I still live my life days?

The loud wail of the people of Derry,

It hath broken my heart in four fragments.

Derry of the Oaks, let us leave it

With gloom and with tears, heavy-hearted;

Anguish of heart to depart thence,

And to go away unto strangers.

Forest beloved,

Whence they have banished me guiltless!

On the women of Niall’s clan a blemish

And on each man of them, is my exile.

Great is the speed of my coracle,

And its stern turned upon Derry;

Woe to me that I must on the main,

On the path to beetling-browed Alba.

The seagulls of Loch Foyle,

They are before me and in my wake;

In my coracle with me they come not;

Alas it is sad our parting.

The parting of body from soul

Is the parting of me from my kinsfolk.


Though I am affrighted, truly,

By death and by Hell;

I am more affrighted, frankly,

By the sound of an ax in Derry in the West.

A selection of verses that tradition attributed to Colmcille taken from Manus O’Donnell’s ‘Betha Colaim Chille’, written in the sixteenth century.


St. Baithin mac Cuanach

The while he was in Carraic Eolairc,

Columbcille (without falsehood)

Used to catch fish without labour,

Repast for his guests from Loch Foyle.

God it was that so shaped it,

I tell thee with understanding.

There was put new milk

And the taste of wine on the water.’


St. Mura of Fahan

Columcille was his name from Heaven,

The son of Fedlimid, by angels,

Without error or falsehood, without twisting.

Crimthann his name in the world.

On a Thursday, the case was no falsehood,

He was with the angels of Heaven

When they cut from him ‘Crimthann’ away,

And Columbcille did they name him.


Saint Caillin of Fenagh

Holy Columbcille shall come after me;

He shall leave to you blessings and fortune.

He is the one man, the best one,

That shall be born yonder till Doomsday.


Saint Mochta of Louth

A man-child shall be born in the north

At the setting of ages;

A flame shall measure high Erin

And Alba for him.


Saint Patrick to Fergus Cennfada

A man child shall be born of his race

He shall be a sage, a prophet, a poet,

A loveable lamp, [pure], clear:

He shall utter no falsehood.

He shall be a sage; he shall be pious;

He shall be an abbot of the King of Graces.

He shall be lasting and shall be ever-good.

The Eternal Prophet shall console him.

ras Cholmcille wall mural under the flyover, at the Lecky Road. DER2320GS - 006
Saint Columbs Cathedral, beside Derry Walls, was erected by The Honourable The Irish Society. DER2320GS - 009
Niall Brutons sculpture of Saint Columba was unveiled, in St Columbs Park in March 2013. DER2320GS - 013
A mural on gable wall of Georges Bar Bishop Street depicts the settlement of Dore Colm Cille in 700AD. DER2320GS - 014