Today marks the feast of Derry's other patron Saint Eugene
St. Columba (Colmcille) may be the more famous but Derry has a second patron, St. Eugene (Éogan) whose feast falls today, August 23.
Éogan was born in Leinster at an unknown date in the sixth century and is believed to have been a cousin of St. Kevin of Glendalough.
According to Rev. John Canon O'Hanlon's 'Lives of the Irish Saints', Eugene 'sprung from the race of Laeghaire Lorc, son of Ugaine Mór, from whom the Leinstermen are descended.'
"The festival of St. Éogan or Eugene dates from a very early period in the Irish Church, and it was held on this date. The learned hagiologist Colgan [John, the Franciscan friar from Carndonagh who died in Leuven] had intended to publish the Acts of St. Eugene, at August 23, as may be inferred from his list unedited manuscripts. However, these Acts of Eugenius, bishop of Ardstrata, are preserved in the Burgundinian Library at Bruxellles," writes O'Hanlon.
Though originating in Leinster Eugene was educated at Clones before reputedly being captured by pirates and slave traders.
"The child was carried away captive to Britain by marauding pirates, and Tighernach, also shared this captivity.
"We are informed, that the holy and wise Neunyo, also called Maucenus, and who was in Rosnat monastery, procured their liberation from the King of Britain," O'Hanlon continues.
He resumed his education under St. Ninian at his church named Candida Casa in what is today Whithorn in Galloway, but was captured again.
"A second time, Eugene, with his companions, was carried into captivity and brought to Brittany - supposed to be in Gaul - as the pirates were from this latter country.
"They were detained as slaves in Armorica, by a Gallic King, who obliged them to work in a mill."
Éogan was consecrated first Bishop of Ardstraw about the year 581.
O'Hanlon explains how he eventually became the patron of the See of Derry.
"Though Eugene is usually ranked as the first bishop of Derry diocese, yet he was only Bishop of Ardstraw. Derry as a diocese did not come into existence till a long time subsequent to his death. Nor does it appear to have been permanently defined, until the incumbency of German O'Cearbhallain, who filled the see from 1230 to 1279," he states.
St. Eugene is reputed to have died on August 23, 618, which is his feast today. His legacy survives in the See of Derry and St. Eugene's Cathedral.
"The See first established at Ardstraw by Eugene was fixed at Derry, as being a place of greater importance and celebrity. Its Christian growth may be said to date from the time of Colmcille. But that transfer of episcopal jurisdiction is held to have occurred about the twelfth or thirteenth century," explains O'Hanlon.